Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Lip Balm

Recently someone asked how I kept my lips smooth and soft. My answer is they are always covered with something emollient. Always. Before I became a lipstick lover (and I was a late bloomer at around 28), I was a complete and utter lip balm fanatic. I started in my early teens, and I always had it on me.  In fact, if I forgot my balm at home and I was out for the day, I would buy a new tube.

Here are my favorites throughout the years.

In junior high, every self-respecting girl wore Bonne Bell Lip Smackers. I definitely tried the Hires Root Beer and Dr. Pepper, but my favorite was in a purple tube. It might have been Grape Crush (the poor kids who sat down wind of my lips). Oh, and back then the tubes were huge, not your average Chapstick-sized tube.

Chapstick. Yes, I wore this waxy "balm" in a stick for years, from my early teens right through college into my 20s. I tried the Cherry and Mint flavors, but I did not care for the synthetic fragrance/taste, and I always came back to the Original. I also liked its simple the black-and-white packaging. Back in the old days, I do not believe it contained sunscreen.
In my mid 20s, I switched to balm in a pot and I began using Carmex, even though it had the hideous message prominently displayed on the lid: FOR-COLD-SORES (not sure why they needed the hyphens). I loved how the camphor made my lips tingle, and my boyfriend said it made my mouth smell like chocolate. Back then the pot was thick white glass, and the lid was metal. I imagine it's all plastic these days.

In the mid 90s, I discovered Kiehl's Lip Balm #1. For the first time my lips were treated to something smooth, not sticky or waxy. It did have a weird, petroleum taste to it, but I liked how it made my lips feel. I used the balm in both the pot and tube, and although I tried the tubes that were tinted red, I could not stand their chemical taste.
My love affair with Kiehl's lasted around 6 years, and then my husband bought me a tin of the cutest lip balm I had ever seen, which he presented to me in its tiny tin: Badger Balm in Highland Mint. I have a thing for badgers (they're fierce!), and when he saw it at a little old-fashioned country store in the White Mountains (the really old kind with wood floors and a wood stove), he thought of me (because of badgers, not old wood). 

Made with certified ingredients, including extra virgin olive oil, beeswax, castor bean oil, and extracts of aloe, rosehip, Seabuckthorn berry, and badger wee, this stuff is amazing. I use it on my lips, but it is also an excellent cuticle cream and does wonders for rough-winter elbows and heels. I have tins and tubes literally all over the house, at work, and in every handbag. And unlike many other scented/flavored balms, these smell heavenly.

I still use Badger Balm, but fickle me has a new love: Julie Hewett Camellia Lip Balm. For a balm, this is the most expensive ($16), but it comes in a black lipstick tube and looks a little more classy when I want to moisturize my lips midday. It is also one of the few higher-end lip products I have actually used up and repurchased. Upon application the Camellia balm has an almost oily, slick feel, but it quickly sinks in and smooths over any ridges in my lips, making a wonderful base for lipstick without any slipping (I don't apply it too close to the lip edges). In fact, I use this balm to sheer out some of my more pigmented lipsticks so I can wear them to work, where I often feel like my face is under the spotlight of 80% sunny windows and 20% fluorescent lights.

And, finally, Peter Thomas Roth-Unwrinkle Lip Balm is my most recent discovery, thanks to my friend Ten Bells. According to Sephora, "formulated with a powerful, active, wrinkle-fighting blend of peptides and neuropeptides—alongside vitamins, moisturizers, and sunscreens—this multitasking lip saver conditions, protects, and perfects your pout." I can attest that after a few months of regular use (nights only, or the gloss interferes with my lipstick), my top lip appears more full, and the little lines vertical lines above them less pronounced. I also wear it on weekends or on days when I want a natural look because the cool pink shimmer is so pretty. I only wish it came in more tints, like a red.
Bottom line: Whenever I am asked what is my desert-island must-have item, my answer is always lip product, preferably a tinted balm. I could live without anything else, but my lips MUST feel smooth and moisturized. Dry lips are as bad as uncomfortable shoes. It's hard to think of anything else when you're hurting.


  1. As a red lipstick wearer, lip balm is essential for me. I used to swear by Sisley Lip Balm (which is still excellent) but I've been converted to Lanolips, which is less painful on the purse!

  2. I'm never without lip balm either. I tend to stick to the cheaper options like Chapstick and Nivea essential care because I get through tubes so quickly.

    The badger balm you mentioned sounds lovely! I love multi purpose products so I may give this one a go.

  3. Good morning, ladies! I just amended my post because I forgot about my most recent balm (PTR), which has proven to be an excellent treatment, as well.

    Grace, Lanolips sounds great. A friend in Finland send me a tube of Behpanthen, which I believe contains lanolin (my cats want to kiss me when I wear it). I would swear it's a lifesaver, but I never let my lips get dried enough to need it!

    Nat, the Badger Balm is a bargain. I can get tubes for around $2.25 USD and tins for under $5. And NO ONE slicks stuff on their lips more than I, and a tube lasts a couple months. Or at least it used too--lipsticks have become so much more emollient, I find I am using my balms much less often.

  4. You have a few on your list that I have used (BB, Kiehls, JH, chapstick(love the smell of the cherry one)) . Right now I have a few going: Buxom from BE, Bobbi Brown(which I'm not loving totally as it's rather stiff) and my favorite from Josie Maran. A friend just sent me the clear lanolips one but I misplaced it.... I tried it once and it was lovely. I need to find it! Thanks for answering my burning question! xx jeanie

  5. Jeanie, I have always wanted to try the Josie Maran balm. I've heard great things about her line, especially the argan oil.

  6. OMG that Bonne Bell pic brings back memories. All the ones I see in that pic is the one I owned. I had over 40 and kept them in a cookie jar like that one. THe ones I used the most were Dr. Pepper, Tootsie Roll, 7Up, and Lemon Tree, my faves. Pb& jelly smelled gross and some plum flavor did too. But I miss those big original ones.

  7. I remember when I was little carrying around a little tub of lipsmackers. I had so many strange flavors. I was a big fan of sugar plum. Alas, I can't wear them anymore because they make my lips sting but I love the pangea organics lip balm :)

  8. i know this is an older post but i linked here from your 2011 favorites. Being a balm junkie i had to check out your stash. You referenced a country store in the White Mtns. ; You wouldn't happen to mean Zeb's would you? i go there all the time and i will have to keep an eye out for Badger Balm next time!

    1. LissaSioux, I don't remember the name of the store. I'll ask Mr. Petals. I think it was north of Plymouth. We had spent a week nearby camping and climbing.

      If you have access to a Whole Foods, they sell it, and I usually replenish my supply at drugstore.com these days.


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