Lip balm is an essential product year round, but especially as we bid summer adieu and head into fall’s cooler temperatures. Cold weather can dry out the skin all over our bodies, and oftentimes our delicate lips are the first to show signs of dryness and dehydration.
“Dry lips occur easily because they lack sweat and sebaceous glands,” explains Dr. Nicole Hayre, board-certified dermatologist and founder of the Cosmetic Dermatology Center in McLean, Virginia. “In addition, lips have a thin epidermal layer. These features leave them more vulnerable to environmental factors like cold, dry air and wind.”
You’ve probably experienced chapped lips at one point or another. “Symptoms of dry lips include flaking, scaling, cracks and bleeding,” says Dr. Marie Hayag, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Fifth Avenue Aesthetics in New York City. They can be uncomfortable and even a bit painful, but luckily there are simple, preventative steps you can take to avoid chapped lips.
“The most common cause for dry lips is lip licking, which is an absolute no-no in my book,” cautions board-certified dermatologist and founder of PillowtalkDerm Dr. Shereen Idriss. “Licking your lips, especially when they are already chapped, will draw all of the moisture out of them, leaving them even more dry.”
When picking out a lip balm, the dermatologists we spoke to agreed that emollient and occlusive ingredients are the best for adding moisture back into dry lips. The former are ingredients that soften and moisturize the skin, while the latter help create a layer on the skin to prevent moisture loss. Look for petrolatum, lanolin, shea butter, beeswax and mineral oils on ingredient lists. Hayag also notes that “humectants, which help attract water and hold on to it, such as glycerin and panthenol” are also beneficial ingredients for treating dry lips.
Additionally, Chicago-based board-certified dermatologist and founder of Tone Dermatology Dr. Caroline Robinson says you’ll want to avoid “any potentially irritating ingredients in a lip product such as methanol, alcohols and fragrance” as these can make chapped lips even drier. A safe alternative is to use a fragrance-free, hypoallergenic lip balm. Robinson also notes that, “It is always a good idea to rotate your lip products because the skin on our lips changes with each season and with age.”
With that, read on to discover the four experts’ top picks for the all-around best lip balms, SPF-infused lip balms, tinted lip balms and natural lip balms.
Best lip balm for dry lips
$6.89 at Amazon
“For dry lips, I love lip basting,” Idriss shares. This technique consists of applying a light chemical exfoliant to the lips (preferably glycolic acid), followed by a thick layer of emollient. “Let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes (basting like a Thanksgiving turkey) and voila — smooth, hydrated lips,” she says. For the emollient layer, the dermatologist says to “look for products formulated with calendula and panthenol, as they soak in and nourish your lips.” She reaches for Weleda Skin Food because she “loves the way it hugs the lips.”
$5.99 at Target
Robinson loves this multi-tasking product. “You can use this stick on lips or dry, irritated skin anywhere on the body,” Robinson says. “The non-sticky, unscented, hypoallergenic formula provides instant moisturization with a mess-free application.”
$14.97 $12.51 at Amazon
Vaseline’s original petroleum jelly is a drugstore product that you can count on to get the job done. “A nice hydration-boosting tip is to leave the skin on the lip wet and apply a layer of plain Vaseline jelly to the lips to lock in hydration,” Robinson shares.
$36 at Amazon
Another recommendation from Robinson, who says this hydrating lip treatment is great for moisturizing with anti-aging benefits. The top-rated lip balm is thick and glossy and “contains hyaluronic acid and antioxidants to fight the signs of aging and keep lips looking youthful,” Robinson says.
$29.95 at Amazon
According to Hayre, petrolatum, shea butter and other occlusives are the best ingredients for hydrating the lips. This lip balm contains both petrolatum and shea butter, along with other nourishing elements like beeswax, chamomile, vitamin E, aloe vera extract and green tea extract to moisturize and provide anti-aging benefits.
Best lip balm with SPF
$3.97 at Amazon
This classic lip balm is Idriss’ pick for lip balm with sun protection. “It’s SPF 30 with broad-spectrum coverage protecting your lips from UVA and UVB,” she says. “It’s formulated with shea butter, vitamin E and castor seed oil that melts seamlessly into your lips.”
$13 at Amazon
While Hayag’s favorite lip balm with SPF, the Vanicream Lip Protectant, is currently sold out, this alternative from EltaMD also contains zinc oxide to shield from UVA and UVB rays. It is also water-resistant, fragrance-free and safe for sensitive skin.
$3.99 at Amazon
Hayre also recommends looking for zinc oxide in your lip sunscreen “because it is natural and protects against the broadest spectrum of UV light.” This option from Sun Bum has nearly 3,000 5-star ratings and is loved for its smooth texture and minimal white cast.
Robinson likes this mineral-based lip SPF, which comes in clear or sheer tinted shades.
Best tinted lip balm
From $27.20 at Amazon
With a gloss-like application, this lip sunscreen “contains zinc oxide and vitamin E to aid in photoprotection,” Hayag says. The dermatologist also notes that ingredients like hyaluronic acid help the lips stay moisturized, while peptides “give the lips a more plump appearance.”
$35.99 at Amazon
Idriss says she likes using a lip stain to apply color after lip basting. “This ensures my lips are hydrated and adds just the right amount of color where I don’t need to reapply throughout the day or night as often,” she explains. Her go-to stain is actually this color-adjusting blush oil that applies transparent and then reacts to your skin’s natural pH level and turns into a custom pink shade. “It gives the lips a flushed ‘your lips but better’ look,” Idriss says.
$4.99 at Burt’s Bees and Walgreens
A longtime 100% natural favorite, Burt’s Bees signature lip balm is also available in eight tinted shades. From peachy pink to deep berry, the sheer lip colors deliver a flush of color and rich moisture with shea butter.
$20.49 at Amazon
Available in five shades, including a sheer shimmer balm with pH-adjusting pink color, Robinson loves that this MDSolarSciences lip balm hydrates and protects with SPF 30 while giving a makeup-like finish.
Best natural and organic lip balm
$10 at Amazon
Made from 70% certified organic ingredients, “this is a good balm that provides broad-spectrum protection against UV rays while also providing hydration to the lips through ingredients like jojoba and avocado oil,” Hayag says. “[Another] benefit is that it’s water-resistant for up to 80 minutes.”
$50 at Byredo
Made with 100% natural origin ingredients, Byredo’s limited edition flavored lip balm comes in three unique flavors: Thé à la Menthe d'Agadir, Bergamotte de Bahia and Camomille d’Anjou. The semi-matte finish makes for a seamless application while boosting hydration with jojoba seed oil, shea butter and avocado oil.