La Mer Lip Balm & St. Ives Apricot Scrub

St. Ives Apricot Scrub and La Mer Lip Balm

A lot of the time, the point of beauty products is to improve or enhance your natural assets: mascara makes the eyelashes you have look thicker and longer and darker; blush simulates the color of your cheeks when flushed (lipsticks, in natural shades, do the same); highlighters mimic a recent stint in the sun. A growing number of us now want to appear as if we’re not wearing anything at all— call it the French Girl Effect—and there’s a whole segment of the beauty industry catering to the “I just woke up this way” aesthetic, offering products whose results are nearly undetectable. But then the question becomes: How much should you pay for something you’re not supposed to notice? And does it make a difference if you pay up? Our answer: It depends.

It’s hard to find a department store or drugstore that does not offer at least twenty different clear lip salves. ChapStick, Carmex, and Blistex are everywhere, though the first doesn’t offer much more than immediate relief (maybe SPF) and the latter two strike some as medicinal (that tingling sensation), and bring to mind ski trips and harsh weather. Vaseline works, but it’s goopy and sort of…creepy to carry around in your purse. Yes, Duane Reade certainly has its charms, but considering how much we use our mouths (speaking, smiling, kissing, making faces at bad jokes), there’s a pretty strong case for slicking on the best you can get.

At $50 a tub, La Mer’s The Lip Balm is expensive for the category, but not for La Mer (!). In fact, and we’ve done our research, it’s hands-down the cheapest item at the La Mer beauty counter. It’s velvety on the mouth, simultaneously minty and vaguely sweet, and tastes like you just brushed your teeth and ate something delicious—there’s something vanilla to it, but not of the Lip Smacker Betty Crocker frosting variety. On your lips, the balm itself isn’t particularly noticeable, since it gets absorbed in a heartbeat, but it makes your mouth feel softer and smoother and just-the-right-amount-of-moisturized. Dab it on—or “pat on lightly,” as the directions advise—and it feels, in a word, expensive. Which is nice, because it is, and because a lot of things are expensive and don’t feel like it. It also looks pretty, pulled from your pocket or purse. It’s a luxury, implying that you have nice stuff, even if that’s not quite universally the case, which, at a certain age (and maybe always?), is kind of why we buy luxury products in the first place.

In another aisle altogether, there are exfoliating body scrubs. Exfoliants do what they sound like, applied in the shower to slough off dead skin and reveal the good stuff underneath. Virtues aside, though, it’s difficult to argue in favor of spending big money on body scrubs: they’re lathered on and rinsed off immediately. Plus, other products (lotions, oils, whatever your moisturizing fancy) will be applied after, so you aren’t looking for a lingering scent. A handful of sand would essentially perform the same job, if you were interested in keeping buckets of sand in your bathroom (and if you are, who are we to stop you—other than to warn you about the havoc it will wreak on your pipes, and: gross).

St. Ives offers one of the most popular—and now sulfate-free—versions, the Invigorating Apricot Scrub, which incorporates apricots (St. Ives’ website attests that the fruit is rich in skin-cleansing antioxidants, and contains an oil “known to hydrate and nourish”) and walnut-shell powder. The scent doesn’t linger, dead skin gets the boot, and while it’s not harsh-feeling upon application, it's rough enough that you feel like you’re getting the job done, for well under $5 (or less, depending on where you look). Sure, the tube is not particularly attractive, but it lives in the shower—you can hide it behind your fancier products if that sort of thing bothers you. For all anybody else knows, you’ve got the whole La Mer line stashed in there.


Illustration by Karleigh Sherman

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  • Jess

    I love the Le Mer Lip balm and it's great that you mentioned it in your post. It's my go to lip balm all year around. However, the apricot scrub has big granules of scrub particles and i read that it it can be damaging to your skin's top layer! This blog is ahhh-mazing, keep up the good work Emily!

  • zoobia

    I absolutely LOVE the St. Ives apricot scub. I learned about it from my mother, and I've been using it on my dry skin, a couple times a week, ever since. I also use it as a body scrub. It can be a little bit tricky to rinse out of the shower, but well worth it. Definitely one of my favourites! As for lip balm, I'm a Blistex girl all the way. It's cheap, effective, and doubles as a cuticle moisturizer too. I keep one in my bathroom, purse, desk drawer...I can't get enough!

  • Francine

    And when you are finished your pot of La Mer lip balm, just refill it with vaseline... Petrolatum is La Mer's main ingredient after all.

  • Guest

    Oh dear, how true... I've never been able to spend a lot of money on a body scrub, especially if I have a loofah or ocean sponge and yes, I'll admit to mixing sand and olive oil to create a pre-shower scrub. But I live on the coast, it's right there.

    It's interesting what you choose to spend on. I tend to indulge in make up and body creams, whereas with facial serums, cleansers and moisturisers I don't go too insane on, because there's a lot of choice for relatively priced, natural skincare where I live (and at twenty can't justify spending eighty dollars on moisturiser just yet, especially when the ingredients look questionable). Expense does not equate to quality, although if I'm being honest, I save to spend on beauty and skincare for a reason - it's a nice vice X

  • ExpatBeauty

    Apricot scrubs should be avoided because the non-rounded sharp edges of the apricot pits and walnut shells fragments can actually cause micro tears (cuts) in your skin, thus causing further damage to your epidermis (top layer of skin). This in turn, can also make the skin susceptible to bacteria & infection. There are plenty of gentler, better- formulated inexpensive scrubs out there. Look for scrubs with small, rounded particles like rice powder or scrubs which contain rounded, spherical granules and beads without rough edges like jojoba beads. Alternatively, consider chemical exfoliators like alpha hydroxy, glycolic, or lactic acid. If your skin is very sensitive, look for lower concentrations of these active ingredients. Be gentle with your skin, please don’t use apricot scrubs.

    • Kath

      Yes isn't it pretty standard knowledge that this scrub is too rough??

    • Hannah

      They are suggesting that you use the scrub on your body, not on your face. The skin on your body is no where near as sensitive as that of your face, and can handle a physical exfoliant.

      I for one have only seen a small handful (if even) of body products that contain chemical exfoliants and are the correct pH and formulation that they would exfoliate. If they are so common on the market, could you please share some body exfoliators that use chemical, not physical, exfoliants?

      • NeenaJ

        AmLactin is one brand that is available in nearly every drugstore in the US. It uses Lactic Acid to chemically exfoliate.

  • Helen

    Exfoliating gloves all the way. Last for ages and much kinder to your shower floor. Vaseline is evil embodied, you shouldn't need to re-appy lip balm every hour...

  • Ira

    The post is great!:) Thanks

  • MarsiB

    I love the idea of your new High-Low category.

    Been reading and loving your blog since your first week "on the air" and have shared it with sooo many people. Keep up the great work.

  • Janine

    I much prefer St. Ive's Green Tea scrub. Much less abrasive. Most use exfoliators the wrong way. You're suppose to apply with your hands and lightly touch/roll with your fingers. Never scrub scrub scrub, and not with a hand towel. I'm an esthetician! Rule of the day!

  • Jasmine Alvarez

    Growing up my mom used st ives apricot scrub! I love it! It always gets the job done

  • Ulumma

    $50 on lip balm? I shudder. $50 for conditioner? Yes. For lotion, sure. Lips are important. But if a product is going to be primarily made of mineral oil/petrolatum, I simply can't pay that much for it. I'd much rather use Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment. It's got SPF and uses a natural wax base. It's not the most luxurious smooth texture. Prior to my using Fresh Treatment I was using a natural lip balm from my dentist. My dentists balm was wonderful, but hat too much wax--not smooth enough. When I scored a sample of Fresh it changed the lip balm game for me.

    I suggest you try the balm. And if you are so inclined, replace your La Mer with the Fresh balm when you're finished. Just clean your La Mer pot out with soap and water and use a butter knife to press the Fresh balm in. It's very malleable. In fact, it's so malleable that on a hot summer day it broke when I was applying it. I beg of you to save some money.

    • Hannah

      I think you are missing the point of the La Mer lip balm.

      Also, I have found that the Fresh Sugar Lip Treatments (even the Advanced Therapy one) do not do a very good job moisturizing and/or healing the lips. If I want to use a more reasonably priced balm, I personally go for the Jack Black ones (which do have SPF) or the Nuxe one in the pot.

  • Emily Ann

    I use the apricot scrub for sensitive skin and it is not as harsh-- but still gets the job done!

  • The Curvy Girl

    I have been using the St. Ives for years and had to learn NOT to rub so darn hard ( I have a heavy hand with cosmetics, products etc.) but it has worked for me and I even got a compliment this morning on how smooth my skin looked. Great product for a great price!

  • KLU

    Hi Emily: First off, I have to say I love the blog. I've been reading it religiously for over a year now, constantly checking my Facebook feed for the newest posts (I also follow you on FB; I'm a beauty creeper?). Just one thing: Is "The High-Low" going to be a regular feature? If so, it might be nice to compare two products in the same category (i.e.: Lip balm v. lip balm; neon mascara v. neon mascara) so the comparison drives the point home a bit more effectively.

    Just a thought. Keep up the good work! Love the site—it inspires me, not to steamroll my grubby inner tomboy, but to refine it into a more put-together incarnation of the person I already am.

  • Christine

    Even better than any scrub on the market are those Asian nylon body towels. They are long enough to make scrubbing your back and neck a cinch, work with any kind of soap, and last for years. Also, they don't build up with mildew, unlike the cores of mesh balls. No skin dust either that you get with dry brushing with a loofah, as these rinse clean under the shower. You can get these at any Chinatown drugstore -- the brand I see is usually Salux, and Muji makes their own version too

    If I were the head of CVS or Duane Reade, I would start carrying this, but then all the other scrubs I sell wouldn't be bought anymore, and those manufacturers would get angry at me. ; )

    • Aya

      I quite agree with this endorsement. Works well (for back and back of legs), lasts forever, use with any soap, easy to use, cheap.

  • DDee2

    Too bad the balm isn't in a tube. No matter what the cost potted lip balm is ruined by having to stick fingers in it. Having to wash hands each time just makes it way less convenient.

    Kitchen salt or table sugar + cooking, seed, or nut oil = best body scrub

    • Aya

      I just pucker and put my lips to a pot of lip balm, then twist. I don't like using my fingers either and this works just fine.

      • DDee2

        I've resorted to that. It's not worth the effort, and depending on the size of your lips and the container it might not always be possible. I'd rather a tube of some kind--La Mer can afford it.

  • MsDenbi

    I have the bad habit of biting/peeling my lips, so spending so much money on a lip balm would be such a waste! I just buy Burt's Bees from Jewel and keep it in my pocket.
    I've also read about all those tough exfoliants and how they do more harm than good. Scrubs are also bad for the skin because they cause those same abrasions. I'd recommend getting a gentles exfoliant and using your hands and gently scrubbing your body.

    Great post! I have learned a lot from this blog!

  • Guest

    Love the comparison of both amazing products. I have to say that even though Vaseline isn't always the best, they have a lip therapy line in the UK that I haven't seen in the States. The one called rosy lips has a bright pink tint, much less creepy.

  • The Blossom Shed

    Stop! I just decided that the Nuxe lip balm was my posh lip indulgence, I don't need another one!

    The Blossom Shed's First Giveaway - Win a Sumptuous Suti Face Oil!

  • Melanie

    I swear by the St. Ives Scrub, both for body and for face.

  • wildmoomin

    when staying with friends i often see st ives in their showers and personally i find the packaging to be very unappealing as well as the general feel and texture of the srub -- i use the kiehls coriander scrub and while more expensive i don't think it is exorbitantly priced for what it is and like all my kiehls products i consider it to be a good value. for lip balm i alternate between fresh and smith's strawberry salve (i don't like the mint tingle from the rose). with beauty products packaging is very important to me and la mer is not to my taste i find the packaging to be a bit old fashioned and prefer a sleeker or more elegant design

  • kateshanahan

    I've got to say (proudly) I loooove St Ives no matter how cheap it is or how unfashionable the packaging - it always leaves my skin feeling super smooth - although I don't use it more than about twice a week - as another reader mentioned the granules are rather large and could be abrasive if used too often. I couldn't bring myself to spend that amount ($50) on a lip balm!!! Even though it does sound amazing! Keep up the good work! I'd love it if you could check out my new beauty blog - xx

  • Mubarak

    i dont get the new layout...much prefer the older one. What is all the smaller boxes about?

  • Becca @ The Beauty Sample

    I stopped using St. Ives scrubs on my face a long time ago--I've read the ground walnut shells they favor actually cause micro-tears on the skin (that's why you always want to use something with a fine, uniform-in-size-grain). But, I still do use the medicated version for my back and sometimes upper arms and thighs. It's great--I find that my body likes a much rougher scrub than my face

  • Jennifercowan

    I'm in complete love with everything and all things La Mer!

  • marcela prado

    Loved it! I'm a longtime fan of the St Ives apricot scrub, and yes, I do hide it behind gorgeous bottles of Philip B shampoo. Now, I gotta disagree a little bit with the amazingness of the La Mer balm - the smell is totally medicine-like, I really don't think it smells so different from regular chapstick. What I do love for a luxurious lipbalm is By Terry's Baume de rose - amazing texture, ultra luxurious scent...
    Anyway, LOVING the update on the site, can't wait for more!

  • Maywongkm

    A great category and product comparison. Thanks for the super informative blog!

  • Andreavictory

    Hurraw! is the best lip balm ever. Raw and vegan, no petrolatum and it costs like, four bucks. They have18 flavours and are so much better than LaMER.

  • Heather

    Best scrub ever. Very, very grainy and harsh, so all you ladies who are afraid of scratching up your skin with apricot pits should stay far, far away. But I love how strong it is, and that it's not oily so it leaves no film on the tub.

  • Bibian Gomez

    I really love how you redact your posts, it is so easy to read but yet so sophisticated, really that's why I follow this blog! I absolutely love La Mer products, and you are totally right, the lip balm is the less expensive of the whole line. Anyway, I usually use a little bit of salt and olive oil as a scrub, but I am always on the search of a nice bath-scrub for a late night shower.

  • Elspbeth

    I really don't want to be a downer but the St Ives Apricot Scrub has a few fairly nasty ingredients, not heaps but enough, including Urea which is gross. This link is really helpful: :)

  • Rachel Phipps

    I used to use St Ives Apricot Scrub all the time when I was in my early teens, but that was before I discovered the joys of (and could afford!) Clinique skincare products! As for the Creme De La Mer lip balm, that has been on my wishlist since I was 15 and my equally as beauty obsessed best friend used to let me use some of hers sometimes when she kept it in her pencil case at school!

  • Yuka

    The St. Ives Apricot scrub is the only product I will go out of my way to warn people about. I used this in high school on my then acne prone skin and I in my opinion it only made it worse. I go out of my way to warn people NOT to use this product. Sorry ITG- love everything else! Huge fan of your blog.

  • Michelle Lee

    i want to get that lip balm :)


    am sure the la mer lip balm is high quality given its price point, but agree w/jess...have heard the st ives scrub hurts more than helps your skin! personally would invest more in what i put on my face than the lip balm (i'm happy with vaseline w/aloe tins) ...but that's just me :)
    your social pretailer

  • Kath

    After reading this, I got the Nuxe balm/ treatment, and it is the only thing that has helped my very dry post cancer treatment lips.

  • Wendt

    I am a Le Mer girl, have been for years, however, I am also a St. Ives girl too, have been for years! St. Ives also has a scrub for acne skin and although I do not have acne, the acid in the product does keep my skin clear. When I do break out I apply the scrub in the shower and let sit for a few minutes and let it soak in, than scrub. This works great for chest , back, any place I can reach! Just rinse well!! Apply Creme De La Mer and Baume De La Mer after

  • From Saks2Salvation

    So glad to hear that La Mer has put out an affordable (for them!) lip balm. Will definitely be looking into shopping for this one. I have sworn by that St. Ives apricot scrub for years. There is nothing better for exfoliation and at that price, how can you go wrong? Great beauty combo!

  • Arbanian

    I find the St. Ives Apricot Scrub pretty harsh. On the other hand, I'd love to afford any LA Mer product!

  • Saba4510

    i also want to tell you about my personal experience about the Herbal Eczema Cream

    Yes I agree, Your lips, like the rest of your lips require defense against the sun's harsh ultraviolet rays. premature aging