Two Boys, Three Girls, And A Whole Lotta Lip Balm


What makes the perfect lip balm? Is it consistency, smell, or effect? Is it the packaging (that old chestnut) or the science that goes into it? Is it addictive? Moreover, are you totally satisfied with your current balm, or do you have a wandering pout? ARE THERE ANY RIGHT ANSWERS? We think... maybe there are.

Below, the transcript of a conversation at ITG HQ on a topic both seasonally appropriate and plain important to us (particularly, our faces): the best lip balms. First, we surrounded ourselves with about a hundred popular and not so popular options, and then attempted an analysis of which potions are worth it. Trial-and-error. Enjoy:

Alessandra Codinha: Here’s Chapstick, old reliable. There’s a charm to being the type who says, “Oh, I wear only Carmex or Chapstick.”

Nick Axelrod: It’s almost ‘heritage.’

Alessandra: It is a little ‘heritage.’ Also, it’s funny that we call all lip balms “Chapstick,” like Band-Aids or Kleenex. You ask for Chapstick and someone will hand you a lip balm from wherever. We just accept that Chapstick equals lip balm.

Nick: Don’t even get me started on asking to borrow Chapstick. As if it’s not the most intimate product that you probably have on you.

Alessandra: It is kind of violating. I don’t know what’s worse—sharing a stick balm or a potted lip balm. With a pot, there’s always the argument that it’s not hygienic anyway.

Nick: It’s so gross. You know what you’re doing—you’re typing on your phone and then you’re putting that phone finger in a pot and then putting it in your mouth.

Alessandra: But if you avoid using your finger... I think it’s arguably worse, grosser really, when people open the tub and do this [motions putting pot all over mouth in circular motion, essentially inserting it into mouth].

Nick: [Laughs] That is disgusting.

Alessandra: There are people who do that. I’ve seen it in the wild. But some of these balms are quite nice and they come in pots. I don’t avoid pots.

Nick: I guess a pot is kind of like a free-for-all. So if I had to choose, I’d rather have someone else swipe into a pot than use my Chapstick stick on their mouth.

Alessandra: But you could just cut off the top part if someone used your stick.

Nick: I’ve done that.

Alessandra: I’ve done it too! [Laughs] Even using the cap to take it off. So you’re like, “Yeah, no problem—“

Nick: “—of course you can have some! I’m cool and laid-back.”

Alessandra: But I don’t really like squeeze tubes either. I just don’t like the whole application process—I feel like you can’t control how much ends up on your lips.

Nick: Probably the best lip balm, if you take hygiene into account, is that Aesop Lip Cream.

Alessandra: Oh, the little one in the metal tube? But don’t you have to use your finger for that one, too? Or do you just frost your mouth? Squeeze it all over? It’s so tiny!

Nick: No, it’s super light, and it soaks in, so you don’t really have to press around on your mouth… Do you care about SPF?

Alessandra: I should. Your mouth is most always exposed. I grew up using Chapstick and Blistex with SPF when I went skiing.

Nick: I wasn’t allowed to have the Cherry Chapstick… A) Because I think I liked that it had a little bit of a tint, which unsettled my parents; and B) Because I would just eat the whole thing. So my parents would only let me get the black one...which is, like, the least fun.

Alessandra: Blistex and Chapstick have such a smell to them…. Artificial-cherry mixed with wax and medicine... This is all very Katy Perry.

Nick: It is Katy Perry….So, what is it that you’re trying to do, by using lip balm? I don’t have cracked lips as a problem—they just get dry and it’s uncomfortable. So, I always have something on, to prevent it.

Alessandra: I think it’s the same as how, if you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated: If your lips are dry, you’re already kind of fucked. So, either smack on some unguent, viscous whatever and repeat over and over again, or try and solve the problem with preventative measures…which is what that quite oily Aesop Lip Heal product I use on airplanes is for. It’s too greasy for everyday, though.

Nick: I hear that this Jack Black stuff is really good—commenters told me to try it as a Burt’s Bees alternative—but I’m not into anything that has SPF in it, because I feel like it makes it taste bad.

Alessandra: SPF lip balms give me really visceral memories of ski trips—I had a friend who went skiing with my family one year and she got a sunburn on her lips and they swelled like crazy. My father kept teasing her about Angelina Jolie—it was so awful. Aaand that’s why you wear SPF.

Nick: Maybe what worries me about the Nuxe Rêve de Miel potted balm, which I think is one of Pat McGrath’s favorites, is that there’s so much product in there. By the time you get halfway through, it’s kind of dirty. Do you really want to use the rest of it? Which is why I think a lip balm should be sort of small and sort of cheap.

Alessandra: But, see, here’s another question: that Nuxe balm is amazing, and quite sweet. Do you want your lip product to be minty and fresh, so as to imply you have fresh breath? Or sweet and delicious so your mouth tastes like you’ve been eating strawberries all day?

Nick: Well, what sells me on Burt’s Bees is that it’s matte and it smells so menthol-y, so minty, that people ask me if they can have a piece of my gum when I put it on.

Alessandra: But what about the whole sugary sweet lip thing? So when you kiss somebody, they’re like, “Oh your mouth is so sweet. You delicious creature.” Right? Is that not the idea? Why else would people do it? To be like, “My own mouth tastes like frosting, whoopee for me?”

Nick: I bet straight dudes get turned on by that. It’s a thing that they’re not allowed to do, but it tastes so good. But for me, a minty smell is essential. I like a tingle.

Alessandra: The problem is that we now have so many lip balms here. It’s like a lip BOMB went off. We’re drowning in lip balms.

Nick: [Laughs] Well, we’re weeding through them. This is RéVive Lip and Perioral Renewal Cream.

Alessandra: Oh GOD, that sounds like an intimate medical problem—

Nick: [reading the box] “Dryness around the lips and perioral skin can cause permanent lines…”

Alessandra: So you’re supposed to rub this fluid all up and around your mouth-piece?

Nick: Yeah, and it has contains something called Epidermal Growth Factor. [Applies some to his lips] This kind of feels awesome. Try it. It’s silky and it absorbs quickly.

Alessandra: The problem, though, is that if my boyfriend was in my medicine cabinet and saw something that said ‘Perioral Cream,’ he would probably get really freaked out.

Nick: He’d be like, “Go to a doctor.”

Alessandra: “What are you doing?!” Exactly. [Laughs]

Nick: It soaks in pretty quickly. And it’s not shiny at all.

Alessandra: It’s good! It’s quite emollient. But this isn’t something that you travel with. This is in your house and you put it on in the morning and at night. You do not reach into your bag and pull out your perioral cream at the movies… I was skeptical, but this is actually pretty good. It’s thick and it’s there but you can’t really see it. I am actually a fan. That Avène stuff is great, too.

Nick: It’s awesome, isn’t it? [Talking to Emily Weiss] Emily, why are people into the Avène Cold Cream Lip Cream?

Emily Weiss: It’s like a moisturizing cream for your lips; it’s just really good. It’s not too tacky. You know, Nick, how you don’t like some balms because they’re too waxy and sit on top of your lips and don’t really go into them? The Avène one is the perfect amount of moisturizing without being slippery—and it’s not so light that when you put it on it’s gone in two seconds.

Michael Harper: I have the blue Chapstick. I like it. It has a vanilla-ish taste. Emily gave me that Avène ointment once. I thought it was OK, but I didn’t like having to use my finger. I generally don’t like putting stuff on my lips.

Alessandra: Michael, you might like these. I love Stewart and Claire. She’s an editor at Food and Wine and he’s a musician and they live in Brooklyn and make these lip balms themselves, and they smell amazing. I’m obsessed with Old Fashioned. It smells like cedar, bitter orange, vanilla, and a little black pepper—but it’s not offensively fragrant. You can get custom-scented ones, too. They’re popular for weddings, apparently.

Nick: Question: who is Dr. Hauschka?

Alessandra: I don’t know. But I think I like him.

Nick: Is he some rich, German dermatologist?

Alessandra: Or some guy named Jim Bob Hauschka who was like, “Call me Doctor! Buy some ointments!”

Nick: Whoever he is, I’m really feeling his Lip Care Stick. It might be better than Burt’s Bees. It smells good for you. I like that. No shine. I’m sold. But I am getting a stomachache.

Alessandra: How can you have a stomachache?

Nick: ‘Cause of the blending and fragrances and eating of all the different fucking lip balms...

Alessandra: You’re like a big, sensitive baby. [Nick reaches for something] Don’t get your balmy hands all over my phone!


Clearly, we’ve got a whole lot of lip going on. Our recommendations for protecting your own pair? As far as we’re concerned, these are the cream[s] of the crop:

Creamy Stuff: For those looking for a matte, non-glossy, and luxuriously emollient finish

-RéVive Lip & Perioral Cream [6] is expensive at $115, but worth it (especially if you're worried about those little micro-wrinkles that can happen along your upper lip).

-Aesop Rosehip Seed Lip Cream [4] comes in at $13, which isn't cheap but it’s heavy-duty as far as moisture and results (also, lest you forget, Nick thinks it's the most hygienic).

Baby, You Look Fancy: If you’re looking for a little bit of scent and sheen with your nourishing balms

-Nuxe Rêve de Miel [3] has to be experienced to be believed (the stuff that dreams are made of! Honey-dipped for you honey dips out there).

-You can imagine Catherine Deneuve using By Terry’s beautiful Baume de Rose [3]. It has a slightly tacky feel but is smoothing and beautiful on the mouth, with just a slight blush color and extremely pretty rose scent.

-Laura Mercier Flawless Skin Lip Balm [5] has SPF15, comes in a lipstick-style tube (no more pots!), and while it may look shimmery on the stick, goes on smooth and light.

-Stewart and Claire Lip Balms [5] are locally sourced, made in Brooklyn, only $5 each and you’ll want to keep reapplying them, especially the Old Fashioned and La Nuit flavors (both delicious). Bare is a great option for those with sensitive skin.

-Rosebud Lip Salve [6]. It’s hard to find a girl in this town who doesn’t have a tin of it in her bag—it smells great and delivers shine but can err on the side of being too slick for our tastes.

-Dr. Hauschka’s Lip Care Stick (or potted Balm [6], though we tend to prefer the stick) delivers just the right amount of moisture, little shine, with the skincare line’s subtle herbal scent, and comes in at $14.

No Nonsense Balms: For bare-bones, protected-feeling mouths at a good price point

-Burt’s Bees [4]. Nuff said.

-Jack Black’s SPF-enhanced Intense Therapy Lip Balm [2] come in a variety of flavors, like Natural Mint or Lemon and Chamomile and leave us feeling secure and happy about the price point.

-Good ol’ regular ChapStick [4]!

-H2O+ Lip Mender’s [5] ingredients include sea fennel, sea lettuce, wakame, vitamin E, beeswax and peppermint extract, and it’s a penetratingly good deep treatment that smells a bit (not unpleasantly) like a hand lotion.

-Avène Cold Cream Lip Balm, has only the smallest hint of shine and a great soothing and smoothing effect. The Lip Cream (Emily’s pick) [2] is awesome, too, but harder to find Stateside.

Let’s Talk About It! JOIN IN
  • beeswaxnoneofyour

    You guys know Nuxe reve de miel comes in stick form now? Much more practical! My favourite balms are Amilab, Hurraw green tea and night formulas, Homeoplasmine, Caudalie's lip balm stick.

  • Kate Blanchard

    Ooh - I love Stewart and Claire lip balms. The texture and the scents are to die for. My other two faves are Suvana Beauty Paw Paw & Honey Organic lip balm and pretty much all the Hurraw balms. The Hurraw balms in particular are pretty cheap, vegan, smell AMAZING, and are super emollient.

  • Kirochka

    I just got the Avène this week after seeing it recommended on WebMD - so far I really like it. I've always loved Rosebud Lip Salve, but unless they've changed the design of the tin, I can't take it anymore: I always found it impossible to get the frakking thing open. I'm constantly looking for the Holy Grail of lip balms, and am hoping Avène will turn out to be The One.

  • Jana Knauerova

    Carmex is the best :D

  • Nicole

    I've experimented with many different lip balms, but my definite favourite is Eos lipbalm :) They smell, taste and feel amazing, you don't have to use your fingers (ew... and you always need tissues around to wipe - not practical for travel or easy to use), is paraben free, and the packaging is so cute! I stash them in my desk, my purse, my bathroom my makeup bag, ect. so I've tried every flavour, but the best are definitely "summer fruit" and "sweet mint". I apply it all day every day (even under lipstick when I want some tint!) and my lips stay very smooth. The best part for me is that they are reasonably priced...I don't feel like I could justify spending $20 on a lip balm unless I has impossibly cracked lips!

    However, I will definitely look into some of these heavier more nourishing lip balms for the insanely cold days we get in Canada (those brutal -85 to -95 days). Thanks for the great article :)

  • desssie

    to me the absolute best (as in taste / feel / look / effect) is smith, hands down. + the packaging is amazing. I have at least 3 or 4 in rotation in different parts of my house or the office...
    for heavy duty (ie winter, nights alone): homéoplasmine and 8 hour cream, which look a bit medical and over the top, but I love how you just squirt it out of the tube, put a huge glob on your lips, go to bed, and wake up with baby's lips (not sure that's everybody's dream, but you get what i mean right?)
    and for looks, the benetint lipgloss in a pot is really slick, has SPF, and gives a bitten lip effect...

  • Carrie_Pichel

    Lip balms pretty much control my life - I apply almost (gasp!) hourly. I've tried most on your list - except for the ReVive as I can justify a lot of things when it comes to beauty, but $115 for a lip balm I could not. For me the ByTerry Baume de Rose was AMAZING but I went through that little pot quickly. One you didn't mention is Kiss Mix by Eve Lom, super healing but leaves a little whitish color, which looks good on no one. At the end of the day my Rosebud Salve and Weleda Everon lip balm (both under $10) are my trusty go-to's. The other fancy balms I try when I'm feeling spendy & brave.

  • serenab123

    I have tried every lip balm out there, but my favorites are Weleda's Everon lip balm--all natural, smells like a bit like rosewater and maybe a hint of vanilla, super moisturizing, I also love the Palmer's Cocoa Butter stick--amazingly moisturizing.

  • Mercedes Ariel

    I have full lips, which are awesome and happy in the summer months but can be total cranky monsters in the winter. So I am all about the lip balm and while I used By Terry Rose De Baume over the summer for just a little slick, I must have Weleda's Everon Lip Balm in the winter. It is colorless, matte, ultra-hydrating, goes on like butter and STAYS. I put it on before heading outdoors and at night before bed so I don't wake up with dried-out lips from the indoor heating. Its cheap(ish) and its good. Definitely needs a spot up on that list.

  • Angela_E

    Wow, tube or pot lip balm - the epitome of first world problems. LOL. I felt both amused and incredibly guilty reading this chat. Considering that people tend to put their fingers on and around their mouth all day every day, the issue seems a bit overblown here. It would've been more helpful, I think, to discuss the use of petrolatum in Chapstick and similar products (and all the side effects/risks with that) versus the pricier "natural" balms. I love this site, but this convo was a bit too evocative of 7th grade cool kids' lunch table. Surely there are better things to discuss...even about lip balm.

    • kathS

      Yes I was expecting read about petroleum v natural :(

  • mfergie889

    Skip all these chap sticks and get Aquaphor. You will never use anything else again, I swear!

  • Lucy Bates

    I don't want a lip balm with EGF in it- I've seen what that stuff can do under the microscope!

    Lipbalm needs to be cheap, portable and able to fit in every pocket of every coat/trousers/bag in my wardrobe- Chapstick and Lip Smackers all the way.

  • Bonnie Clyde

    I only use La Mer Lip Balm!! It's the best one for me!!

  • dagmara

    My current fave when I'm not using Jack Black in the summer months for the SPF factor is Baxter of California Hydro Salve in Mojito flavor and I like Clarks Botanicals too.

  • Icaria

    Nuxe Rêve de Miel is total HG for me especially at night. For day, I love Caudalie's.

  • Maxine Terry

    The EOS lip balms are great, nice not too shiny finish and lovely taste.

  • katie chambers

    1) Weleda's Everon lip balm.
    2) Lucas' Papaw Ointment.
    Bada bing.

  • beautyidealist

    Nick, you are.. my favorite. Ever. I sure hope after reading this, someone at Chapstick is going to send over a basket of Cherry chapstick (as opposed to the black one, which I agree, is no fun).

    I really like the Aesop cream (and agree with Nick that it is hygenic- OH and Rosehip is such a wonderful oil!) and their lip heal oil is amazing for flights. In terms of clean labels, I really like Weleda and Badger Balm (best budget balm on the market goes to their cocoa butter lip balm), and Intelligent Nutrients has a great lip balm too! In terms of high end lip balm, I really like the Serge Lutens Lip Comfort, it is very buttery.

  • Nina Ulrich Østergaard

    Can't believe you didn't mention the Fresh Sugar lip balm. Omg, the best ever and worth every penny! Don't know how I've lived without it for so long. The creamy feeling, the lemon-sugary taste, the spf, the classy metal case - ah! I'm thinking of trying Aveda's Lip Saver too, but I'm really really into Fresh.

  • Jennifer Monforton

    Wow, this stash of balms is making my lips cry out for some nourishment. Love that you've featured both low- and high-end options. The Nuxe Reve de Miel is near the top of my wishlist :)


  • Alice Dennard

    I have pretty full lips and naturally dry skin so constant lip moisturizing is a big thing for me. I have used Blistex's LIP MEDEX everyday- all day since I was 10. My Mom discovered it when she was trapped out of town in some very cold weather without lip balm. I am usually a totally packaging Queen but this stuff is no nonsense goodness in a bright blue little pot. Whenever I do let someone dip into it they're immediately hooked!

  • Anik

    hahah love that convo!
    I'm all about the LOreal Colour Riche lip balm in Pink Satin!

  • Rachel Phipps

    I was looking for the perfect one for years. I mean since I was 12, and I found it about a month ago. Yes, Fresh's original Sugar lip balm comes pretty close, but you need to try Dr Lipp's Original Nipple Balm for Lips. Yes, it is what it says on the tube, but it is so good when I lost my tube I took a special trip to Sephora just to get a new one. I could not live without it.

  • Sara Medeiros Martins

    1) Eight hour cream lip balm

    2) Rêve de miel (in stick)

    3) Avène cold cream

    3) La roche posay

    4) Uriage lip balm

    4) Labello

  • Becca @ The Beauty Sample

    My favorite balm has to be Jack Black's--it is the only balm I've ever found that is intensely hydrating, protects with a high SPF (I get freckles all over my lips if I don't use SPF on them), and actually STAYS ON (every other balm I've EVER tried seems to disappear within 15-20 minutes). It's nice and thick but never sticky. Plus they smell really good--my favorite is the Blackberry & Black Tea (or is it the other way around?). An old standby is also Aquaphor in the little tubes. I have one in my makeup bag, another in my purse, one near my bed, and one in my car. A plus is that they work for everything, not just lips.

    I really do want to try the Aesop one now though. It sounds fabulous and will be perfect for my perma-dry lips--especially as it's been SO dry here lately! And of course, I've been dying to try the Nuxe Rève de Miel for a long time--I really need to get on that!

  • verisworld

    I have three favourites: Dr. Hauschka's Lip Care Stick, which I'm using since 10 years or so and have in every bag. Its so good for my lips, simple to use and gives a little shine which I like. I use the Weleda Everon lip balm at home and religiously before hopping into bed. The Lucas Papaw Ointment is perfect when my lips are really dry and uncomfortable.

  • Marissa Daniels

    I've tried many but nothing compares to Carmex - gives a great matte-ish finish and plumps up my lips! Instantly moisturizing as well.

  • Melody Rood

    I also think Weleda's Everon Lip Balm is the best. I usually buy a few at a time because I always misplace them. It is the lip balm to end all lip balms.

  • Cara

    I would definitely recommend the Dr Bronners lip balms and Hurraw! lip balms. Both are dreamy concoctions.

  • Denisa

    Wow, so many things. Some of them I didnt see before. Nice post and have a great day.

  • Sam

    Can we do a matte lip stuff list? I'm a girl but I don't like my lips to look shiny--or worse, greasy--ever. The only thing I've found so far is the original Burt's Bees but I'm starting to believe the menthol irritates my lips.

  • Noémie Donnard

    we have the same "misnomer" between Chapstick and all other lip balms in France with the Labello.
    For me, the best lip balm ever is the lip butter with apricot by NUXE. It is so sweet and smell so good ! but the most efficient is Homeoplasmine which is great for every skin problem.

  • Makeup Mistress

    Rosebud lip salve gets my vote

  • Samantha Cometz

    the dior creme de rose is divine. i think rosebud lip salve is a good dupe though. also, your face (emily) is all over my Sephora, and you look gorgeous!

  • Christina Uticone

    Jack Black is amazing, and there is no taste just a lovely scent. And SPF on the lips is the MOST important--we SPF our faces except our delicate lip area? Mais non! A friend turned me on to Jack Black & I am never without. I love Rosebud but find it drying with long-term use.

    Aquaphor is great when heavy-duty is needed.

  • g+m

    How is EOS not on this list? Sacrilege, darlings.

  • Bridgettej

    Australian 'Lucas Pawpaw Ointment' I use it as a balm-noting beats it cant live without it!

  • Lisa Christman

    must not forget about Kiehl's lip balm #1- the best by far!

  • Nomadic D.

    I am obsessed with lip balm. I have some stashed in every single corner of the house, ever single pocket of every single coat, every purse... you get the picture. As documented here:

    My current favorites are aquaphor (always - how did it not make your list?!), and fresh sugar. Though as you can see, I'm pretty open!

  • kristy lin

    I have extremely dry and sensitive skin, and my lips are no exception. And having big lips, dry lips are an especially ugly sight. Being a lip balm fiend, I've realized that the cheaper drugstore lip balms just don't cut it for me. No chapstick, nivea, carmex, burt's bee's, softlips, eos, alba, palmers, rosebud salve, vaseline, blistex, aquaphor for me. Caudalie is too waxy, Kiels is like a slick of oil. And the problem I've had with organic, homemade-y lip balms is that they're always too waxy for me, always made of the same old beeswax and jojoba oil that, while do a great job protecting, do nothing for me in terms of moisturization. That's why I totally understand the importance of balance of emollient and protectant. Just creamy enough to moisturize and just waxy enough to protect.

    The best lip balm sI've ever used is the Philosophy Hope in a Stick and Fresh Sugar Advanced Therapy. They actually make my lips *pillowy* instead of just their normal "big" state. But so, so, pricy (I rarely buy skin care products besides sunscreen, so definitely think $26 for lip balm is ridiculous).

    Anyways, my conclusion is, I'm always on the look out for cheaper but still good quality alternatives!

    Ps. I'm definitely a stick and squeeze tube type of person.

  • Nancy Moore

    Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment to keep things looking pretty and Blistex Medicated Lip Ointment foe when things are less pretty. Elizabeth Arden 8 Hour Cream Unscented and Suvana PawPaw and Honey Lip Balm when it get's uber cold. Great Review.

  • ashley e

    haha, that was hilarious! And loved the wrap-up at the end. I'm curious about your picks for natural-ingredient lip balms/lipsticks, like Burts Bees.

  • Tracey Wong

    Lucas Paw Paw.

  • Milidi Dickenson

    In my lip balm world, my sweet find is Montana Emu Ranch unscented lip therapy, love it. On standby, in my collection I have: Pangea Organics mandarin with rosé (love the smell), Homeoplasmine, Dr Hauschka, Nuxe Reve stick, Fresh, Caudalie, Elizabeth Arden, and least favorite Avene cold cream stick (sorry). I look forward to trying Hurraw & Aesop, thanks!

  • seo.puritysalon

    A best discussion on the lip balm topic according to me, better content, informative post and effective planning to post are something I noticed about it

  • Loni

    Two great balms I did not see make the list that I reviewed at One Product at a Time are Mustela and The Lip Slip. Check them out here: and
    The Mustela is super cute and looks like a mini deodorant. The Lip Slip, coats and stays on really like no other lip balm I have ever really come across. It is especially great for deep winter wind or when you have a cold, and leaves the prettiest pillowy effect on the lips.

  • dahyeshka

    You should try Bobbi Brown lip balm - the best!

  • Jerryshaw

    It is rarely that I feel compelled to touch upon articles, but your material is content-worthy. Thanks for being so much conscientious in regards to what you compose.