Lipstick every day can be taxing. Stains can be drying. Through seasons of snow and of sweat, tinted lip balm is forever—all your problems assuaged and softened by a tint-infused oil medley. A product for all seasons. A product for all persons. A product for all time.
Tinted lip balm occupies that curious ground—for some people, it’s the dressed-up lip, for others it’s a dressed-down, off-duty reprieve. Regular lipstick wearers can take a break and condition with layers of sheer color, while those who lean minimalist see tint as that special, turned up step. The format lends itself to looking pretty great on everyone, and, best of all, you can apply it blind and still get it right.
Packaging can be an issue, though. Which tube you reach for says as much about the occasion (maybe more) than the tint. There are the Chapstick-style tubes, with a little top that can be deftly capped on and off (and applied) with one gloved hand (and a little practice). There are also those open-face shallow tins you sort of have to kiss to apply. But the state of the art has advanced significantly since Burt’s Bees threw in a side of tint with their wax. Now, you can get tubes so beautiful, you’ll think “No—it’s lipstick!” It’s not. It’s tinted lip conditioner. Everyone just thinks you're fancy.
And now for the guests of honor, in order of appearance:
Smith's Lip Balm in Minted Rose: Ask any Brooklynite if you can borrow some lip balm and they'll hand you a tin of this. Who can blame 'em? It's a classic salve in charming tin packaging.
Olio E Osso in Berry: Well, it's a favorite of Gwyneth Paltrow, for one. But it's also a hydrating balm with a sheer but buildable color load. One coat gives subtle wine lips—four gives you something closer to a purply stain.
By Terry Baume Rose Nutri-Couleur in Fig Fiction: OK, a $60 lip balm may seem opulent to those who are committed to their Burt's Bees. So it's helpful to think of this as a lip treatment foremost (and an effective one, too) that can double as a date-friendly lip tint.
Benefit Benebalm in Rose: The older sister of Lip Smackers, and because we're nostalgists, we like the youthful shade of pink offered in Benebalm Rose.
Maybelline Baby Lips Crystal in Gleaming Coral: Everybody's favorite impulse drugstore purchase. Gleaming Coral has a tinge of orange—something to try if Nars Heat Wave puts you off (but also intrigues you).
YSL Rouge Volupté Shine in Chocolate In Style: Imagine—you're at brunch with your friends and you pull out this uber-cool, YSL-emblazoned gold tube. Is that your lipstick? Your friends ask. Nope—it's your lip balm, and you're the coolest person at the table.
Nivea A Kiss of Care & Color in Sheer Crimson: Another drugstore favorite with a freshly-blotted fuschia vibe.
Burt's Bees Lip Shimmer in Cherry: The sexiest Burt's Bees will get. Seriously—the color is a reddened stain that looks like your Ruby Woo got smooched off. And it tastes good!
Fresh Sugar Tinted Lip Treatment in Ruby: A natural pink that's a little bit deeper than your standard shade—and so very moisturizing. Bonus points for acting a little less shiny than the competition, staying truer to your own lip color.
L'Oréal Pop Balm in Fiery Red: "Fiery" may be an overstatement, but it's certainly on the more pigmented side and it definitely only costs $8.
Korres Lip Butter in Pomegranate: Another very yummy shade of flushed lip—and a great pinch hitter for a cheek tint, too, because of its slightly red, sunburnt hue.
100% Pure Fruit Pigmented Lip Butter in Peach: It's natural! And also a kind of amazing shade of bubblegum pink. Editor tested, Baby Spice-approved.
Ilia Lip Conditioner in Dizzy: Ilia's Dizzy gets dangerously close to "hydrating lipstick" territory, but we're not discriminating. The point is that it's the most nourishing shade of orangey-nude you'll find. And it's good for you!