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Updated October 2022
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Buying guide for Best lip balm sticks

Dry, chapped lips aren’t just unsightly, they can be downright painful. If you’re struggling with cracked, peeling lips, the right lip balm stick can help soothe and heal the skin so it looks and feels better quickly. Nearly everyone needs lip balm from time to time, but it’s crucial if you live in a dry climate. And it’s essential for keeping your lips from getting chapped in winter when the air is drier.

The primary purpose of lip balm is to hydrate and protect the lips against external stressors. It has a smooth, waxy texture that glides easily over the skin and forms a barrier that seals in moisture. Lip balm sticks are particularly convenient because you can apply the balm directly from the stick to your lips, making it perfect for use on the go.

If you’re looking for a high-quality lip balm, a buying guide can help you understand what causes chapped lips and what a balm should do for your skin, identify the best ingredients, and choose the flavor or fragrance and SPF that best suit your needs.

lip balm sticks
Some lip balms come in packs of three or more. That lets you keep one in your bag, car, and bedside table, or other areas around the house, to make sure you always have one within reach.

How to buy the best lip balm stick

What causes chapped lips?

The skin on your lips is thinner than the skin on other areas of the body, so it’s highly sensitive and loses moisture easily. Dry lips can start to crack and peel. Not only does that leave your lips looking rough, but it can also be extremely painful.

Because the skin on your lips is so delicate, it’s highly vulnerable to environmental stressors, such as cold weather, dry air, wind, and the sun’s UV rays. Unfortunately, lips don’t have any oil glands, so they’re prone to dryness when exposed to these environmental factors.

It’s not just environmental factors that can cause chapped lips, though. Certain medications, health conditions (including autoimmune disorders), and irritation from ingredients in lip products can also dry out your lips. In addition, some vitamin and nutrient deficiencies, such as low iron, folic acid, and vitamin B levels, can also affect your lips.

Certain habits can irritate your lips and exacerbate chapping or peeling too. For example, if you tend to lick or smack your lips when they feel dry, you might get momentary relief, but the moisture eventually evaporates and leaves your lips even drier and more chapped than before.

Ingredients

The ingredient list is the most important thing to consider when choosing lip balm. You want to choose a formula that includes ingredients that hydrate the lips and lock in the moisture to provide protection from the elements. It’s also crucial to avoid certain ingredients that can irritate the skin and dry out your lips.

Look for these ingredients to find an effective lip balm stick formula:

Beeswax and other waxes help soften the lips and prevent moisture loss. They also form a protective layer over the skin, which can help reduce the chance of chapped lips.

Shea and cocoa butter are emollients that help hydrate and provide antioxidant protection for the lips. They work especially well in extreme weather and dry air.

Lanolin helps soften the skin and lock in moisture to soothe chapped lips.

Oil, such as coconut oil, olive oil, jojoba oil, and apricot kernel oil, helps hydrate the lips and adds a flattering shine for healthy-looking lips.

Avoid lip balms that contain these ingredients:

Camphor and menthol are often used to provide a cooling sensation. They can irritate the skin and make it more prone to dryness.

Salicylic acid is another problematic ingredient that also can cause irritation and dryness.

Medicated formulas

If you have extremely dry, chapped lips, you might want to consider a medicated lip balm stick. These balms are formulated to penetrate the skin easily and provide intense hydration. As a result, you usually don’t need to reapply these formulas as often as you would a regular lip balm. In addition to treating severely dry or chapped lips, some medicated lip balms also provide relief for cold sores.

A tinted lip balm is an excellent alternative to lipstick in cold weather because you don’t have to worry about the color clinging to dry patches or flakes.

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Features to look for in lip balm sticks

Flavor

Because you’re likely to lick your lips from time to time when wearing lip balm, many formulas are flavored to give them a pleasant taste. Many of these sticks are fruit-flavored, including strawberry, cherry, raspberry, watermelon, and citrus options. Other popular flavors include vanilla, coconut, chocolate, mint, and cinnamon.

Some manufacturers offer limited edition seasonal flavors too. You can often find flavors like gingerbread, sugar cookie, and candy cane during the holiday season. In the fall, pumpkin is a popular option. For summer, you can often find carnival-inspired flavors like cotton candy.

Keep in mind that many balms use artificial flavorings, so their taste can be somewhat strong. However, if you don’t enjoy flavored balms, you can find unflavored options you might prefer.

Fragrance

In addition to flavor, many lip balms typically have a scent that usually corresponds to the flavor. However, you can find some balms that don’t have a distinct flavor but have a scent, such as rose or lavender, to provide aromatherapy benefits.

You might prefer an unscented lip balm if you have sensitive skin. Artificial fragrances can be irritating if your skin is reactive.

Finish

Lip balms contain hydrating ingredients, so they tend to leave a slight sheen on the lips. However, some formulas absorb quickly and easily into the skin, so they look practically matte once applied. Other balms are shiny, so you can wear them on their own without needing to add lip gloss.

Tint

Most lip balm sticks are clear, so they don’t deposit any color on the lips, but you can also find tinted formulas. These offer a slight, sheer color that eliminates the need for a separate lipstick or gloss. Tinted lip balms typically come in rose, berry, red, and nude shades.

SPF

Since the skin on the lips is so thin and delicate, it can be prone to sunburn and other damage. Many lip balm sticks contain SPF to protect your lips from UV rays. Choose a formula with at least a broad-spectrum SPF 15 to ensure that you have adequate protection from UVA and UVB rays.

lip balm sticks
DID YOU KNOW?
Beeswax holds onto water extremely well, so lip balm sticks that contain beeswax can help keep your lips hydrated for hours.
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How to accessorize a lip balm stick

Lip exfoliator

If you have dry, chapped lips, removing the dead skin can help smooth and soften them to ready the skin for more effective hydration. A lip exfoliator can help buff away dry, flaky skin to give you smoother, plumper lips in a matter of minutes.

Lip sleeping mask

A lip balm stick alone might not be enough for extremely dry, cracked lips. A lip sleeping mask provides intense overnight hydration for your lips, so you wake up with smooth, healthy lips.

How much do lip balm sticks cost?

Inexpensive

The most affordable lip balm sticks are usually formulas with lower-quality ingredients. They typically don’t offer long-lasting moisture, so they must be reapplied more often. You’ll usually pay $1 to $5 per stick for these.

Mid-range

Mid-range sticks usually offer average-quality ingredients. They provide longer-lasting moisture, so you don’t need to reapply them as often. You’ll typically pay $5 to $10 per stick for these.

Expensive

The most expensive lip balm sticks contain high-quality ingredients. They provide excellent hydration, so you don’t need to reapply them as often. You’ll usually pay $10 to $25 per stick for these.

Many lip balm sticks come in recyclable packaging, so you don’t have to worry about creating plastic waste when the tube is empty.

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Tips

  • Apply lip balm liberally. You want to make sure your lips are properly hydrated, and since the skin is so thin, it absorbs moisture very quickly.
  • Always use lip balm with SPF if you’re spending time outside. If you’re not using a separate lip sunscreen, it’s essential to be protected from the sun with a lip balm stick that offers SPF.
  • Exfoliate your lips regularly. Using a lip scrub helps remove dry, flaky skin, so your lips can more easily absorb the hydrating ingredients in the balm.
lip balm sticks
Lip balm can double as a moisturizer for other patches of dry skin on your body. For example, if you have dry, cracked knuckles, rub some lip balm over them to help hydrate the skin.

FAQ

Q. Can you become addicted to lip balm?

A. There’s long been a myth that you can develop a dependence on lip balm if you use it too often. However, dermatologists generally don’t believe it’s possible. If you find that your lips are still dry and chapped after using lip balm regularly, it might be time to change the formula. That’s because there could be ingredients in the stick that are irritating your lips rather than hydrating and soothing them.

Q. How often should I apply lip balm?

A. It’s usually a good idea to apply lip balm throughout the day so your lips stay hydrated. Using your lip balm at least two to four times a day typically provides adequate hydration, but you might need to apply it more often if you have extremely dry lips or live in a dry climate.

Q. Can I wear lip balm under lipstick?

A. Not only can you wear lip balm under your favorite lipstick, but it’s actually better if you start with a lip balm base. It helps prevent your lip color from drying out the skin and also ensures that you have a smooth, even surface for lipstick application. The hydrating ingredients in the balm can affect the lipstick’s wear time, so you might find that you need to reapply your lip color more frequently than usual.

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