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Lip balm. It's almost impossible for us to walk out of the drugstore without one. Not only are we convinced the best formulas soothe our lips with an incomparable hit of hydration, but we also just appreciate the cathartic nature of the stuff. And in many cases, we've been using the same one (tube or tin—pick your poison) for years. Whether it's what got us through that first kiss (a tragic combination of braces, popcorn, and Bring It On playing accomplice), or it was simply the first tube that struck our fancy, we're pretty devoted to our go-to picks.
After comparing notes, we rounded up a list of drugstore lip balms we deem the best of the best with ingredients that keep our lips happy and hydrated, and formulas that wear like butter. Though Dr. Pepper and Bubble Gum Lip Smackers didn't make the cut, they'll always hold a special place in our hearts—right next to Bop It, JT with ramen hair, and HitClips.
Keep reading for the best drugstore lip balms in every category, according to our editors.
Best Overall: Rosebud Perfume Co. Strawberry Lip Balm
Multiple things are working in this pretty pot's favor. One, the smell alone makes us feel one part Katy Perry, one part kid, again. And two, the smooth, non-sticky formula is one of the few that actually helps keep lips hydrated (thanks to a formula with surgical-grade petroleum jelly, lanolin, beeswax, and the brand's top-secret strawberry flavor). Plus, we never have a problem with charming vintage packaging.
Best Natural: Burt's Bees Original Beeswax Lip Balm
Going strong since 1991, this beloved yellow tube has formed a devoted cult following and an ever-expanding array of flavors and formulations (From blueberry and dark chocolate to wild cherry.) We're partial to the original, pictured here, and appreciate the 100% natural formula with buzzy notes of peppermint, coconut oil, vitamin E, and beeswax.
Best Basic: Nivea Moisture Essential Lip Care
Infused with jojoba oil and shea butter in the formula, this lip balm takes it back to basics, which we can appreciate from time to time. By prioritizing moisture and a simplistic ingredient list, this one by Nivea always helps gets the job done.
Best with SPF: Maybelline Baby Lips Moisturizing Lip Balm
Whipping out this adorable lip balm never gets old. With SPF 20, an exclusive lip renewal formula, and plenty of pretty tints, it's essentially Lip Smackers for adults—sans the saccharine frost finish.
Best Multi-Use: Aquaphor Lip Repair Ointment
If we had to make a comparison, we'd say this lip balm is not dissimilar to Mary Poppins's magical carpetbag: outwardly small but loaded with potential. A true multipurpose gem, this O.G. lip balm is one the best drugstore finds period. In a pinch, you can also use it to take off makeup, tame frizz, cure a bad cuticle or two, and even deliver an impeccable glossy lid.
What Our Testers Say
"At night, I apply a generous coat before bed, since this is usually when my lips dry out the most if left untreated. I’ve never minded the feeling of a thick coat of balm, so I basically make my lips feel like two salve-slicked pillows before I sleep. It works; in the morning, my lips remain miraculously smooth and hydrated." — Sarah Y. Wu, Product Tester
Best with Vaseline: Vaseline Lip Therapy
There's a chic simplicity to vaseline that we'll never quite shake. Perhaps it's that sleeping with the stuff feels very Old Hollywood or ever so slightly European? We're not sure. What we do know are the post-application results: moisturized, glossy shine with little to no stickiness.
What To Look For in a Lip Balm
The point of lip balms, of course, is to keep lips hydrated, soft, and supple throughout the day. You'll want to look for hydrators in the ingredient list to ensure that the balm you purchase does what it promises to do. Ingredients such as castor seed oil, shea butter, and ceramides, to name a few, are recommended by dermatologists to help heal chapped lips and seal in moisture.
SPF 30 (or higher)
When choosing the right lip balm, aside from hydrating ingredients, you'll want to seek SPF protection. The American Academy of Dermatology Association recommends SPF 30 protection at a minimum. Regardless of the season, or how visible the sun is to the naked eye, SPF protection is imperative to keep your skin happy, healthy, and safe. Aside from SPF itself, you'll want to seek balms that have titanium oxide and zinc oxide, both of which are sun-protective ingredients.
Celebrity esthetician Susan Ciminelli recommends finding products that are loaded with skin-nourishing vitamins, minerals, and essential oils. Essential oils work well in lip care because they're made to nourish and protect from elements such as environmental aggressors. Ciminelli's five go-to essential oils to look for in lip balms are Rose Geranium Oil, Carrot Seed Oil, Camellia Oil, Lavender Oil, and Sweet Almond Oil.
Do lip balms dry out lips?
The answer is circumstantial, but in some cases, yes. Certain lip balms can dry out your lips after time leading you to apply more consistently. Avoid ingredients like phenol, salicylic acid, and menthol, as all can make your lips drier. These ingredients can also cause irritation and cause the skin on the lips to peel.
What ingredients should you look for in a lip balm?
In a lip balm, you want to seek ingredients that hold moisture. Note, that some moisturizing ingredients like vitamin E and beeswax can be irritating to sensitive skin. Ingredients such as glycerin, aloe, lactic acid and mineral oil all hold moisture and generally are not irritants.
Should lip balm have SPF?
Yes. Your lips are often the forgotten area of the skin, and just like the rest of your face, SPF is just as important on the lips.