The 14 Best Lip Balms of 2023

Jack Black Intense Lip Therapy Balm soothes and hydrates lips and protects them from sun damage

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Best Lip Balms

Health / Jaclyn Mastropasqua

If you suffer from stubborn chapped lips, there's no greater victory than discovering the perfect lip balm. But as you likely already know, not every formula is created equal. Finding the best lip balm involves some trial and error, as many popular balms, glosses, and salves actually contain irritating agents that can exacerbate dryness, flakiness, and inflammation. Even with the perfect combination of ingredients, a lip balm's texture can still rub your skin the wrong way and result in an uncomfortable sticky or slimy feeling.

Since chapped lips can be caused by everything from dry weather, dehydration, and frequent licking to infections and certain medications, ingredients matter when you're looking for relief.
You want products that add hydration and moisture and have ingredients that lock that moisture in, according to Katie Sobelman, an organic esthetician and skin care educator based in Napa Valley. 

To find the best lip balms available today, we spent hours researching and testing the most popular products on the market, evaluating formulation, effectiveness, feel, look, how long it stayed, and value. We also consulted Brooke Jackson, MD, FAAD, board-certified dermatologist, dermatologic surgeon, and head of Skin Wellness Dermatology Associates in North Carolina, for her insights on which ingredients to look for and what to avoid. Then, we had a board-certified dermatologist on our Medical Expert Board review this article for medical and scientific accuracy. These are the best lip products that we found were effective in hydrating, healing, and protecting our lips.

Best Overall

Jack Black Intense Therapy Lip Balm SPF 25

Jack Black Lip Balm


Why We Like It
  • It contains moisturizing emollients, soothing antioxidants, and an SPF to protect lips from broad-spectrum UV rays. It’s lightweight and has long-lasting wear, without the need for reapplication.

It's Worth Noting
  • The formula contains cocoa seed butter, a comedogenic that can clog pores and cause breakouts.

The Jack Black Intense Therapy Lip Balm is our top pick because we found that it gives our lips long-lasting moisturization while being incredibly lightweight. We found that we could wear it every day because it was a seamless addition to our regular skincare/make-up routine. Without adding a tint or shine, the product was almost undetectable, except for the subtle but pleasant tingle, and the feeling of soft lips throughout the day. 

Using ingredients like shea butter, avocado oil, vitamin E, and green tea, this is an emollient-rich balm that soothes and rehydrates. Plus, it contains SPF 25 to protect lips from the sun, wind, and other dehydrating elements but doesn't have the chemical after-taste found in many SPF lip products.

We especially liked that the texture was creamy without being sticky, so we can apply it under our lipstick without worrying about smearing or smudging. A little goes a long way—apply a thin layer and let it sink in—so you'll get several uses out of a single 0.25 oz. tube. The natural mint and shea butter flavor is pleasing and not too intense. Not a fan of mint? The balm is available in a variety of flavors.

Product Details:

  • Active Ingredients: Vitamin E, SPF
  • Size: 0.25 oz.

Best for Sensitive Lips

Doctor Rogers Restore Healing Balm

Doctor Rogers Restore Healing Balm


Why We Like It
  • This plant-based balm heals cracked, dry lips without irritating them.

It's Worth Noting
  • It doesn't contain SPF.

You can't trust that a "natural" lip balm won't irritate your already chapped lips if you have sensitive skin. "Many still contain fragrances, which can cause irritant contact dermatitis and allergic reactions," warns Dr. Jackson. Instead, she advises her patients to choose unscented, unflavored lip balms.

At $30, the Restore Healing Balm is pricey, but if you have sensitive skin, it's worth the price. It contains only three ingredients: Glycerin, castor seed oil, and castor wax, which all work together to hydrate lips, replenish the skin's natural barrier, and minimize irritation caused by things like eczema. It's also approved for use on nails and skin and can even be used to help heal burns, scrapes, and cuts.

Product Details:

  • Active Ingredients: Glycerin, castor seed oil, castor wax
  • Size: 0.5 oz

Best Drugstore

NIVEA Smoothness Lip Care SPF 15

NIVEA Smoothness Lip Care SPF 15


Why We Like It
  • It contains hydrating butters and oils and SPF sun protection—and no mineral oil.

It's Worth Noting
  • It contains beeswax, which isn't ideal if you're a vegan or are allergic to bees.

If you need relief right away, you're probably just a few minutes away from a drugstore that sells Nivea's Lip Care stick. It's packed with nourishing ingredients like aloe, jojoba oil, and avocado oil and also contains broad spectrum SPF 15 sun protection.

Thanks to shea butter and a mess-free applicator, the product glides on easily, leaving lips feeling smooth but not greasy. It's free of mineral oil and other petroleum-based products, but vegans and anyone allergic to bees should note that it contains beeswax.

Product Details:

  • Active Ingredients: Shea butter, avocado oil, jojoba oil
  • Size: 0.17 oz

Best with SPF

EltaMD UV Lip Balm Broad-Spectrum SPF 36

EltaMD UV Lip Balm Sunscreen for Lips, SPF 36


Why We Like It
  • This lip balm offers SPF 36 in a reef-safe, hydrating formula that stays on and protects for up to 80 minutes.

It's Worth Noting
  • The formula may leave a white cast if not blended in properly.

The experts agree: You must wear SPF when you're headed outside, including on your lips. We think that EltaMD UV Lip Balm is the perfect choice for anyone who spends a lot of time outside or in the sun. We found the formula to be moisturizing and deliver on the promise of long wear. It also didn’t significantly transfer when we tried drinking from a cup. However, we did notice that the milky balm may appear white on the skin at first but becomes clear once blended in properly. While we didn’t feel a need to reapply it for its moisturizing effect, for full sun protection, it must be reapplied after 80 minutes. 

The formulation is hypoallergenic, cruelty-free, and paraben-free, and aloe, vitamin E, and cocoa butter soothe and hydrate your lips. The SPF 36 formula is free of oxybenzone and octinoxate, so it's reef safe. We like that it glides smoothly, and thought the taste was surprisingly pleasant. The stick applicator is convenient, but the balm will get slightly melty in the sun, so stash it inside your bag or cooler.

Product Details:

  • Active Ingredients: Octinoxate, Zinc oxide
  • Size: 0.28 oz

Best Natural

Burt's Bees Original Beeswax Lip Balm with Vitamin E & Peppermint Oil (2 Pack)

Burt's Bees Lip Balm, Moisturizing Lip Care, 100% Natural, Original Beeswax with Vitamin E & Peppermint Oil (2 Pack)


Why We Like It
  • One of Dr. Jackson's top choices, Burt's Bees uses responsibly-sourced beeswax, to hydrate skin without any irritants.

It's Worth Noting
  • It doesn't contain SPF.

Burt's Bees is one of the most beloved natural lip balms for a good reason. The brand uses responsibly-sourced beeswax, vitamin E, and a hint of peppermint oil to nourish and soothe dry lips. (Although Dr. Jackson recommends steering clear of most flavorings, even in natural lip balms, Burt's Bees uses a small amount that won't irritate most people who deal with sensitive skin issues.)

That simple ingredient list lets nature's moisturizer—beeswax—do its thing to rehydrate your lips. It's free of parabens, phthalates, and petrolatum, and the company does not test its products on animals.

Product Details:

  • Active Ingredients: Beeswax, Vitamin E
  • Size: 0.15 oz

Best Organic

Cliganic Organic Lip Blam Set of 3

Cliganic Organic Lip Balm Set.


Why We Like It
  • This USDA organic-certified lip balm has an uber-clean ingredient list.

It's Worth Noting
  • It doesn't contain SPF.

Cliganic Lip Balm provides hours of hydration for even the driest lips, thanks to a formulation that includes certified organic sunflower seed, coconut, and olive oils. Essential oils infuse flavor into the eucalyptus mint and coconut balms, while the flavorless option is best for those with skin and additive sensitivities.

The balms are USDA Organic-certified, non-GMO verified, cruelty-free, and free of parabens, phthalates, and petrochemicals. A third-party lab tests each batch to confirm the purity of the formulas, and the brand is Climate Pledge Friendly.

Product Details:

  • Active Ingredients: Organic sunflower seed, coconut, beeswax
  • Size: 0.15 oz

Best for Cold Weather

Lanolips The Original 101 Ointment Superbalm

Lanolips 101 Ointment Multipurpose Superbalm


Why We Like It
  • This all-over balm is 100 percent lanolin, a natural moisturizing wax extracted from sheep's wool known for its hydrating properties.

It's Worth Noting
  • May irritate sensitive skin.

As the name suggests, this all-over balm is suitable for use in 101 places, including the lips. The only ingredient is lanolin, a wax derived from sheep's wool that keeps skin, nails, and hair hydrated and protected from even the harshest weather conditions.

The balm forms a protective barrier that traps moisture, making it ideal for the winter months when the air is dry indoors and outside. It's a great natural alternative to petroleum-based products, though those with sensitive skin should note that lanolin can cause irritation or an allergic reaction.

Product Details:

  • Active Ingredients: Lanolin
  • Size: 0.52 oz

Best Tinted

MDSolarSciences Hydrating Sheer Lip Balm SPF 30

MDSolarSciences Hydrating Sheer Lip Balm SPF 30


Why We Like Them
  • This lip balm comes in seven shades and moisturizing ingredients with the bonus of SPF.

It's Worth Noting
  • You may need something richer if your lips are extremely dry.

We love this lip balm from MDSolarSciences because it offers us a tinted lip while still being hydrating. Plus, it also has SPF 30 so it’s got all-around protection for our lips while adding a pretty but subtle pop of color to our look. This lip balm offers a buildable color, making it your choice whether you’re looking for a sheer or light tint, to a more pigmented lip, all while keeping your lips soft. It’s not sticky at all and we found that it made our lips feel buttery and smooth, with a matte finish, which we love.

We also loved that this vegan lip balm is packed with shea butter and fortified with avocado and olive oils that nourish and condition lips and gives it a smooth, creamy texture. We found that it works best on normal to dry lips, but if your lips are quite chapped and really dry, you might need a richer balm underneath. 

Product Details:

  • Active Ingredients: Avobenzone, Octisalate, Shea butter
  • Size: 0.15 oz

Best Glossy

Cay Skin Isle Lip Balm SPF 30 with Sea Moss and Aloe Stem Cells

Cay Skin Isle Lip Balm SPF 30 with Sea Moss and Aloe Stem Cells


Why We Like Them
  • This unicorn of a lip gloss delivers hydration, high gloss with the added benefit of sun protection.

It's Worth Noting
  • Doesn't last super long, and it's not as healing for severely dry, cracked lips.

If you're a fan of lip gloss but also want the hydrating benefits of a lip balm, you'll love the Cay Skin Isle Lip Balm, we loved that this glossy formula moisturizes and softens with ingredients like Aloe Stem Cells, Sea Moss and Vitamin E and SPF 30. 

You can go clear, or add a pop of color and use a tinted one, as it’s available in three shades, clear, rose, and berry. We found that it has all the shine of a gloss without the stickiness and the vanilla brown sugar flavor was not too overwhelming. Plus, you can layer it over your favorite lip color for extra lip protection and sheen. While the moisturizing effect is long-lasting on the lips, we found we needed to reapply to keep the shiny look after eating or drinking (plus it’s recommended to reapply every 2 hours for effective sun protection.)

We found that the lightweight formula works best on normal to dry lips—if you're dealing with severely dry, cracked lips, you might want to try something more intense— and it's free of sulfates, parabens, and phthalates, and non-comedogenic.

Product Details:

  • Active Ingredients: Avobenzone, Homosalate, Octisalate
  • Size: 0.15 oz

Best for Nighttime

Aquaphor Advanced Therapy Healing Ointment

Aquaphor Advanced Therapy Healing Ointment


Why We Like Them
  • This ointment uses hydrating oils and waxes to put moisture into your lips, alongside petroleum jelly to lock that moisture and let your skin heal overnight.

It's Worth Noting
  • It contains lanolin.

Slather this ointment on lips, hands, feet, and other body parts that could use a moisture boost before bed and wake up feeling smoother and softer. Panthenol and glycerin moisturize and nourish, while petrolatum soothes lips and skin and protects them from cold weather and other irritants.

A combination of hydrating and softening ingredients provides immediate and lasting relief from severely chapped lips, dry skin, and even minor cuts and burns. Formulated for sensitive skin, it's free of preservatives and fragrances.

Product Details:

  • Active Ingredients: Petrolatum
  • Size: 1.75 oz

Best for Sports

Kosas Kosasport LipFuel Hyaluronic Lip Balm

LipFuel Hyaluronic Lip Balm


Why We Like It
  • Hyalurinic acid draws moisture from within the lips and the air to keep them supple and prevent chapping.

It's Worth Noting
  • Some people may not love the mint fragrance.

Spending time being active outdoors? Stash Kosas Active LipFuel Hyaluronic Lip Balm in your backpack. It contains hyaluronic acid, a naturally occurring sugar molecule that attracts moisture, to keep lips hydrated, while Vitamin E hydrates and protects lips from drying and cracking.

The moisture stays put so you won't have to reapply often. The stick is available in two colors, clear (Baseline) or with a touch of pink (Rush). Besides being cruelty-free, the lip balm is made without talc, silicon, parabens or sulfates, so it's a good option for people with sensitive skin or allergies.

Product Details:

  • Active Ingredients: Hyalurinic acid, Vitamin E
  • Size: 6.74 oz

Best Medicated

Blistex Lip Medex Analgesic Lip Protectant

Blistex Lip Medex Analgesic Lip Protectant


Why We Like It
  • It contains camphor and menthol to provide cooling relief you can feel instantly.

It's Worth Noting
  • It might sting when first applied.

When it comes to healing chapped lips, Blistex Lip Medex pulls out all the stops. It adds moisture to dry, chapped lips and creates a barrier so the elements can't counteract its work while your lip cells return to their natural moisture balance. The formula includes petrolatum, beeswax, lanolin, cocoa butter, and castor seed oil to pull this double duty.

Camphor and menthol offer a numbing effect that many find to be a soothing sensation. It's worth noting that the experts we consulted aren't big fans of medicated lip balms, pointing out that "cooling ingredients" can be especially painful when applied to cracked lips.

Product Details: Petrolatum, beeswax, lanolin, cocoa butter, castor seed oil

  • Active Ingredients:
  • Size: .25 oz

Best for Actinic Cheilitis

Vaseline Lip Balm Tube Advanced Healing

Vaseline Lip Balm Tube Advanced Healing


Why We Like Them
  • Vaseline Advanced Healing is made with 100% white petroleum jelly, which is safe to use, incredibly gentle and restorative for cracked skin, and highly recommended by Dr. Jackson.

It's Worth Noting
  • Some might want more variety of ingredients for extra hydration or smoothness, no SPF.

Actinic cheilitis is a precancerous lip condition caused by too much sun exposure over time. It's usually asymptomatic, but some people experience dryness, cracking, or a burning or stinging sensation on their lips, reports a 2022 meta analysis in Frontiers in Medicine. In this case, you need something highly restorative and with minimal irritants.

Vaseline is one of Dr. Jackson's top choices for lip balms since it is just 100% petroleum jelly. And don't let the oil connotation confuse you: "Petroleum jelly is a mixture of various natural waxes and mineral oils which are triple purified," she explains, adding that the product has been used for over 150 years without issue and is the go-to for adding moisture in wound healing.

Vaseline Lip Therapy Original uses refined, safe white petroleum to lock in moisture and provide a barrier against dehydrating elements like wind and cold. Because it's free of scents, oils, lanolin, and any other potentially irritating ingredients, it's suitable for pretty much everyone and every skin type.

Product Details:

  • Active Ingredients: White petroleum
  • Size: .35 oz

Best Plumping

Sunnie Skin Plump It Lips Hyaluronic + SPF 30 Lip Plumper

Sunnie Skin Plump It Lips w/ Hyaluronic Acid

Sunnie Skin

Why We Like Them
  • A lip plumper that actually hydrates and has great sun protection.

It's Worth Noting
  • Plumping effect wears off after a while.

If you love the volume that a lip plumper can give you, but don’t love the dry feeling they can sometimes leave you with, the Plump It Lips from Sunnie Skincare is your answer. We found it super hydrating while giving ample volume to our lips. With a broad spectrum SPF 30, it also protects your lips from UVA/UVB, something that’s not as easy to find in a lip plumper. 

The applicator makes it really easy to apply, at home or on the go. The slight tingle is also pleasant, without being too strong, actually plumping our lips, while leaving them feeling soft and moisturized. With a lip gloss feel, it also gives your lips a beautiful shine and the glossy look that’s so trendy at the moment. We didn’t find the need to reapply because it kept our lips soft all day, but the plumping effect does wear off after about an hour. 

While this lip plumper is on the pricey side ($45) this is a multi-functional lip treatment (hydration + volumizing + sun protection) that temporarily gives you the look of a lip filler, without the heftier price tag and needles. 

Product Details:

  • Active Ingredients: Homosalate, Octinoxate, Octisalate, Avobenzone, Hyaluronic Acid
  • Size: 14 oz

How We Selected

To determine the best lip balms, including what ingredients to look for and what to avoid, we spoke with two key experts in the field:

  • Dr. Brooke Jackson, ND, FAAD, board-certified dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon at Skin Wellness Dermatology Associates in Durham, North Carolina
  • Katie Sobelman, an organic esthetician and skin care educator based in Napa Valley

We also tested a number of lip balms on this list ourselves, by trying them over a number of days and hours, at least three times a week for at least four hours per wear. We prepped our lips first by brushing them before applying any product, making sure they were smooth and ready for application. We applied each product thoroughly to our lips and took note of any pigmentation, and the feel of the balm. We made sure to wear them on days we’d be out all day, to see how they fared against the elements, as well testing how they transferred if we ate or drank. 

We also made sure to add them to our usual skin-care/make-up routine, to see if they fit in seamlessly and if they were effective, even if we changed nothing else. 

We also combed leading research and scientific positions from accredited sources, such as the American Academy of Dermatology Association.

What to Know About Lip Balms

Ingredients to Look For

You want to choose an emollient lip balm, since that moisturizes and seals, Dr. Jackson explains. Go-to ingredients for adding moisture and locking it in include:

  • White Petrolatum, or White Petroleum Jelly: Petroleum jelly is a mixture of natural waxes and mineral oils that have been triple purified and provides both moisture and a barrier to prevent moisture loss. Be sure it's specifically "white" petroleum jelly; otherwise, it might not have been refined enough to remove the potential carcinogens.
  • Dimethicone: This silicone-based polymer helps "seal off the cracks," as Dr. Jackson says; it helps condition the skin, making it softer and more flexible.
  • Lanolin: A natural wax that comes from the fat glands of sheep, lanolin is like natural petroleum jelly and provides both moisture and protection. Note: Some people are allergic to lanolin.
  • Shea butter: Rich in fatty acids, this natural plant-based emollient helps moisturize and soften lips.
  • Beeswax: The natural wax produced by honey bees, beeswax is one of the oldest moisturizers. It acts as a barrier while still allowing your skin to breathe and is a natural exfoliator.
  • Ceramides: Fats or lipids found in skin cells, this category of ingredients helps retain your skin's moisture and restore your skin's natural barrier.
  • Vitamin E: Naturally healing, vitamin E restores moisture, heals cracked lips, increases blood flow, and locks in moisture to support the skin's barrier.
  • Hemp seed oil: This natural oil is high in polyunsaturated fatty acids, which have been shown to help calm and rehydrate dry, inflamed skin.
  • Castor seed oil: Another natural oil derived from castor beans, castor oil is rich in a type of monounsaturated fatty acid, ricinoleic acid, which helps your skin retain moisture.
  • Mineral oil: Mineral oil is derived from petroleum, but it's safe—and, actually, beneficial—for your skin. It locks in moisture, softens skin, and improves your skin barrier function, all with a low risk of irritating you.

Also, Dr. Jackson notes that you want to choose a lip balm with SPF. Just like with face and body sunscreen, it's wise to apply SPF lip balm all the time; however, many people don't like the taste of SPF, so we've included options without the ingredient. If you're headed outside for more than 5 minutes, switch to an SPF lip balm.

Ingredients to Avoid

"Certain ingredients—like botanicals, scents, flavors—sound like a good idea, but they can cause more harm than good, including contact dermatitis or an eczematous reaction," says Dr. Jackson.

If you want to avoid irritation, especially if you have sensitive skin or a condition like eczema, avoid:

  • Camphor or menthol
  • Eucalyptus
  • Flavoring: Cinnamon, citrus, mint, and peppermint flavors can be incredibly irritating to dry, chapped lips
  • Fragrance
  • Phenol (or phenyl)
  • Propyl gallate
  • Salicylic acid

If you are going in the water, you also want to avoid octinoxate and oxybenzone, which are harmful to coral reefs.

And if you're allergic to lanolin, avoid that as well.

Application Style

The application method for lip balm is based mainly on the type of packaging and individual preference. The benefits and drawbacks of each are:

  • Tube: Most tubes are made of plastic, which makes them lightweight and easy to carry around, and contain an ointment or oil. Tubes often have a slanted application tip, which makes it easy to apply directly on your lips. The slanted applicator is also the easiest to sanitize if you share lip balm with someone else.
  • Tin: Metal tins are more sustainable than plastic tubes, but if the lip balm sits in the sun too long, the container can get messy, and the product can get under your fingernails as you try to get some out.
  • Stick: The simplest lip balm form, this compressed formula is usually wax based. It's the least messy to apply, although it can melt in the sun. Be sure to roll the product back into its shell before closing.

Your Questions, Answered

Does lip balm expire?

Yes. Like all cosmetics, lip balm does expire because the ingredients inside begin to degrade over time and, in some cases, like with SPF, become less effective. How long lip balm stays good varies from brand to brand; check the label to know when to throw it out.

How long does lip balm last?

"An effective lip balm should not need to be reapplied often," says Katie Sobelman, an organic esthetician and skin care educator based in Napa Valley. Ideally, you should apply lip balm morning, night, and after eating meals, but potentially more often if it's cold and dry out.

How long lip balm will last and how often you need to reapply also largely depends on the ingredients. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, ointments (Vaseline, Aquaphor) seal water in longer than waxes (beeswax) or oils (hemp seed oil, castor oil). A good trick to make your lip balm last longer: Use your favorite moisturizing lip balm, then seal it in with a layer of petroleum jelly.

Who We Are

Rachael Schultz has been a health and wellness writer for nearly a decade and specializes in translating scientific research and expert insight into digestible, usable everyday information. She has been a gear editor for five years and has extensive knowledge discerning what differentiates a high-quality, reliable product that will not only support the buyer's needs but is also worth your money.

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