There are few things more vital to a good makeup day—or more likely to get lost in the bottom of your bag—than a lip balm. If, like me, you’re currently in the market to find your new go-to lip balm or lip treatment, you’ve come to the right place. Ahead, the beauty team at Marie Claire rounded up the very best lip balms that you can buy right now. We’ve tried and tested almost every single option that money can buy—and these are the lip balms and treatments that stood out from the pack.
There are so many reasons to pick up a new lip balm this season. Maybe you have chronically chapped lips no matter the weather. Maybe you're a chronic user of abrasive products like lip scrubs and need to find something to get your dry lips back on the right track. Maybe you need a hydrating layer to wear underneath all of the lipsticks that you have in your collection. Or, maybe you’re a beauty pro who already knows everything there is to know about both lip stains and lip plumpers and are looking for a base product to condition your lips on no-makeup days. Luckily, the world is chock-full of lip balms for dry lips that come in just about every type of formula, from matte balms to others that look and feel like the best lip oil or your favorite lip gloss.
With so many options, it can be hard to discern what makes a good lip balm the best lip balm. Marie Claire spoke with board-certified dermatologist Dr. Shereene Idriss, M.D to get some answers.
What Causes Dry, Chapped Lips
If you thought that winter was the only time of year when lips can get chapped and dry, think again. Dr. Idriss says that dry lips can be “caused by so many different factors, both externally and internally,” including the humidity in the air or extreme temperatures, both in the summer and in the winter. Plus, not drinking enough water can lead to dehydration that will cause your lips (and skin!) to dry out, so add this to the ever-growing list of reasons to get so much water throughout the day.
But the biggest cause of dry lips might surprise you: “The last and biggest cause of dry lips is licking your lips, one that I am guilty of,” she says. “By licking your lips, moisture is drawn out of them, causing them to dry faster. If you want hydrated, nourished lips, this is one habit you should try to break."
If you use topical treatments like retinoids or Accutane, they could be at the root of your dry lips issue. "Retinoids increase cell turnover, therefore dry lips can result as a side effect of topically applied skincare products, at least at the very beginning while your skin is adjusting," she says. "Keep them hydrated and you should be good to go."
What a Lip Balm Should Do
“A good lip balm should be nourishing and hydrating, while keeping your lips protected from pollution in the air and even damage from the sun if you choose one with SPF in it,” Dr. Idriss says. “Lip balm should soothe and calm dry lips without causing any irritation or inflammation.”
What Ingredients Make the Best Lip Balm?
"Traditional lip balms often contain ingredients like beeswax, carnauba wax, lanolin, or petrolatum,” says Dr. Idriss. “For lip basting I like to use non-traditional lip balms that melt into your lips for longer lasting hydration. Panthenol is one of my favorite ingredients in Bepanthen Nappy Rash Cream.”
Ahead, shop the best lip balms for dry, cracked lips, as recommended by Marie Claire editors and glowing reviews alike.
The Best Lip Balms
- Best All-Around Lip Balm: Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask (opens in new tab)
- Best Editor-Approved Lip Balm: Summer Fridays Lip Butter Balm (opens in new tab)
- Best Affordable Lip Balm: Blistex Medicated Lip Balm (opens in new tab)
Best Beauty Editor-Approved Lip Balm
"While this may be a mask, it's by no means exclusively for overnight use. I have this on hand at all times. It's deeply hydrating and give my chapped lips an instant hydration fix. Plus, the high-shine finish can't be beat." — Samantha Holender, Beauty Editor
Pros: Editor-approved; Includes ingredients like coconut oil and vitamin C; top-rated; Can be worn day or night.
Cons: Costs over $20; Comes in a pot.
Best Long-Lasting Lip Balm
"This balm (which my mom actually introduced me to) has been a mainstay in my handbag since I was old enough to buy anything with my own money. I love the subtle pink tint it leaves behind, the ultra-hydrating texture, and, of course, the size—It's nearly impossible to scratch the bottom of it despite the fact that I use it daily. The hydration lasts forever, but I love to reapply throughout the day for a naturally glossy finish. It really coats the lips evenly and leaves behind a shine, too.” — Julia Marzovilla, E-Commerce Writer
Pros: Costs less than $20; Editor-approved; Top-rated;
Cons: Heavily scented; Comes in a pot.
Pack of Three Lip Balms
"I test my fair share of lip balms, but I always, without fail, go back to this one. It leave no film whatsoever, has a slight menthol feel, and keeps everything smooth. I'm a big fan of applying it over my lipstick for a subtle shine." — S.H.
Pros: Costs under $20; Editor-approved; Top-rated; Included ingredients like cocoa butter; Comes in a multi-pack.
Best Top-Rated Lip Balm
"I always have a tube (or two) of this iconic lip balm from Burt’s Bees in my work bag. It's great for days when I just want something that I know is going to work. Plus, the scent (which is on the stronger side) is so iconic that I instantly feel transported back to my younger days. The texture is more waxy than balmy, which means that it won't cause the products I layer on top to slip and slide throughout the day." — J.M.
Best Cocoa Butter Lip Balm
"I have these Vaseline lip therapy tins in three different formulas: aloe (opens in new tab), rose (opens in new tab), and, of course, cocoa butter. Each formulation has a subtle, pleasant scent, and coats my lips with hydration without making them feel slimy. Pro tip: These balms are also perfect slathering on tiny cuts and dry patches, and I love using them on my upper lip to soothe redness after an at-home wax." — Gabrielle Ulubay, E-Commerce Writer
Pros: Costs under $20; Editor-approved; Top-rated; Lightly-scented; Included ingredients like aloe.
Cons: Comes in a pot.
Best Infuencer-Adored Lip Balm
"I can't get enough of this lip balm. Working in beauty, there's a lot of products that come across your desk. However, this one from Summer Fridays stopped me in my tracks because of how instantly hydrating it felt on my lips. Plus, the glossy finish is stunning. 10/10 reviews from me! I love the scent of this one, but be forewarned–it’s definitely on the stronger side. Also, I love how easy it is to apply. Could literally do it in my sleep at this point.” — J.M.
Pros: Top-rated; Editor-approved; Comes in a tube; Comes in different scents; Can be applied day or night.
Cons: Costs over $20; Strongly scented.
Best Lip Mask
"This is the lip balm I keep next to my bed in the winter. Yes, it comes in a pot, but it comes with a little spatula to scoop out the product every time you use it. It has a thicker texture that literally coats your lips in the most luscious mask. And while it’s a bit pricey, the thick texture and larger size means that you won’t use it up quickly. While I love the OG colorway, it also comes in a rosy pink hue if you’re looking for something with color.” — J.M.
Pros: Editor-approved; Top-rated; Lasts a long time; Comes with an application spatula.
Cons: Costs over $20; Comes in a pot; Better used at night only.
Best Hydrating Lip Balm
"Few lip balms impress me, but this baby repeatedly sends my jaw to the floor. The formula is unbelievably nourishing, extremely hydrating, and, most notably, stays on overnight. It's unique blend of oils and botanical butters leaves my lips feeling baby soft and looking plumped, regardless of the temperature or the wind. It'll be by my side all winter long." — Samantha Holender, Beauty Editor
Pros: Editor-approved; Lasts a long time; Great for very dry lips.
Cons: Costs over $20; Comes in a pot.
Best Glossy Lip Balm
There's nothing better than once-dry lips that now feel "revived," right? This balm from ILIA promises to do just that. It includes ingredients like hyaluronic acid, which seals in moisture from the air, and prickly pear oil, which moisturizes and protects the skin barrier for long-term hydration. Plus, it comes in a handy tube rather than a pot like other ljp balms of the same cosistency, which means that you won't have to stick your fingers in it every time you use it.
Pros: Has a glossy finish; Includes ingredients like hyaluronic acid and prickly pear oil; Comes in a tube; Can be used day or night.
Cons: Costs over $20; Some reviewers note it has a sticky texture.
Best Wear-Everywhere Lip Balm
Aquaphor is iconic for a reason: Celebrities like Beyonce, Meghan Markle, and Gwyneth Paltrow all swear by the brand to keep their lips feeling soft and plush year-round. I’ve found that this ultra-rich lip balm from the brand is best used at night due to the stickier, thicker texture and consistency, and can be applied to the general lip area (above the lips and around the chin), if you find that area also gets red and sore during the colder months.
Pros: Costs under $20; Comes in a tube; Includes ingredients like shea butter; Unscented.
Cons: Some users said it felt sticky on their lips.
Best Classic Lip Balm
There's a reason this lip balm from Kiehl’s is called the #1. Thanks to top-tier ingredients like squalene, aloe vera, and vitamin E, this lip balm instantly soothes the lips while giving them the moisture they (desperately) need. This product gives lips a juicy shine that means you can pack away your lip glosses, as an added bonus. However, I’ve found that the texture is on the thicker side, which means that it’s best applied at night. The scent is also not super noticeable, so you can wear it to bed without smelling it all night long.
Pros: Costs less than $20; Unscented; Comes in a tube;
Cons: Best used only at night; Some reviewers said it felt oily on their lips.
Best Glossy Stain Lip Balm
Once upon a time, a lip stain and a lip gloss fell in love, got married, and created this iconic baby tinted balm from fresh. The stain-gloss formula is perfectly hydrating, not at all sticky, and comes in 12 bright shades—including everything from a basic clear option to one with a pale rose tint to a deep wine hue—that are so sheer and pretty, they'll look good on every skin tone. It comes in a handy wind-up tube, has nearly 900 five-star reviews on Sephora’s website, and has become a mainstay in the makeup bags of celebrities like Meghan Markle.
Pros: Comes in a tube; Has a wide shade range; Top-rated.
Cons: Costs over $20; Has a strong scent.
Best Luxe Lip Balm
Please don't hate me for including a $75 lip balm—I had to, it's that good. This is an opportunity for you to embrace "put your money where your mouth is," quite literally. La Mer has this innovative ingredient called "Miracle Broth," which is a mixture of sea kelp, minerals, and nutrients that has gone through a natural fermentation process to leave your lips feeling ridiculously smooth, soothed and hydrated. In other words, this lip balm is legit the best one that money can buy.
Pros: Top-rated; Can be used day or night.
Cons: Costs over $20; Comes in a pot.
Best Glowy Lip Balm
It's no secret that beauty editors (and the rest of the internet) are all obsessed with this balm from Dior. It’s not hard to see why: It's not too shiny or sticky, it doesn't smell like cupcakes and 2003, and it doesn't give you that gunky white line around your lips after a few hours. And, most importantly, it leaves your lips with the prettiest glow—I know, I know, but there's no better word for it—that sticks around through lunch (and second lunch). It’s definitely on the lighter side when it comes to hydration, so reapplication might be necessary.
Pros: Comes in a tube; Comes in multiple sheer colors; Promises 24-hour hydration.
Cons: Costs more than $20; Needs to be reapplied throughout the day.
Best Cult Favorite Lip Balm
This is the kind of product that works on just about every skin ailment, from burns to chapped lips. It's an all-around beauty lifesaver that you need to have on-hand. It’s thick in texture so it’s best applied at night, and comes in a tube rather than a pot. However, you will have to apply the product onto your finger rather than directly onto your lips. With over 1,400 hundred five-star reviews on Amazon, there’s a lot of good things you can say about it: One reviewer said that it “just simply works.” What’s better than that?
Pros: Top-rated; comes in a tube; Costs under $20; Can be used all over the body.
Cons: Still have to use your fingers to apply; thicker in texture.
Best Updated Lip Balm
The classic lip balm from Carmex has gotten an update lately, but don’t worry: It is still as great as you remember from your childhood—that is, if your mom also forced you to use this every winter like it was a cure like mine did. In fairness, it practically is, and the updated scents and SPF protection is a nice bonus. You can also buy it in a handy multi-pack that costs less than $10. Think: one for each bag;
Pros: Costs less than $20; Comes in a tube; Comes in a mutli-pack; Includes SPF; Comes in multiple scents.
Cons: Strongly scented; Thinner in consistency compared to other Carmex products.
How to Apply Lip Balm
While you could just apply your favorite lip balm straight out of the tube or pot as you normally would, the experts have a better way that leaves your lips feeling softer instantly. Ahead, Dr. Idriss breaks down her favorite technique, which she calls "lip basting."
"Lip basting is my favorite technique to use when your lips are super dry and desperate for moisture," Dr. Idriss says of her cult-favorite technique. "It’s a really simple and nourishing technique that I suggest incorporating into your routine as often as you’d like—or whenever your lips need an extra boost of hydration. First, you start by buffing your lips with a chemical exfoliant. I like to use one that isn’t too high in concentration to avoid any unwanted effects. After you apply the chemical exfoliant and allow it to dry, the next step is to apply a thick layer of lip baster. Something rich in calendula and panthenol that really feeds your lips is great to use here."
If you're just starting out with lip basting, start simple. “Vaseline is a classic, no-fail lip product,” she says. “It is super occlusive and gentle, so it’s good for all skin types, especially those with sensitive skin. I even like to use it on my under eyes if they are looking or feeling a little dry. Another favorite of mine is Aquaphor, which is basically Vaseline plus Lanolin. An unconventional, but amazing lip product is the Lansinoh Lanolin Nipple Cream—yes, you can use nipple cream on your lips. Homeoplasmine is another great product to help nourish and soften dry, cracked lips. It is basically Vaseline plus calendula, which has some anti-inflammatory properties and a skin healing formula. Lastly, Bepanthen Nappy Rash Cream is loaded with panthenol, one of my favorite ingredients to look for in a good lip product.”