Balms Away

I am a chapsticoholic. I guess I just have dry lips, but being trapped in a meeting without lip balm is torture. Yet for all my dependence on the stuff, I am extremely particular about formula.

I used to describe lip balms on a spectrum from waxy (or hard) to greasy (or squishy). Original Chapstick and Mint Chapstick are pretty waxy. Kiehls and potted Vaseline are pretty greasy. I would say I preferred the waxy end of the spectrum, because those tend to last longer. Greasy balms often disappear too fast, and I crave that soothing feeling. But research and development in cosmetics never stops, and there are more and more balms out there that are soft AND long-lasting.

Chapstick MoisturizerMy gold standard, my standby, the balm against which all other balms are measured, is Chapstick Moisturizing. It comes in a blue tube, includes SPF 15, smells like vanilla, and costs about a dollar.

But I have found a few others that I have to rave about. A fairly recent discovery for me is Jack Black lip balm ($7.50). I got a mini of their Natural Mint & Shea Butter in a recent Neiman Marcus gift-with-purchase, and it was love at first swipe. “Why didn’t you tell me about this sooner!” I demanded of my savvy sales associates. Their answer: We thought you already knew.

Jack Black, Natural Mint & Shea Butter, Intense Therapy Lip BalmJack Black is a mens skincare brand, and their balm comes in a squeeze tube with a slant tip. I don’t even particularly like mint flavoring, but Jack Black’s version is very much like an Andes after-dinner mint, and leaves me with the (possibly dangerous) sensation that I’ve just brushed my teeth.

The formula is incredibly soothing and moisturizing and long-lasting — so, emboldened and curious to try more flavors, I ordered the Grapefruit & Ginger and Black Tea & Blackberry two-pack from Sephora ($10). I don’t love them quite as much. The Grapefruit & Ginger has a sweet, grapefruit-peel scent (which doesn’t linger); Black Tea & Blackberry reminds me of blueberry muffin batter. More important than scent, however, these two seem to dry out a bit on the lips. The Grapefruit & Ginger, particularly, develops a slightly powdery quality. I noticed it most the first time I used it (perhaps I’ve been compensating by applying more thickly), but I’ll stick to Mint from now on.

Side note: I actually liked the Mint balm SO MUCH that I was inspired to search out other treasures from the line. I tried their hand lotion, and it didn’t win me over. I expected a “mens” hand lotion to really dry down completely, and Jack Black’s doesn’t. I guess it’s just the Mint balm for now.

VMV Hypoallergenics Armada Lip Balm SPF 60+Another great balm in a squeeze tube is VMV Hypoallergenics’ Armada Lip Balm (SPF 60). VMV Hypoallergenics is a +30-year-old company that works harder than anyone to be rigorously, demonstrably hypoallergenic. The North American Contact Dermatitis Group and European Surveillance System on Contact Allergies routinely publishes a list of known allergens — and VMV formulates their products without any of those ingredients. Everything is tested in vitro, in vivo, in double-blind studies — and never on animals. Their line ranges from shampoo and conditioner to color cosmetics to sunscreen to (unflavored) toothpaste.

Needless to say, their Armada lipbalm is unscented. It has a wonderfully comforting “heavy jelly” feeling. But it is $25, which is going to keep some folks away.

Korres Lip ButtersAnother recent discovery for me (shameful!) is Korres Lip Butter. I actually swatched these ages ago, but hadn’t tried them on because the testers were icky.

Well I finally picked up Mango, and it feels wonderful. This is just about my ideal lip balm formula. Lip Butters come in several flavors, each with a unique color and scent. My next choice after Mango will be Pomegranate (you know me and warm lip colors). These are $12 each.

Oh how I hate pots, though! Using a lip brush with a balm feels too fussy. But using a finger means you need clean hands, and afterwards… you wipe your hands on your jeans? A friend of mine who went on a mission in Africa started applying balm from pot directly to lips, but it’s an imprecise method, and Mango is just tinted enough that I don’t want to color outside my lips.

Europe gets a stick version of these balms, and I’d like to try one at some point. I wonder whether the state change (from pot to stick) is going to significantly affect the formula and performance. Has anyone tried both and care to weigh in?

There are so many balms out there, I could go on and on. Did I miss one of your favorites? I’d love to hear what you can’t live without and why you love it.

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16 Responses to “Balms Away”

  • Wendy says:

    Hi Karla,

    I love the Korres lip butters – my favourite is plum. I agree that the pots are a little messy, but the products are so worth it! I have also tried the stick formula, but found it less moisturising, so I’m sticking with the pots – they are lovely! xxx

  • elizabeth says:

    Hi Karla,
    M in India. N I use Oriflame lip balm. Find it quite good. Nice review though.

  • Sylvie says:

    I have been using MAC’s lip conditioner with SPF 15 (colourless) for the last 6 years. I prefer the pot version because it’s more moisturizing than the stick version, but I also like their squeeze-tube version, though I think I use it up more quickly even though it’s the same amount of product as the pot. Smells like vanilla, has SPF, and really cures chapped lips. I used to have lips that would just crack and bleed because they were so dry. I haven’t tried the tinted ones though.

  • Chantal says:

    Hasn’t Korres released a squeeze tube version of the lip butters, or am I completely out of my mind? I have them on my mental list to try after I finish the two pots that I have (which shouldn’t take too long; I really like them!).

    The Jack Black mint balm is the only thing that seems to heal my lips, though. Everything else just seems to seal over them without actually being hydrating. But with Jack Black used overnight and in the morning, I can pretty much use any lip product I want during the day. Even the dreaded (but now beloved) Ruby Woo MAC lipstick!

  • Cathy says:

    Hey Karla :) I love the Korres lip butters too, but I agree that the pots are a little bit of a hassle. My gold standard lip balm is the Body Shop’s Cocoa Butter lip care stick. I buy these by the handful and am never without one. They’re the best, IMO, and not expensive at $8.00 each. Plus, TBS is always running a buy-2-get-1-free deal. Happy Holidays to you, and thanks for all your wonderful reporting!

  • Colleen says:

    Korres has the lip butters in tube form, much like the Jack Black lip balms (which I also love!).

  • You missed me favorite. I think you’d really like it too Karla…but don’t laugh ;-) Here is my post about my holy grail lip balm

  • Lisa says:

    My lips are sensitive to most balm ingredients (e.g., shea butter, beeswax. etc.), so I swear by Darling Girl Cosmetics SALVation salve. Dry and irritated lips no more. Great for vegans, too!

  • eleonora says:

    you shoult tray on dior, its wonderfull

  • lia says:

    I’ve tried both the tube form and the pot form of the Korres Lip Butter. They’re definitely different – I like the pot but hate using a lip brush. The texture of the tube is waxier, I think. It felt a lot heavier on my lips.

  • Tina says:

    Hi there!
    Sephora carries the Korres butters in squeeze tubes!!! Formula is just as moisturizing, but to my “palate” lol, the flavors were slightly different than their pot counterparts.


  • KarlaSugar says:

    I tried the Korres squeeze tube (Lip Butter Glaze) but didn’t like them as much as the Lip Butters or Jack Black balms. The Lip Butter Glaze has a thin, slippery, almost oily consistency (a bit like Korres’ Raspberry Liquid Lipsticks). It’s more of a sheer color tint than a balm.

    Thanks for the suggestions! TBS, MAC, and… uh… nipple cream sound intriguing.

  • Eileen says:

    Jack Black makes one of the finest balms out there. I particularly like how it plays nice with lipstick. After applying my skin care products, I use JB balm and then apply my makeup. By the time I get to plying my lipstick or gloss, my lips are lovely and soft without a greasy, shiny, or overtly glossy look. Because it is a man’s product, it has a subtle sheen to it that just makes the lips look healthy, soft, and moisturized. It’s also great at reviving lipstick when a proper reapplication isn’t convenient.

  • monique r. says:

    if you are this into balms, i would suggest you bite the bullet and try by terry’s baume de rose!! yes, it’s like $60 but as a big fan of the korres here and the jack black, I can say it will impress you. It comes in both the pot and a i think doe footed wand gloss? Even if you dont buy, you should just try it on in the store!

  • Lindsey says:

    I know my comment is about a month late, but I just saw this post and thought I’d add my opinion. I tried the stick version of the Korres Lip Butters the summer before last, after I ordered them from a Euro seller on ebay. The stick version disappointed me–they’re very dry and not moisturizing at all. The stick version is also much less pigmented. I can’t even think of a comparable product; it’s like rubbing a Crayon on my lips. :/

  • KarlaSugar says:

    Thank you so much for your comment, Lindsey! Now I don’t have to go crazy tracking down a stick-form Korres balm. I’ll just be happy with the tubs I have.

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