Lips are the part of your skin most susceptible to inclement weather and dry air. That's because the skin on your lips is thin and has no oil glands to produce moisture. Furthermore, lips contain only small amounts of melanin to protect them from the sun. Experts say regular use of an emollient lip balm will keep your lips looking their best and prevent chapping. Skin care expert Paula Begoun points out that a moisturizing lip balm worn at night "can prevent dry lips all year round." Unfortunately, Begoun says, many lip balms -- including the iconic ChapStick (*Est. $1.30) -- are not much more than wax coatings that do nothing to moisturize or protect the lips. Several are marketed as "medicated" but contain potentially irritating ingredients like menthol, peppermint oil and eucalyptus -- all of which Begoun says are not particularly good for dry, chapped lips.
Although it's marketed as a general moisturizing treatment, rather than a lip balm specifically, experts say that Aquaphor Healing Ointment (*Est. $5 for 1.75 oz.) is a good option because it is a viscous formula that can permeate cracked and flaky skin. It's a petrolatum-based product similar to Vaseline, which creates a protective barrier on the skin to keep moisture in. Unlike Vaseline, Aquaphor Healing Ointment also contains moisturizers (lanolin, panthenol and glycerin) that can smooth dry skin and prevent chapped lips. Some users caution that the ointment is a bit greasy, but others say it sinks into skin quickly. Reviewers say that Aquaphor Healing Ointment also can be used for a host of ailments, including diaper rash, eczema and dry heels and elbows. Aquaphor Baby Healing Ointment is identical to the standard formula, and both come in a variety of sizes. Similarly, a version called Aquaphor Lip Repair is sold in a small tube, but the ingredients are identical to the regular Aquaphor Healing Ointment.
If you prefer a stick formula, Burt's Bees Beeswax Lip Balm (*Est. $3) has long been a favorite of reviewers. It earns high ratings from thousands of users at MakeupAlley.com, Walmart.com, Drugstore.com and TotalBeauty.com. Although Paula Begoun downgrades the formula because it contains peppermint oil -- a potential irritant -- the majority of users love the tingly sensation it provides. Burt's Bees Beeswax Lip Balm also contains several moisturizing ingredients including vitamin E, lanolin and several plant-based oils. If you prefer a gentler formula, Burt's Bees Replenishing Lip Balm with Pomegranate Oil (*Est. $3) also does well in reviews and doesn't contain any peppermint oil, though some users say it has a heavy scent. Both Burt's Bees lip balms use natural ingredients and aren't tested on animals.
During the daytime, and especially for outdoor pursuits, experts recommend using a lip balm with sunscreen. Nivea A Kiss of Protection Sun Protection Lip Care SPF 30 (*Est. $3) provides both moisture and sunscreen. Experts note that the skin on your lips, like all other skin, is susceptible to damaging sun rays, which can cause drying and chapping. A Kiss of Protection contains UVA and UVB blockers, including titanium dioxide, for broad-spectrum protection. It also contains vitamin E, shea butter and jojoba oil to provide moisture. Several users at MakeupAlley.com say that while they love the extra protection Nivea provides, the Sun Protection Lip Care leaves a white cast on their lips, although others say that it is easily covered with lipstick or gloss.
We turned to skin care expert Paula Begoun and her online database of reviews, Beautypedia.com, for expert analysis of lip balms based on scientific research and testing. MakeupAlley.com, TotalBeauty.com, Drugstore.com, Walmart.com and Amazon.com are great sources for user reviews and for evaluating user satisfaction, comfort, scent and texture. Beauty magazines Allure, InStyle and Self test hundreds of beauty products and review their top picks for their annual beauty awards. TruthinAging.com also tests natural lip balms and recommends those with the safest and most effective ingredients.