I’ve been on a decade-long hunt to find the best lip moisturizer out there, and although I’m not sure I’ll ever give up the hunt for the perfect balm, I’ve found some really solid winners along the way. In an effort to find “the one” I’ve recently spent over $500 buying, testing, and reviewing the best lip balms available today, and am excited to share what I’ve found. 🙂
What to look for in a lip balm
Each person (and their skin) is unique, so my criteria for the perfect lip balm might be a bit different than yours, but I tried to test and review based on a common set of criteria that I believe should cover most people’s needs. Here’s what I was looking for, in order of importance:
- Highly hydrating
- Long lasting
- Improved lip texture
- Improved lip line definition
- A bit of slip
2020's Best Lip Balms
Rankings last updated: 1/28/2020
#1 Jo Malone: Vitamin E Lip Conditioner
Our stand-out winner comes from a surprising source: Jo Malone London, famed not for their skincare or cosmetics, but their fragrances.
This lip balm ticks all the boxes:
- It nourishes your lips, building up moisture over time
- It lasts a long time since it’s more of a treatment than a top-coat
- It’s non-addictive: no chapstick-like effect of needing to re-apply every ten minutes
- It’s easy to apply and more hygienic than sticks or pots
- It has a mild scent/flavor: just a hint of carmex from the Vitamin E, but balanced out with Honey
- It’s reasonably priced at $32, significantly less than our 2nd place pick
If you’re only going to try one lip balm off this list, make it this one!
#2 La Mer: "The Lip Balm"
La Mer has been my #1 favorite lip balm for a while now. It’s great during the day, as a moisturizing treatment at night, or anytime in-between. It’s very rich, creamy, and emollient. It does the obvious (moisturize and soften) but it also helps to define your lip line, reduce lip texture, and add a subtle highlight to your cupids bow.
It has a very light and lovely mint smell, as well as a subtle “La Mer” smell, which I believe is primarily derived from the seaweed in their “miracle broth” ingredients.
#3 Fresh: Sugar Lip Treatment
Another favorite, the sugar lip treatment by Fresh has a smooth and buttery texture. It lasts a lot longer than most balms that I’ve tried (sometimes 3-4 hours between applications). And there’s an indulgent (but not overpowering) smell of lemon pound cake.
The main benefit of this lip treatment is hydration. I didn’t notice a large difference in lip texture or lip line definition, but it’s a solid go-to lip balm for everyday use.
#4 Elizabeth Arden: 8 Hour Cream Lip Protection
The 8 hour lip cream by Elizabeth Arden is actually one of my favorite formulas on this list. It provides a nourishing creamy feel that seemingly sinks into the lips, as well as a protective layer that prevents additional damage. It has SPF 15, it applies nicely, and although it doesn’t last 8 hours, I’d definitely consider it long-lasting.
#5 Clé de Peau Beauté: Lip Treatment
It was hard for me to not rank Clé de Peau’s lip treatment higher. I really love the formula, and feel like it succeeds in some more advanced skincare results like improved lip texture and lip line definition, but it simply doesn’t last long enough. I found myself re-applying this every hour or so to keep my lips feeling hydrated and slick. Many beauty lovers have indicated that they use this right before going to bed, and I think that is likely the best approach. If you’re looking for an every-day lip balm (at a more affordable price) I’d recommend going with the Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment above.
#6 Aveda: Lip Saver
If you have dry, chapped, or peeling lips, we recommend starting out with the Aveda lip saver. The ingredients focus on oils (castor, jojoba, sunflower seed, etc.) which I found to be incredibly long-lasting and deeply hydrating. It also has natural aromas like cinnamon leaf, clove oil, and anise oil. It’s by far the best lip balm for dry, chapped, damaged lips on our list.
Because of the oils, it is quite heavy and a bit waxy, but I viewed it as more of an ointment/medicine than a luxurious lip balm, and was fine with the texture based on the results.
I plan on keeping this on my bedside table to keep my lips hydrated throughout the night, but if you prefer something more emollient that soaks into your skin, I’d recommend the La Mer lip balm or the Fresh Sugar lip treatment.
These are all really solid lip balms. Each hydrates, and protects, but was edged out by other balms that provided something more. We’ll break down what kept each balm from landing in our top 5, but feel free to try them out for yourselves if they sound like they have the features you’re looking for.
MAC: Lip Conditioner Tube
MAC’s lip conditioner is a super solid option to add to your repertoire. It’s a petroleum based lip balm, but unlike other petroleum balms that are thick, greasy, or waxy, this had a texture similar to a serum.
It smelled/tasted of white chocolate, which I absolutely loved, and improved my lip texture, especially after multiple applications.
I will say that if you’re looking for a balm primarily to layer under a lip color, I’d move this balm to the top of your list. Since it’s made by MAC, this likely doesn’t come as a surprise, but I think it manages to quickly sink into the skin and nourish, while drying down enough to layer rather quickly.
Clarins: Hydra-Essentiel Moisture Replenishing Lip Balm
The Clarins moisture replenishing lip balm is another great tubed option. It’s a paraffin based balm which differentiates it from most of the petroleum based balms in tubes, and it also features nourishing ingredients like mineral oils and sunflower seed oil.
It didn’t do much to improve lip texture or lip line definition, and it was a bit on the sticky side for my taste, so ultimately I don’t know if I’d repurchase (especially at $24 a tube).
Tom Ford: Hydrating Lip Balm
Although I do think Tom Ford’s lip balm directly addresses it’s audience (men who want soft lips) by producing a hydrating lip balm with low gloss, no smell, and few fancy ingredients, it’s definitely not my personal favorite. I prefer a balm with a bit of slip, a pleasant (but mild) smell, and hydrating ingredients. Don’t get me wrong, I love a lot of Tom Ford’s beauty products, but this one just isn’t one I’ll be purchasing again.
Jack Black: Assorted Lip Balms
Jack Black is one of my all-time favorite skincare brands. I literally have like 15-20 blue bottles across my counter because it’s that good. Unfortunately the lip balms are mostly a miss for me. One important thing to note is that they’re not consistent in their formula. Some feel sticky, some feel more like a petroleum, some are more matte, some are quite glossy, etc. Of the lip balms, my favorite is the Black Tea lip balm, mostly for the flavor and hydration. I keep it around and use it in a pinch, but there are definitely better options on this list.
Lancome: Absolue Precious Cells Lip Balm
Honestly, this was one of the more challenging lip balms to review on this list because it’s very different than the other lip balms we’ve tried out. The texture is much more firm than we were expecting, comparable to a thick toothpaste. It also has a fairly strong smell/taste of rose. When applied, it provides more of a protectant layer for the lips, whereas our favorite lip balms sink in to the skin and nourish and hydrate.
And although the price per gram is decent at $3.53, we’d have a hard time swallowing spending another $50 to purchase this again.
We had a few friends test it out as well, since we were originally undecided, but ultimately they gave us the same feedback. If this is one of your top picks though, we’d love to hear why! Let us know in the comments.
Our least favorite lip balms
These lip balms really didn’t work for us. They might work for you, but buy at your own risk. If you have these and love them we’d love to hear what you love about them in the comments below, and how you feel they compare to others on this list.
Bite: Agave Lip Balm
Bite’s agave lip balm was my least favorite of all the lip balms I tried as part of this project. Bite claims it provides a “weightless yet long lasting moisture”, but I found the product to be quite waxy. It tugged at my lips when trying to apply, and I actually found it to be a bit drying.
Bite is a great company, and I know a lot of their other lip products get RAVE reviews from beauty lovers, but I’d recommend steering clear of this balm specifically.
Clinique: Superbalm Lip Treatment
The Clinique website claims that this lip balm will you give you a “satiny-smooth look and feel”, but it’s by far the most glossy, tacky, thick, and sticky balm on this list. Even an hour or two after application, my lips were tacky enough to stick together and slowly pull themselves apart when I tried to talk.
The effects of this balm weren’t bad, it did create a protective layer that kept the lips from drying out, and I liked the application and smell, but ultimately I don’t think I’ll be reaching for this one again any time soon.
Burt’s Bees: Ultra Conditioning Lip Balm
I really love the way Burt’s Bees Ultra conditioning lip balm feels when you first put it on. It feels nourishing, has a bit of slip, and you can feel it start to soak in immediately. However I found that I found myself constantly reapplying, and eventually suffering from peeling lips, so for me, this lip balm is a no-go. Take this opinion with a grain of salt because there’s a small chance I have a mild allergy to some of the ingredients in Burt’s Bees. As always, test out what works best for you and your skin.
Laneige: Lip Glowy Balm
The Laneige lip glowy balm may be a good product for some, but a lip balm it is not. This is a thick, sticky, tacky gloss. It’s reminiscent of the mistakes we made in junior high, and comes in 4 fruity flavors to match.
Since this is a thick sticky gloss, it sits on top of your skin, and will not provide moisture or saturation, even when applied directly to the skin (unlike some glosses that can benefit skin, like the Dior lip maximizer for example)
If you’re looking for hydration, skin care, or a natural look, I don’t recommend this product.
How we tested
Each lip balm featured in this review was applied multiple times a day over a period of three days to gauge both short term effects and long term effects.
Before each new test, we did a sugar scrub and a cleanse on our lips to remove any dead skin, and prepare the lips to soak up the benefits of any product.
We also researched ingredients, cost per gram, and other factors before landing on our favorite lip balms.
Allergic reactions to lip balm ingredients
As I was researching common ingredients in and effects of lip balms, I learned that many lip balms have ingredients that can cause mild allergic reactions. These reactions can include things like peeling lips, feeling like you need to re-apply lip balm, and more. So although I’ve done my best to be honest and objective throughout this post, you might have a slightly different reaction to some of these products than I had. For example, the Burt’s Bees Ultra Conditioning lip balm makes my lips peel, but there’s a good chance it’s because I’m allergic to beeswax or more specifically propolis, a byproduct of beeswax. This is why I always recommend trying multiple products, reviewing ingredients, and finding the formulas that work for you and your skin!
Stay tuned for updates
Periodically, we’ll purchase, test, and review new lip moisturizing products and add them to this article to keep you all up to date on the best products on the market. We’ll classify each new product in one of three categories (winners, runners up, and worst lip balms) and we’ll rank the winners so it’s always clear where each product ranks.
If you have a favorite lip balm or want us to test a new product you’ve had your eyes on, let us know in the comments below and we’ll see what we can do!