Although I grew up in "It's So Cold In The D" Detroit and now live in New York, I despise winter. Being cold and shivering isn't even what I dread the most—dry, cracked skin is. That's why I'm always testing out (and stalking beauty blogs for) new ways to lock in moisture on my hands, face, and body. And chapped lips? The worst. Brick cold does so much damage. To find a solution, I tried a different lip balm every day for a week, to see which ones worked best to hydrate and heal.
The facts: Putting on Bite's Agave Lip Mask ($26) is like drinking 15 glasses of wine—according to its creators. No, you won't immediately be intoxicated after application, but your lips will be coated with protective antioxidants, as the lip mask contains Resveratrol, an antioxidant found in red grapes. It also contains Jojoba oil, a great healing plant extract that contains vitamin E and vitamin B. Though the product has the name "Agave" and is made with agave nectar, the ingredient doesn't do anything special for your lips—it just gives the mask a sweet taste.
The test results: The sleek packaging and the name "lip mask" certainly sound lavish and deeply moisturizing. And the Bite Lip Mask is deeply moisturizing—maybe even too moisturizing. The super-thick texture is slightly sticky, which caused the fibers from my scarf to get stuck to my lips. The consistency makes it more like a lip cream or ointment. This is a great follow-up treatment after a lip scrub before bed, but not ideal for everyday use, especially under lipstick. Definitely something worth adding to my winter nighttime routine, though. Also, Bite should put a disclaimer on how much shine the product will add to your lips (A LOT).
The grade: B+
The facts: This First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Lip Therapy ($12) was made with sensitive skin in mind. It's also petroleum-free. Some beauty experts are against petroleum jelly, because it seals in moisture rather than healing dryness. Instead, this product contains ingredients like glycerin (which protects), collidial oatmeal (which soothes), and shea butter (which moisturizes). It also contains something called the FAB Antioxidant Booster, which is a combination of different antioxidants that work to prevent sun damage and fight off uncharged molecules (also known as free radicals) that break down the collagen in our skin.
The test results: This First Aid Beauty lip balm had a pepperminty, slightly medicinal stench, which I came to tolerate because of the miracles it performed on my lips. The smell made me think it might tingle a little when applied, but it didn’t—probably because it’s made for sensitive skin. It’s the perfect solution for those who want to have moisturized lips without re-applying chapstick every hour (aka everyone). I only had to apply it three times in one day—a miracle! Although my lips didn’t feel chapped during the day when I used it, they did feel very bare, as the shine quickly faded away. But that makes this a great lip balm to wear under lipstick.
The grade: B
The facts: The main (and most beneficial ingredient) in Vaseline's Rosy Lips Lip Therapy ($2) is petroleum jelly, which, again, is a sealer, not a healer. So, while this product can seal in moisture and prevent lips from getting dry, I'm not sure that it's equipped to efficiently heal cracked and extremely dry lips.
The test results: The mini container triggers nostalgia, and the pink color is cute. Does it actually work? Of course it works! It’s petroleum jelly with a floral scent (apparently roses), sans the thickness and grease. But I sort of hated how complicated it is to put on. When it’s 28 degrees and the wind chill is even lower, I need something simple to swipe on my lips. With this “lip therapy,” I had to open the container, hold the cap in one hand, stick my fingers from the other hand in, and then put them on my lips—too much work. And too many germs! Especially since I take the train everyday.
The grade: C
The facts: The Herbivore Lip Butter ($12) has only five ingredients: shea butter, vitamin E oil, geranium oil (which adds a floral scent), olive oil, and soy wax, making it a transparent product with no hidden agendas. You know what you’re getting and can easily understand how each ingredient will work on your lips. And though it doesn’t have SPF, both olive oil and shea butter act as natural sunscreens.
The test results: I bought it mostly because of the smell, which is reminiscent of a Diptyque Rose candle. But, out of the seven lip balms I tried, this one didn’t live up to its expectations. Again, this type of container is too much work—and potentially germy, since you have to stick your fingers in it. But that wasn’t my main quarrel with the product. When I put it on my lips, it felt as if the butter just glazed over them, decoratively, instead of really seeping in for moisture. The product’s texture is very lightweight, compared to the others. It’s disappointing, because it has all the ingredients to cure chapped lips (shea butter and essential oils), but I had to reapply every 30 minutes and my lips still didn’t feel moisturized. Maybe it’s just not built for the winter? I already fell in love with the scent, so I’m willing to give it another try this summer.
The grade: C-
The facts: The Jack Black Intense Lip Therapy Balm ($7.50) is actually made for men, but the protective and hydrating ingredients (shea butter, avocado oil, green tea extract, vitamin E) certainly work for everyone. It shields lips from UV ray exposure with an SPF of 25. And, unlike many waxy stick lip balms, it absorbs quickly, which means it heals your lips faster, too.
The test results: My mom sent me this Jack Black lip balm because the saleslady at Sephora told her it was one of the best, and she was right. I brought all of these balms, butters, and treatments with me while I was on vacation in South America, but ended up only using this one, because of the SPF. I had to reapply this lip balm a few times throughout the day (usually after getting in and out of the water), and when I came back to freezing cold New York to try it out here, I had to apply it even less often. It glides on smoothly, with a lightweight texture that keeps lips hydrated, not greasy. Wearing it at night also helped to quickly cure any small cracks I had on my lips. I’m sure this will be my go-to lip balm for the summer as well. Also? The "black tea and blackberry" scent is divine.
The grade: A
The facts: Palmer's Cocoa Butter Stick ($3.50) contains two main ingredients that are hydration miracles: vitamin E and cocoa butter. Cocoa butter moisturizes and softens skin, while the antioxidant vitamin E works to heal scars and dark spots—you get healing and hydrating at the same time.
The test results: This stick smells like my childhood, and if made my scars from the playground disappear then it should surely be able to heal my dry lips, right? It did and it does! But what I love the most about this product is that it’s a multitasker. I can use it on my lips and the ashy creases of my hands. It's similar to a glue stick, which makes it fun, because I’m a child. Plus, DJ Khaled counts Palmer's Cocoa Butter as one of the major keys to success.
The grade: A
The facts: Glossier's Balm Dotcom ($12) is the brainchild of Emily Weiss, the founder of cult beauty blog Into The Gloss. And who knows more about beauty products than a blogger who constantly reviews them? Genius. This product is actually marketed as universal skin salve, which means it’s built for more than just chapped lips. Ingredients include beeswax, castor seed oil, and cupuacu fruit extract—which is full of fatty acids that soften skin, lock in moisture and prevent water loss.
The test results: This packaging is my favorite! It comes with fun stickers you can use to decorate the tube (again, I’m a child). As far as the product itself, I loved it for the same reasons I loved the cocoa butter stick—it’s multi-functional. I use it on my cuticles, on the ashy creases in my hands, on the dry patches on my cheeks, to tame my eyebrows and to add a little sheen to my eyelids (because I’m anti-eye shadow). It’s like a 5-for-1.
The grade: A+
I liked each of these lip balms for different reasons, from smell to the packaging. But if you can only buy one, get the Glossier Balm Dotcom. Why? You can use it to hydrate other skin areas that are dry, and it comes with stickers!
But: The one thing that helps my winter lips from being chapped is not a balm at all. It's exfoliating. At least twice a week. Getting rid of the dead skin cells on your lips gives you a fresh start. I include a thick lip balm to my nighttime skincare routine, so I can wake up with a moisturized face and lips. It's too cold not to!
Tahirah Hairston is a style writer from Detroit who likes Susan Miller, Rihanna's friend's Instagram accounts, ramen and ugly-but cute shoes.