Few beauty dilemmas are as uncomfortable as sore or chapped lips. Our lips are quick to suffer, but not as easy to remedy.
After our eyes, our lips are the most delicate part of the face and should be treated as such. Lip balms not only provide some much-needed hydration to the area but can also act as an occlusive, trapping in existing moisture.
Aside from dosing up on moisturising ingredients, there are a few ways you can avoid drying out your lips. As much as possible, try to breathe through your nose rather than your mouth as doing the latter can cause moisture to evaporate quicker.
Make sure you’re consuming enough water and vitamins, and don’t lick your lips. Saliva actually aggravates dryness, which is why your lips seem to get dryer and dryer the more you try to fix the issue. Also, when you’re using lip balm, be sure to apply it after both eating and drinking. The moisture left on your lips from food or drink can also evaporate, worsening dryness.
But which lip balm will do the trick? We tested a range of budget-friendly and luxury balms to find the solution to our winter woes. Layering each product on dry lips throughout the day and before we went to sleep, we were looking for deep hydration, with no stickiness or residue.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.
The best lip balms for 2021 are:
Best overall – Laneige vanilla lip sleeping mask: £19, Selfridges.com
Best SPF lip balm – Fresh sugar spice tinted lip treatment: £19.50, Cultbeauty.co.uk
Best for instant hydration – La Mer the lip balm: £52, Johnlewis.com
Best for variety – Glossier balm dotcom: £10, Glossier.com
Best solid lip oil – Aroma Active Laboratories soothing solid lip oil: £8, Boots.com
Best for wearing under lipstick – Fenty Beauty pro kiss’r luscious lip balm: £15, Boots.com
Best tinted lip balm – Nars after glow lip balm in dolce vita: £23, Johnlewis.com
Best value lip balm – Vaseline rosy lips: £1.95, Superdrug.com
Best for exfoliating dead skin – Lanolips lemonaid lip treatment: £8.99, Lookfantastic.com
Best lip balm stick – Burt’s Bees beeswax lip balm: £3.99, Burtsbees.co.uk
Laneige vanilla lip sleeping mask
This is an intensive moisturising treatment, working serious magic overnight. The pot comes with a small spatula to apply a light layer before bed. Enriched with vitamin C, shea butter and moisture-retaining hyaluronic acid, this then acts as an occlusive to lock in moisture. Our lips had absorbed a lot of the product by the time we woke up but still looked like we’d applied balm in the last couple of hours. Even after washing our face, our lips were plump and healthy; this continued well into the day, even after a long walk through dry, cold weather. Of all the products we tried, this did the best job of preventing and curing chapped lips. It can even be used as a daytime treatment for stubborn dryness.
Buy now £19.00, Selfridges.com
Fresh sugar spice tinted lip treatment
Best: SPF lip balm
There are several shades available for this tinted lip balm, but spice is the most universally flattering. It delivers a buildable pop of rose nude that’s more subtle and less high maintenance than a proper lipstick. Silky smooth, it melts into your lips and leaves a sheen that feels soothing, not greasy. Hydration is long-lasting, healing cracked lips in a matter of days. You can also rest easy knowing your pout is protected from sun damage thanks to the inclusion of SPF 15.
Buy now £19.50, Cultbeauty.co.uk
La Mer the lip balm
Best: For instant hydration
This is the most luxurious lip balm you’ll ever use. Like all the best of La Mer’s range, it contains the brand’s patented Miracle Broth, a renewing elixir packed with nutrients and minerals to strengthen your skin barrier. With just a hint of mintiness, this balm feels refreshing and soothing upon first application. Our tester is a compulsive lip balm applier but found that after applying this once in the morning, our lips were set for several hours. We also noticed an improvement in the hydration of our lips in the long term. After a week or so of regular use, our lips felt and looked supple from the moment we woke up. Although pricey, one pot will see you through several months.
Buy now £52.00, Johnlewis.com
Glossier balm dotcom
Best: For variety
There’s a reason why this is a cult-favourite, and only half of that is to do with the smell. While you can choose between original, rose, mango, cherry, mint, coconut, berry, wild fig and birthday, the latter is our favourite. It smells like a funfetti cake, tastes just as good, and has a subtle shimmer in the formula. Looking at the practical benefits, this balm has a very dense, waxy texture as it’s formulated with petrolatum, castor oil, beeswax and lanolin. This feels heavy at first but, after sitting on your lips for a few minutes, warms up and melts to a lighter consistency. Interestingly it doesn’t leave a sheen; those heavy-duty ingredients instead get to work hydrating lips from the inside out. It sits particularly well beneath lipstick as a result, perfect for priming severely chapped lips.
Buy now £10.00, Glossier.com
Aroma Active Laboratories soothing solid lip oil
Best: Solid lip oil
This hybrid product is the collaborative effort of two aromatherapy laboratories determined to provide affordable, effective fixes to everyday problems. It definitely does just do that – this is a powerhouse formula of shea butter, jojoba oil and calendula, infused with neroli oil to give it a luxurious touch. What looks like a solid balm transforms to a luxurious oil upon contact, melting into lips without a greasy finish. Lips are left nourished, super soft and flake-free.
Buy now £8.00, Boots.com
Fenty Beauty pro kiss’r luscious lip balm
Best: For wearing under lipstick
For lips as luscious as Rihanna herself, this balm locks in moisture from the first application. You can’t find an ingredients combination much more soothing than shea or mango butter – they sink into your lips to moisturise from within, while also leaving a glossy glow. It sits well beneath lipstick and the peach-vanilla scent is, not to be dramatic, to die for.
Buy now £15.00, Boots.com
Nars after glow lip balm in dolce vita
Best: Tinted lip balm
This was originally launched as a limited edition product, but quickly became a permanent fixture at Nars. Slightly pigmented with dusky rose, this balm is perfect for achieving that elusive “no make-up make-up” look. It’s glossy enough to give lips a shine, but not so much that they feel sticky or tacky. If you reach for balm to provide quick hydration, you’ll love how light it feels on. However, anyone suffering persistent dryness might not find it intensive enough.
Buy now £23.00, Johnlewis.com
Vaseline rosy lips
Best: Value lip balm
Yes, it’s as basic as it gets, but this is one of our favourite lip products, never mind lip balms. This is mostly down to its rosy tint, which gives just enough colour to liven up your complexion without having to fuss with actual lipstick. Of all the lip balms we’ve tried, this made our lips look fullest — in fact, its effects were comparable to actual lip plumping products we’ve tried, despite containing none of the usual plumping ingredients. Like all Vaseline products it doesn’t actively work to moisturise your lips, but rather locks in existing moisture. Admittedly this won’t do much good reversing severe dryness, but it’s ideal to prep for winter weather. Just one affordable tin will go a long way.
Buy now £1.95, Superdrug.com
Lanolips lemonaid lip treatment
Best: For exfoliating dead skin
We’d heard great things about Lanolips products and thankfully we weren’t disappointed. The unique selling point of this balm is its use of organic lemon oil. Nowhere near as harsh as it sounds, it naturally exfoliates dead skin while the brand’s trademark ingredient, lanolin, gets to work hydrating. The glossy sheen lasts much longer than other balms, but the effects go way beyond that. Free of rough, flaky skin, our lips looked smooth, rejuvenated and plump.
Buy now £8.99, Lookfantastic.com
Burt’s Bees beeswax lip balm
Best: Lip balm stick
There are plenty of variants of this cult classic, but nothing beats the original. The blend of beeswax and vitamin E conditions lips quickly and acts as a sealant to trap moisture. It also contains peppermint, which does cause lips to tingle slightly at first. However, we personally found the sensation refreshing and sort of like a mild form of the side effects from plumping products. A light layer is enough to boost hydration on the go but also layers up nicely to provide deep hydration overnight.
Buy now £3.99, Burtsbees.co.uk
The verdict: Lip balms
For an intense yet soothing dose of hydration, we are obsessed with the Laneige vanilla lip sleeping mask. While it’s not quite as glamorous as the other options on the list, we’re long-time devotees to Vaseline’s rosy lips.
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