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The second the temperature drops below 50, my lips get chapped — instantly. There’s usually a lip balm in my pocket or purse, whether that’s a drugstore pick I bought five years ago or a fancy sample. I’ve tried tons of different lip balms throughout my life, yet I still seem to have perpetually chapped lips.
That’s why I’m always looking for lip balms that stay on longer, work better, and don’t taste too gross when they seep into my mouth (as they inevitably seem to do). So, I embarked upon a quest to find the best of the best in drugstore lip balms, seeking out one trusty tube to get me — and my chapped lips — through the colder months and beyond.
There are a ton of lip balms on the market these days, ranging from classics that go for $2 a pop to higher-end luxury products that can cost upwards of $50. For this story, I stuck to what was on offer at my local drugstore and kept all of the tested tubes to under $10.
There’s a lot to choose from, and I wanted to make sure to try variations from all of the known brands, like Burt’s Bees and Vaseline, as well as a few that were newer to me. I tested a total of 11 lip balms, ranking them on a scale of one to three in the following five criteria:
Ease of application
Next, I tallied up my top picks and settled on the top six balms, which each scored above a 10 out of 15 total points. I then re-tested my top six, this time with a specific focus on how long each one stayed on my lips before requiring a reapplication. This meant testing which balms could last through a night of sleep, which ones endured a walk through the cold, and which stayed on during a night out filled with eating and drinking. From there, I selected my top six — and they’ve been keeping my lips nice and smooth ever since.
The Results: Best Affordable Lip Balms
I’ve used Vaseline before — many, many times — but I’d never seen their lip balm in tube form. While the tube itself isn’t anything special, the stick of lip balm inside of the tube is so silky, and goes on so easily, that this one was an automatic yes for me. You get the same kind of long-lasting hydration as you do with the Vaseline that comes out of a tub without having to get your fingers all sticky. If you put on three to four coats at a time, this balm stays on for the long haul, whether you’re sipping Champagne at a party or turning in early for a good night’s sleep.
Some people hate Burt’s Bees because it makes your lips tingle, but I love that minty coldness. For me, that tingle gives off the vibe that the lip balm is actually doing something. I’m also a fan of the peppermint-forward smell and taste, but if that flavor profile isn’t your thing, the brand makes a ton of other lip balms, in scents both highly flavored (like pumpkin spice) and nonexistent (file this under: unscented). Although this lip balm, made partly of actual beeswax, doesn’t have the smoothest application, that doesn’t bother me because it stays on for so long and hydrates my lips so well.
This lip balm was a new one for me, both in terms of brand and scent. I immediately liked the way it smelled: like a cup of mint tea with a spoonful of honey stirred in. And I loved the way this one felt on my lips — it has a super-soft application that almost feels like I’m slathering butter all over my mouth. Once it was on my lips, the taste was pleasantly bland and the scent maintained its rich honeyness. I also like that this balm is made of natural ingredients — always a plus!
There was a part of me that wanted to not like this classic lip balm, but who was I kidding? I loved it. I loved everything about it. After all, Cherry ChapStick is the Kleenex of lip balms — the brand everyone conflates with the product itself. This is the lip balm I grew up using, the lip balm everyone had to buy when Katy Perry sang about it in her 2008 hit single “I Kissed A Girl,” and it works just as well now as it did then. It smells and tastes like artificial cherries in the best way, and I like that it tints my lips just the tiniest bit of red, which takes the focus off of how chapped they are.
If you’re looking for a squeezable tube instead of an easier-to-apply stick, my vote is for this classic version from Aquaphor. This was my favorite of the squeezable tubes I tested, in part because it tastes the least bad (some of them have a medicinal flavor which leads to an unpleasant tingle inside of your mouth). It’s the priciest of the options here, but at the end of the day, this Aquaphor tube works really well. It stays on for hours at a time and always leaves my lips feeling ultra-moisturized.
With its hint of coconut and subtle sugar-forward scent, I could smell this exfoliating lip balm all day. It tastes good too, or at least not as bad as some of the other scented balms out there. While I don’t love the application of this one — the pencil-like shape has a rounded tip that isn’t as easy to paint on my lips — the tube itself gives off a fancier vibe than plain old drugstore lip balm. I’d throw this one in my purse when I’m going out, opting for a more luxe balm that also works well as a primer for lipstick. Another upside? The light exfoliation on each application makes my lips even softer.
PHOTO CREDIT: Courtesy of Walgreens