We talk a lot about what happens to our hair and our boobs and our uteruses as we age, but one thing we don’t often address that we really need to is our lips. As we get older, our lips produce less collagen, the protein that makes lips plump, that which makes Angelina Jolie’s pout so enviable. Plus, UV rays also break down collagen, so all our years of baby oil-slathered sun worshipping in the ’80s didn’t necessarily do us any favors either.
In short, by the time we’re in our 40s, we may be noticing our lips aren’t as full as they were back when we accented them with a Hawaiian Punch mustache. I’m not here to bring you down, however; I’m here to lift you up, so I come bearing priceless wisdom. We discussed lip balms that we miss from our childhoods, but thank goodness there are some incredible products on the market today that will protect and soothe your kisser, and if not plump it, then at least make it smooth and soft. I have so many lip balms I couldn’t use them up in 10 lifetimes (a sad thought). Here are the ones I know to be incredible:
1. Jack Black Intense Therapy SPF 25
Jack Black makes the world’s best lip balm. It is the most emollient (a word used exclusively for beauty products) balm out there, contains antioxidants and has SPF 25, which is very high for a lip balm and very necessary out there on the scorching earth. But the thing JB really has going for it that no other modern balm does is the flavors. Grapefruit & Ginger. Vanilla Lavender. Even the Shea Butter one is so delicious you will want to eat your own mouth. And it comes out of the tube really slowly, so you never end up with too much or any waste. I wear it at night and during the day.
2. Nuxe Rêve de Miel
Did you think all lip balms were glossy? Well then you haven’t met Nuxe Rêve de Miel, the world’s best matte lip balm. Its name means “Honey Dream,” and it is indeed a dream—it tastes of honey and grapefruit and contains “precious oils,” which are doing something pretty amazing because Nuxe moisturizes just as effectively as its shiny confrères. Put it on under a matte lipstick that would be made shinier and slipperier by a regular balm.
3. Lucas’ Papaw Ointment
When your lips start to crack or you need to call in the cavalry, put Lucas’ Papaw Ointment on before bed and you will wake up with the lips of…I was going to say “a baby,” but no, that’s creepy…with the lips you would reasonably expect to wake up with after using a thick petroleum jelly containing some super-special Australian papaya. This one’s a healer.
It occurs to me that most of the lip balms I like are from other countries. I’m not saying Blistex and Burt’s Bees are bad products; I just think the international options are a lot more exciting and effective. Witness Labello, whose website you can’t even access in the United States—I guess it’s just too dangerously good. That’s not entirely true: You used to only be able to get Labello in Europe, but now they claim Nivea is putting out an identical product here.
Labello Classic Care is a dreamy soft white shea butter stick that has a gentle scent that is uniquely its own. The Nivea version is ever so slightly different. The scent seems a little different, the stick a little less mushy. People use this stuff like ChapStick in France, but it is so totally better than ChapStick. It’s the type of stuff you want to put on constantly—you can feel your lips getting healthier with every application. I am sure you can track down the real McCoy online and be very glad you did.
If you can’t get your paws on Labello, L’Occitane makes a reasonable facsimile. I like it because you can find it in a lot of malls and online very easily and it contains that key ingredient, shea butter, that separates the women from the girls in the lip balm universe.
100 percent natural, LipJao contains only ingredients that make you feel virtuous: 34 percent shea butter, zinc oxide, rosehip oil, jojoba, pumpkin seed butter, sea buckthorn, propolis (not sure about that one) and meadowfoam seed oil, which they allege gives natural UVA/UVB protection. It’s flavored with essential oils of grapefruit, anise, tea tree and palmerosa. It would be the perfect lip balm if the stick weren’t so hard. It’s the kind of lip balm that gets a little hole in the center from the push-up mechanism and it’s not creamy like a lot of the other ones on this list.
I debated not putting Kiehl’s Lip Balm #1 on this list because I’ve moved on from it in recent years to more exotic balms, but the fact remains that it’s a really high-quality product. It’s got lanolin in it, which must be why it leaves your lips as soft as a sheep’s wool. (Is sheep’s wool soft? When it’s still on the sheep? I don’t think so. A Merino wool sweater, maybe.)
I found this in one of those little non-chain drugstores where everything looks like it came from another era. I was having a bad day, and I liked the look of it and I wasn’t going to impulse-buy Trident Layers again, so I picked up Mavala Lip Balm as a small gift to myself. Usually this kind of spontaneous purchase of a beauty product ends up being a royal disappointment—I’m looking at you, MAC lip liner that was supposed to be rose but is definitely fluorescent violet—but in this case I was delighted. It’s from Switzerland and a little mysterious: It contains some weird ingredients like “heart seed” and “Patterson’s curse” along with sunflower oil, aloe and shea butter. This is my go-to nighttime balm. I put it on before bed, and I never wake up with crackly lips as I do if I use a less powerful balm. It also, like Labello, has a smell all its own that’s mild and heavenly.
9. Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream
Legend has it that Ms. Arden herself created Eight Hour Cream and used it on her thoroughbred’s legs. A client of hers allegedly put it on her child’s skinned knee and—presto!—eight hours later the knee was healed. I can make no claim to how it works on horse gams, and I doubt it would actually heal a really bad cut, but if you have a split lip from the cold and you put this stuff on your lips before bed, you might very well wake up with that cut very significantly diminished. I’ve heard some people scoff and say Eight Hour Cream is really just Vaseline with a few added ingredients, but this works and smells a lot better. You can use it on your cuticles and minor cuts too.
10. Goe Oil
Goe Oil is for rich people. I had a gift certificate to a fancy pharmacy that I used to buy this curious silver tube, and I curse the day I was ever introduced to this liquid gold. It’s all-natural (made by the same people who make LipJao, above), and you can and will want to put it on every inch of your body, not just your lips. We’re discussing lips, so let me just say that this is the world’s best lip balm—it will leave your lips downright silky, which is a weird thing to say about lips, but true. It’s also the best body lotion and even facial moisturizer, and it smells incredible. I am getting angrier and angrier as I type this because it’s really prohibitively expensive for normal people. They have the nerve to tell you to just use a tiny bit for your whole body, but really, you can’t cover your entire body with just a tiny bit, even if it is an oil. If you get it, best to use on your lips and rough spots like elbows and heels. Using it as a body oil will only ruin you for regular body lotions for the rest of your life.
Postscript: There are two lip balms people love that I, to my deep embarrassment, have never tried. Those are eos, which comes in that little plastic ball that I find a little gimmicky, and Lanolips, which a lot of beauty bloggers rave about but I’ve had a hard time finding in the United States.