I may be slightly makeup-crazed now, but when I was in elementary school, I was a study in low maintenance. In fact, my regimen consisted of careful application of precisely one product: lip balm. Although we didn’t really call it “balm” then—we were less concerned with the moisturizing effects of the stuff and really more concerned with the taste. The ’80s were a lip product extravaganza, an artificially flavored wax fest bookended by cherry ChapStick and Revlon Silver City Pink. In between were the rainbow packages and fruity smears and status-symbol roller balls that were every young girl’s calling card.
1. Bonne Bell Lip Smacker
What ever made us think that mint and cherry were exciting flavors? The moment my older sister got her Strawberry Lip Smacker, I became obsessed. Bonne Bell had our number: Not only did Lip Smackers come in the most outrageous fruit flavors (who didn’t try to eat them at one point or another?) but they did one better by creating candy—and soda—flavors too. Dr. Pepper. Orange Crush. Even Good & Plenty, an acquired taste if ever there was one (and one you can be sure I not only acquired but hoarded and lorded and exulted over). I would give a paycheck’s worth of Nars lipsticks to get my mitts on a Tootsie Roll Lip Smacker right now.
2. The Lip Smacker Necklace
The only thing better than a Lip Smacker was a giant Lip Smacker on a cord that you could wear around your neck like the effing badass you were. Yeah, that’s right, haters, I’m so serious about awesome lip care I’ve got my Bubble Gum Lip Smacker around my neck. I am wearing it as an accessory so it is always right where I need it for multiple reapplications during soccer practice and Brownies and maybe I even wear it at night to dress up my Lanz flannel nightgown.
3. The Body Shop Lip Balm
If there was a flavor other than “Kiwi Fruit” for The Body Shop’s flagship lip balm, I didn’t care to know about it. I had only just learned what a kiwi was, and it was the most exotic and delicious fruit I could imagine. The Body Shop really started the “little tub that you stick your grubby finger in” trend for me. I tried Apricot when I ran out of Kiwi Fruit, and it was OK, but nothing made me feel more like a grown-up than slathering some of this greasy green nectar and having it come out clear and glossy on my lips.
4. Kissing Koolers
The packaging for Maybelline’s Kissing Koolers (extra-kool with those double Ks) reminded me of those cherry-cream Lifesaver lollipops that were so delicious I would keep one for about six months, taking careful licks and then rewrapping it all sticky and disgusting in its plastic wrapper. Kissing Koolers had so much going for them: the beautiful packaging (that little pop-up top), the flavors (watermelon!) and best of all, the name. You were wearing a product with “kissing” in the name, which meant you were a person who could very well be kissing someone at any moment, never mind the fact that you were 9.
5. Village Lip Lickers
Once I discovered Watermelon Lip Lickers, I was ruined for most other balms. It was so sticky and wonderful, a pink tray of goopy gloss that turned almost liquid when it was left on the backseat of the car in the summer sun. I still remember the feeling of sliding open that tin with my thumb, the head-turning smell that caused people to look my way to see who could possibly smell that strongly of fake fruit.
6. Naturistics Glossy Lip Balm
Before Bath & Body Works made photos of the actual fruit flavor on packaging mundane, Naturistics stole my heart with images of limes and—was that mango?—on their lip balm packaging. The same geniuses made a botanical drawing-illustrated mint line that I liked to swap in during winter months. The name “Naturistics” was extremely technical-sounding, which I loved—I wouldn’t have cared if “naturistic” was evidence of some cagey marketing because the product was natural-istic but maybe not totally natural.
Carmex users were not to be messed with. No fruit flavors for them—even Blistex was child’s play for them. Carmex looked and smelled like it came from a 19th-century apothecary shop. It’s the sort of product people tried when they were 13 and are still using today. Although I haven’t the foggiest idea why they thought this was a superior product to an Orange Crush Lip Smacker.
8. Kissing Potion
Another product for the kissers among us! Cherry Smash? Don’t mind if I do stand in front of the mirror and roll the little ball over my lips applying coat after kissable coat!
9. Candy Kisses
Someone tried to tell me these are from the ’90s, so not technically an ’80s product, but a balm treasure nonetheless. Those little tins were a revelation, and mint chocolate was a flavor I never dreamed I’d get to experience outside a Baskin-Robbins.
Oh I know what you’re thinking: It was called Zinka Nosecoat—it wasn’t a lip balm but rather a neon-colored sunscreen you put on your nose or painted on your cheeks! Well, the cool kids were wearing it as a protective lip balm that not only kept out the rays but permitted you to look grotesquely radioactive by the pool, a fluorescent-yellow grin that was equal parts hot lifeguard and weirdo fifth-grader, a balance I’m still trying to strike in my adult life.