Getting chapped or dry lips is truly one of the greatest humbling experiences — and one that nearly everyone can relate to. After all, I’m yet to meet anyone, regardless of gender and age, who doesn’t own and use a lip balm (even if it’s just seasonally) when the going gets tough, or when temperatures start to drop.
“Lips are highly specialized mucosal skin that take a beating from overuse during speaking, to being the frequent target of trauma — biting,” says dermatologist Dr. Corey L. Hartman, founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology in Birmingham, Alabama. “They are prone to dryness and easily irritated by both the environment and products that are used on the face for anti-aging, like retinols and hydroxy acids.”
And those of us prone to dry or chapped lips understand the delicate dance of autumn and wintertime hydration, but not all lip balms are created equal. Here, we asked three dermatologists for their take on what makes a lip conditioner effective, as well as their favorite ones currently on the market. Read on for your softest lips ever.
Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask
Have chapped or chronically dry lips that just won’t go away? Try an overnight mask, says New York City-based dermatologist, Dr. Morgan Rabach. “We lose moisture overnight as we sleep, especially with AC or heat,” she explains, pointing out that we aren’t hydrating (as in drinking water) as we sleep, either — another key issue for the driest lips. “A sleeping mask really helps trap moisture and prevent lips from getting overdried.” She recommends the antioxidant and vitamin C-rich Laniege Lip Sleeping Mask to her patients to help soften and hydrate lips. Bonus: it has an eight-hour time-release, so you’ll get layer upon layer of the juicy goodness while sleeping your way to softer lips.
Milk Makeup Melatonin Overnight Lip Mask
When it comes to supporting the skin’s moisture levels, hyaluronic acid is an ingredient that’s as good as it gets to “drive hydration and provide a source of continued moisture,” says Dr. Hartman. Brimming with a mighty blend of goji, acai, blueberry, and blackberry extracts, mixed with hyaluronic acid, topical melatonin, and Persian silk tree extract, this heavenly-scented formulation of chamomile and lavender plumps, protects, and provides anti-aging benefits while you kick back, relax, and go to sleep.
Kosas LipFuel Hyaluronic Acid Lip Balm
Data doesn’t lie: In a clinical four-week trial, people using this lip balm daily described improved hydration, smoothness and lip plumpness, which is not at all surprising when you consider that the formula is filled with hyaluronic acid, konjac root, and water-attracting vitamin E. But if your lips still don’t seem to improve, it may be time to see a dermatologist, says Dr. Rabach. “It could be a precancerous spot called actinic keratosis, or other skin cancer.”
Aquaphor Lip Repair
This dermatologist favorite — all three dermatologists InStyle spoke to recommended this product — proves that you don’t have to spend a lot of money to keep your lips healthy. In fact, Houston-based dermatologist Dr. DiAnne Davis calls it her “go-to moisturizer” for lips, thanks to its glycerin-filled formulation that draws in moisture, as well as other derm-approved ingredients, like shea butter and beeswax. “It provides a protective barrier for overall lip health,” the MD adds.
La Mer The Lip Balm
Is it pricey? Yes. Is it also worth every penny? Also, yes. Velvety soft with a minty aroma, this balm delivers hydration and healing instantly with an infusion of glycerin. “It’s a great humectant because it works to pull water into the skin and lips like a sponge,” raves Dr. Davis. The formula is brewed with aloe leaf, seaweed, eucalyptus, and algae extracts, along with castor, sesame and sunflower seed oils, which is basically like a tall glass of water for parched lips. To boot, it also strengthens the natural moisture barrier to protect against future environmental damage.
Laneige Lip Treatment Balm
“Maintenance of a good skin barrier and constant hydration of the lips are paramount to keeping the lips luscious and plump,” explains Dr. Hartman, who prefers balms over other textures. When in need, he reaches for one from Laniege (the brand’s second appearance on this list — they know lip conditioners!) on the daily to keep the hydration pumping. “Go for a lip balm with shea butter and ceramides,” he suggests. And if you don’t know when to start, the appropriate time is right now. “It’s better to get ahead of lip dryness because once it starts and gets bad, it can be difficult to control,” he cautions.
Vanicream Lip Protectant Sunscreen
Just because the seasons are changing doesn’t mean we can stop forgetting about sun protection. This lip protectant boasts 30 SPF, along with petroleum, making it a solid option for summer, winter, and every day in between. “Apply it nightly to seal in moisture and smooth the lip surface overnight,” suggests Dr. Hartman.
Carmex Medicated Lip Balm
With an unbeatable price and more than 80 years spent helping the world repair dry and chapped lips, Carmex’s classic balm glides onto lips with the greatest of soothing ease. Lanolin, beeswax, petrolatum, cacao seed butter, and camphor — an anti-inflammatory oil distilled from the bark and wood of a camphor tree — are the heavy hitting ingredients that work to calm angry lips and fight against further moisture loss.
Summer Fridays Lip Butter Balm
This ultra-smooth, vegan lip butter is just what the doctor ordered to relieve chapped lips. Literally. “Use a thick moisturizing balm with shea butter or petrolatum,” recommends Dr. Rabach. And lucky for us, this creamy emollient is mixed with heavy doses of both to instantly moisturize and protect.
A brand adored by nearly everyone, dermatologists included, Vaseline’s petroleum jelly is a fall and winter classic for a reason. “If your lips get chapped, Vaseline is a favorite amount dermatologists,” says Dr. Davis, noting that the formulation contains 100% petroleum jelly, making it one of the purest and simplest — but completely effective — lip conditioners. “[The jelly] soothes the irritating symptoms someone may have, while also adding hydration,” she says.