The 10 Best Lip Balms for Lasting Hydration

We love Fresh Sugar Lip Balm for its velvety feel and lasting moisture.

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 Best Lip Balms for Lasting Hydration

Sephora

Lip balm is something we all keep around, no matter if you keep a clean girl aesthetic or prefer full glam. There’s a reason we don’t walk around applying face cream like we do lip balm: “Lips don’t have any sebaceous glands, which are the glands that keep your skin moisturized, so your lips are on their own,” explains dermatologist and Macrene Actives founder Macrene Alexiades, M.D. Lip balm isn’t just an optional add-on to your beauty routine — it’s actually a crucial step in keeping your lips healthy. 

If you feel like your lips are constantly dry, you’re not alone. Our lips have a very thin top layer of skin, so you lose a lot of moisture to the environment, according to Shereene Idriss, M.D., a dermatologist and the founder of Idriss Dermatology. Things like low humidity, wind, sun exposure, and dehydration can cause excessive peeling and dryness. Lip balms are our first line of defense to these concerns, and they also create a smooth canvas for any lipstick — drugstore or otherwise — you layer on top. There are hundreds of lip balms to choose from, and we’ve swatched dozens of tubes and tubs to find the ones that deliver lasting hydration (spoiler alert: Fresh Sugar Lip Balm takes the cake). 

These are the best lip balms to buy right now.

Best Overall: Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment

4.5
Fresh Sugar Lip Balm SPF 15

Fresh

What We Love: It has a buttery soft texture that wears well under lipstick.

What We Don’t Love: The balm no longer contains SPF.

It’s hard to find a flaw in Fresh Sugar Lip Balm. It’s packaged in a lipstick-style bullet that prevents any leaking, but it’s the texture and wear time of the formula that’s groundbreaking. You’ll swoon at the velvety feel and its ability to keep your lips feeling smooth for hours: That’s thanks to the hydrating properties of sugar — yep, the sweet stuff has a purpose in this formula — and the softening benefits of grapeseed and cranberry seed oils. If you’re in the mood for color, you can choose from 11 buildable shades.

Size: 0.15 oz. | Key Ingredient: Sugar | Scented: Yes

Price at time of publish: $24

Best Value: Aquaphor Lip Repair

4.5
Aquaphor Lip Repai

Ulta

What We Love: It provides long-lasting moisture that doesn’t require frequent reapplication.

What We Don’t Love: It doesn’t wear well under lipstick.

Petrolatum is the powerhouse in Aquaphor’s beloved formula. The ingredient is what gives the balm a rich feel and major benefits: It works by creating a protective barrier on your lips to shield them from irritation stemming from things like low-humidity, wind, or spicy food. The formula also packs shea butter for softness and chamomile essence to help soothe irritation. It’s non-comedogenic, too, so you won’t break out if the formula lands on the skin surrounding your lips.

Size: 0.3 oz. | Key Ingredient: Petrolatum | Scented: No

Price at time of publish: $5

Best Splurge: Dior Addict Lip Glow Color Reviving Lip Balm

dior-addict-lip-balm

Nordstrom

What We Love: The formula reacts with your body’s pH for a custom pink tint. 

What We Don’t Love: It takes a few swipes for the formula to warm up and melt onto your lips.

This Dior balm comes in plenty of colors that enhance all skin tones, but you can’t go wrong with the clear option. Cherry oil supports your lips’ natural barrier for long-term benefits, while shea butter and sunflower seed oil help with hydration. But the magic of the formula is that it uses special technology that reacts to the pH of your skin, so you’ll get a custom, super subtle tint with each application. It also comes in 12 other tinted shades, if you want more color options. 

Size: 0.11 oz. | Key Ingredient: Cherry oil | Scented: Yes

Price at time of publish: $38

Best Drugstore: Burt's Bees Original Beeswax Lip Balm

Burt's Bees Lip Balm

Amazon

What We Love: The balm’s firm texture makes it impossible to apply too much.

What We Don’t Love: It contains peppermint oil, which can be irritating to sensitive skin types.

This yellow tube is a classic for good reason: You’ll get a pleasant tingle and instant suppleness with each swipe. The balm is primarily made of beeswax, and although the ingredient helps to seal in existing moisture, Dr. Idriss warns that waxes won’t hydrate your lips or lock in hydration if your lips are already dry. But the added vitamin E, coconut oil, and sunflower seed oil make it an excellent choice for softening.

Size: 0.15 oz.  | Key Ingredient: Beeswax  | Scented: No

Price at time of publish: $3

Best Tinted Lip Balm: NARS Afterglow Lip Balm

NARS Afterglow Lip Balm

Nars

What We Love: You’ll get a glossy finish and even color payoff. 

What We Don’t Love: It’s expensive for a lip balm.

Finding a tinted lip balm that actually hydrates can be tricky: Oftentimes nourishing ingredients play second fiddle to the tint. That’s not the case with NARS Afterglow Lip Balm: It feels like cashmere on your lips courtesy of emollient coconut and jojoba oils. It’s foolproof to apply, too. The sheer tints deliver a watercolor-like wash of color that you can touch up without a mirror on hand. Though it’s scented, it’s so subtle, you likely won’t notice the smell when you dab it on.

Size: 0.1 oz. | Key Ingredient: Coconut oil | Scented: Yes

Price at time of publish: $28

Best for Sensitive Skin: Kosas Kosasport LipFuel Hyaluronic Acid Lip Balm

Kosas Kosasport LipFuel Hyaluronic Acid Lip Balm

Sephora

What We Love: The thin oval shape makes for easy application on your lips’ inner corners.

What We Don’t Love: The mint flavor isn’t for everyone.

Kosas lip balm brims with natural emollients like castor seed oil, grape seed oil, and shea butter. But its major hydration abilities stem from hyaluronic acid, an ingredient that multiplies moisture. The slim tube slides into your pocket incognito, but the formula delivers such lasting hydration that you may not need to keep it in tow for reapplications.

Size: 0.17 oz. | Key Ingredient: Hyaluronic acid | Scented: No

Price at time of publish: $18

Best for Extra Dry Lips: Boiron Homeoplasmine

Homeoplasmine

Amazon

What We Love: It’s dermatologist recommended for parched lips. 

What We Don’t Love: The large tube isn’t friendly for taking on the go.

“This works wonders to hydrate lips,” explains Dr. Idriss. The French salve is an undisputed choice for flaky irritation, as it has both soothing and antibacterial properties. Plus, a little goes a long way. You can apply a layer before bed for overnight hydration, or tap it in place before a coat of longwear lipstick to prevent dryness (the balm’s matte finish won’t disrupt the color you dab on top of it). The formula has skin benefits, too; try it on cuticles or itchy patches for quick relief.

Size: 1.41 oz. | Key Ingredient: Calendula | Scented: No

Price at time of publish: $18

Best for Shine: Sara Happ The Lip Slip Balm

Sara Happ Lip Slip

Amazon

What We Love: The balm has a subtle pink tint that enlivens all skin tones. 

What We Don’t Love: The packaging requires you to apply with your fingers.

Sara Happ lip scrub is a cult favorite for polishing dull lips, and this balm is worthy of similar praise. It really revamps your lips for instant suppleness. Jojoba, macadamia seed, and sweet almond oils soften on contact, and the subtle shimmer enhances your lips’ glow. Don’t fear the price tag; the pot holds more than double the amount of product in classic lip balm tubes.

Size: 0.5 oz. | Key Ingredient: Jojoba oil | Scented: Yes

Price at time of publish: $30

Best with SPF: EltaMD UV Lip Balm Sunscreen

ELTAMD Lip Balm

Dermstore

What We Love: You’ll get sun protection without a greasy feel. 

What We Don’t Love: It can leave a white cast if applied too heavily.

Yes, your lips can get sunburnt, just like the rest of your skin — so it’s important to have a formula with SPF on hand for more than just beach days. EltaMD is known for their sunscreen’s lightweight wearability, and their SPF lip balm is no different. It contains glycerin to hydrate your lips, plus zinc oxide for water-resistant sun protection. The mineral formula may leave a subtle white cast, but we’ve found that tapping it onto your lips makes that disappear.

Size: 0.28 oz. | Key Ingredient: Glycerin | Scented: No

Price at time of publish: $13

Best Overnight Lip Balm: Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask

5
Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask

Laneige

What We Love: The included applicator keeps the tub of product sanitary.

What We Don’t Love: Some people may find the berry fragrance offputting.

If you’re the type to wake up and reach for lip balm before you check your phone, Laneige lip mask is just for you. Your lips will be so soft and supple when you wake up, you won’t crave that swipe of balm before coffee. This little tub is like a superfood smoothie for your lips: It employs coconut oil and murumuru seed and shea butters for moisture, as well as vitamin C to help fight free radicals. You’ll see max benefits when you’re diligent about applying it nightly.

Size: 0.7 oz. | Key Ingredient: Murumuru seed butter | Scented: Yes

Price at time of publish: $24

What to Keep in Mind

Formula

The best lip balms hydrate and seal in moisture to help your lips’ skin barrier stay strong. With a strong skin barrier, your lips will be better equipped to stand up to environmental factors, like harsh weather, without irritation. Dr. Alexiades likes sunflower seed oil, squalane, coconut oil, and shea butter for their ability to deliver the essential fatty acids necessary to build a strong barrier, and keep your lips plump and smooth. Humectants, like glycerin and hyaluronic acid, are also important for a supple smile, as they pull water into our skin. 

Fragrance

Many people can tolerate fragranced lip balms without a problem, but if you feel like your latest balm is doing more harm than good, take a close look at the label. Some fragrances and flavorings, especially peppermint, cinnamon, citrus, and mint, can cause irritation. If that’s you, try a fragrance-free option instead. 

Your Questions, Answered

Can our lips get addicted to lip balm? 

Yes, but maybe not in the way you think. “If your lips are dry and you constantly use a lip balm that has a waxy formulation, you can get used to the feeling of it on your lips, even if it’s not actually doing anything to hydrate your lips,” says Dr. Idriss. The issue is that people resort to licking their lips between reapplying balm, which actually dries out your lips even more — triggering a cycle of frequent irritation and therefore frequent reapplication. 

How often should you apply lip balm?

Lip balms without exfoliating ingredients (like glycolic acid) are safe to reapply as much as you like, and frequent application will help your lips stay in a soft, supple state. To prevent chapping, be sure to swipe on a balm after eating, drinking, or brushing your teeth, as these activities tend to dry out our lips. A thicker salve is helpful for keeping dryness at bay while you sleep, so don’t be afraid to layer up before bed. 

Is it safe to exfoliate your lips? 

Flaking and peeling is a peeve for anyone — and especially for those of us who reach for lipstick frequently. Tugging on that dead skin can only worsen things (and risk infection), so you’re better off with gentle exfoliation. Dr. Idriss swears by a technique she calls lip basting: Buff your lips with a mild chemical exfoliant, then layer on a thick emollient, like Boiron Homeoplasmine or Aquaphor Lip Repair, and let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the product is fully absorbed. Soft smiles, anyone?

Why Trust InStyle

Claire Sullivan is a freelance beauty writer with five years of experience testing and reviewing products that make a meaningful difference in the way you look and feel. To zero in on the best lip balms on the market, she canvassed dermatologists, cross-checked reviews, and relied on her own experience swatching tubes and tubs. These 10 balms outperformed the rest in their ability to hydrate and heal lips without the need for frequent reapplication.

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