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Lip Balms | Ingredients for daily use and in the sun

Updated: Oct 2, 2022

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Photo: Wix

Not all lip balms are the same! Ingredients really do make a difference. It’s really common for patients to comment that they have been using a “medicated lip balm“ and cannot understand why their lips aren’t healing.
To get the most out of your lip balm, read the ingredients and consider how they work and if they are right for you.

Petroleum jelly / Petrolatum

Petroleum jelly or white petrolatum works very well to hydrate and protect the lips. This is often found alone in Vaseline. It is important to note that even though Aquaphor contains petrolatum, Aquaphor's Lip Repair Ointment does not. CeraVe Healing Ointment and CeraVe Healing Lip Balm also contain petrolatum. Petroleum jelly is considered non-comedogenic.


Dimethicone is considered a silicone crosspolymer. It is added to cosmetic products as an emollient, skin protectant, and conditioning agent. Dimethicone is considered safe per the FDA and found in many skincare preparations. Dimethicone is also considered non-comedogenic. Dimethicone is the active ingredient in Vaniply Ointment.

RELATED | Dr. Erum Ilyas talks chapped lips with Good Housekeeping



Beeswax is naturally occurring and safe to use. It is found in many skin care preparations as a skin protectant and humectant. A humectant is a product that seals and retains moisture in the skin. Even though beeswax creates a barrier on the skin, it is considered a low risk for clogging pores. Some of the most common lip balms with beeswax are Burt's Bees Lip Balm and Eos Lip Balm.

Vitamin E

Vitamin E applied to the skin does have an emollient or hydrating effect. Vitamin E also has healing and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s found as an additive in many lip products. Vitamin E applied topically can penetrate the skin effectively since it is a fat-soluble product. When it penetrates the skin it can make the superficial skin layers more hydrated. Vitamin E is added to a number of lip balms for added moisture. There are several lip products that add Vitamin E to consider. When listed on the label of a product you may see the words Tocopheryl Acetate - this is a specific form of Vitamin E. Kiehl's Lip Balm #1 and Palmer's Cocoa Butter Formula are some of our top choices.




Squalene is another hydrating ingredient that is a very effective emollient.


Various oils are added to a number of lip balms to add hydration and conditioning to the lips. Moisturizers such as almond oil can work well to hydrate the lips. This is a common ingredient in Kiehl's Lip Balm.

Hyaluronic acid

If hyaluronic acid is used topically in lip plumpers, its effect is mainly by getting into the very superficial layer of the epidermis to retain some moisture to make the skin appear plumper because it’s more hydrated. In this sense, it’s an effective “hydrated”. Because the lips appear more hydrated they will seem plumper but not nearly as effective as traditional lip plumpers that work by irritating the skin.

Most topical lip plumpers work by irritating the surface of the lips to swell them. Usually, peppermint oil and wintergreen are used. it is true that traditional lip plumpers can be very irritating to the skin. I often have patients that complain of persistent chapped lips after repetitive use. Although the effects of HA-containing plumpers will not be as pronounced, they are probably better for your lips as they promote hydration.

Hyaluronic acid is too large a molecule to actually get through the skin. It generally gets into the superficial layers of the epidermis and then attracts moisture to it. It can pull the moisture from within the skin but can also work well if a moisturizing lip product is applied on top.








Lip protectant, Hydration

PETROLATUM 46.5%, Mineral Oil, Paraffin, Ozokerite, Dimethicone, Ceramide NP, Ceramide AP, Ceramide EOP, Carbomer, Water, Sodium Lauroyl Lactylate, Proline, Cholesterol, Phenoxyethanol, Tocopheryl Acetate, Tocopherol, Hydrolyzed Hyaluronic Acid, Panthenol, Pantolactone, Phytosphingosine, Xanthan Gum, Ethylhexylglycerin

Lip protectant, Hydration

​Octyldodecanol, C18-38 Alkyl Hydroxystearoyl Stearate, Ricinus Communis (Castor) Seed Oil, Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Glycerin, Bis-Diglyceryl Polyacyladipate-2, Panthenol, Water, Polyglyceryl-3 Diisostearate, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Tocopheryl Acetate, Bisabolol, Sodium Ascorbyl Phosphate, Lecithin, Tocopherol, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Beeswax, C20-40 Alkyl Stearate, Magnesium Stearate, Magnesium Sulfate, Glyceryl Stearate, Glyceryl Oleate, Citric Acid.

Lip protectant, Hydration

Vaniply Ointment (now called Vanicream Moisturizing Ointment)

Dimethicone 1%, C30-45 alkyl methicone, C30-45 olefin, hydrogenated polydecene, microcrystalline wax, polyethylene, silica dimethyl silylate.

​Lip protectant, Hydration. Free of dyes, fragrance, masking fragrance, lanolin, parabens, formaldehyde, formaldehyde releasers, and other preservatives. Gluten Free

Cera alba (Beeswax, cire d'abeille), cocos nucifera (coconut) oil, helianthus annuus (sunflower) seed oil, mentha piperita (peppermint) oil, Lanolin, tocopherolrosmarinus officinalis (rosemary) leaf extract, glycine soja (soybean) oil, canola oil (huile de colza), limonene.

​Lip protectant, Hydration

Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil*, Beeswax/Cera Alba (Cire d’abeille)*, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil*, Copernicia Cerifera (Carnauba) Wax/Cire de carnauba*, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil*, Flavor (Aroma), Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter*, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil*, Punica Granatum Seed Oil*, Rubus Idaeus (Raspberry) Leaf Extract*, Tocopherol, Stevia Rebaudiana Leaf/Stem Extract*, Beta-Sitosterol, Squalene, Linalool1. *Organic – 1 Component of Natural Flavor.

​Lip protectant, Hydration

Petrolatum, Squalane, Lanolin, Triticum Vulgare Germ Oil / Wheat Germ Oil, Tocopherol, Pentaerythrityl, Tetra-Di-T-Butyl Hydroxyhydrocinnamate, Allantoin, Isopropyl palmitate, Paraffinum Liquidum/ Mineral Oil, Isopropyl Myristate, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, BHT

​​Lip protectant, Hydration

Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Extract, Mineral Oil (Paraffinum Liquidum), Microcrystalline Wax (Cera Microcristallina), Theobroma Cacao (Cocoa) Seed Butter, Tocopheryl Acetate, Zea Mays (Corn) Oil, Fragrance (Parfum), Isopropyl Myristate, Beta Carotene (CI 40800), Benzyl Alcohol.

​​​Lip protectant, Hydration



Sunscreen | Lip SPF

I see so many cases of actinic cheilitis- precancerous changes to the lips (especially lower lip) - I had to find our patients options of lip balms with SPF for this difficult-to-manage area. I also have a large number of patients on Accutane and we have to make sure they are sun safe to avoid damaging their lips at a time when their medication makes them even more sensitive to the sun. It is important to use if your skin is inflamed and you think you may be getting added sun exposure. If your dry chapped skin or lips is exposed to the sun, they can burn easily and can only cause more trouble! It’s also true that too much sun on the lips can trigger a fever blister outbreak. If you already have dry lips, it’s possible for more fever blisters or cold sores to spread in that dry cracked skin. It’s also a practical issue- sunscreen already wears off, it only wears off faster on a mucosal surface like the lip where food, drink, and lip licking takes it off. Here’s the list I provide to my patients.

Love this because it has my favorite sunblock- zinc- and it’s water resistant.
Active ingredients: Zinc oxide

One of my favorite brands to recommend for people with sensitive skin. This is also gluten-free for my patients with gluten sensitivities (a big issue if you use a lip product with gluten) Active ingredients: Titanium dioxide, Zinc oxide

Also Zinc-based! Active ingredients: Zinc oxide

The key features I look for are
  • Zinc as the active ingredient

  • Water-resistant

  • At least SPF 30

Most lip products are in the SPF 15 range. With all the sunscreen absorption safety concerns through our skin, I’m just as worried about sunscreen ingestion through the lips with chemical sunscreen use. I prefer mineral-based sunblocks to recommend for this purpose.



A Note on Menthol

The main ingredient I tend to caution patients to avoid is menthol. For many it can be well tolerated, however, I find that it can also lead to a lot of irritation. It does not necessarily aid in healing or preventing chapped lips. It tends to provide more of an analgesic effect to lessen discomfort. Menthol gives a cooling sensation when applied and gives people the impression that their product is getting to work! This sensation is more of a marketing effect and less reflects an actual effect of the product. Patients often get “addicted” to need this sensation to “feel” like their product is working or do not think a product is effective if they do not feel the tingle! Menthol has been shown to contribute to some drying or irritation with long-term use.


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