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Lip Care 101: What Does Lip Balm Do?

May 23, 2022 4 min read

Lip Care 101: What Does Lip Balm Do?

Lip balm is one of the most underappreciated personal care products. Let’s face it — most people don’t think twice about their pout until they’re going in for a kiss or looking at their dry, cracked lips in the mirror. That’s why a good natural lip balm is a must. With just a few quick swipes, you can restore moisture to the delicate skin on your lips and get an enviable pucker once more. But what does lip balm do, exactly? Keep reading to learn what lip balm does, why you need it and what to look for in a lip balm.

Shop Natural Lip Balm

First, What Is Lip Balm?

Lip balm is a moisturizing agent used on the lips to help keep them soft and reduce cracking and peeling. Different brands use different ingredients, but most lip balms contain a mix of hydrating ingredients such as coconut oil, shea butter and other emollients, plus a wax base to ensure the beneficial ingredients stick to the lip skin.

Compared to lip glosses and lipsticks, a high-quality lip balm goes on clear and doesn’t add excess shine to the lips. Rather, it has a thick, smooth consistency that dissolves into the skin, giving lips a softer and healthier appearance.

a person pushing more lip balm out of a tube of earthling co peppermint lip balm

What Does Lip Balm Do?

The skin on our lips is pretty unique compared to the rest of the skin on our bodies. It’s thinner and more delicate, making it more susceptible to sun damage and the effects of aging. Lip skin also lacks sebaceous (oil-producing) glands, which means it doesn’t get the same protective coating as the skin on the face or the rest of the body.

That’s where a good lip balm comes into play. Lip balms provide a protective layer on the surface of your lip skin to help prevent moisture loss and keep your lips hydrated and supple. 

A high-quality lip balm can also:

  • Relieve dry, chapped lips
  • Provide some protection against sun damage*
  • Restore moisture loss caused by extreme weather
  • Enhance the appearance of your pout
  • Protect against environmental damage, including air pollution

*Some lip balms contain antioxidants such as vitamins E and C, which research shows may help decrease UV-induced free radical damage.

The Problem with Traditional Lip Balms

As with any product you’re thinking about putting on (or in) your body, it’s essential to check your lip balm ingredients before you hit "add to cart." Even though lip balm has come a long way over the years, many lip balm manufacturers continue to use toxic ingredients that are bad for humans and the planet.

For instance, lip balm formulas often contain petroleum jelly and mineral oil, which are derivatives of oil refining. In addition to fueling climate change, these petroleum-based chemicals can be contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PHAs. PHAs are byproducts of the oil-refining process that are considered “probable human carcinogens” by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Moreover, traditional lip balms often contain artificial fragrances to make their products more appealing. These synthetic fragrances can irritate the skin barrier and may cause dryness — the exact thing you’re trying to avoid!

What to Look for in a Lip Balm

If you want to keep your lips hydrated without toxic ingredients, consider switching to a natural lip balm with simple ingredients. Although the word “natural” is no guarantee that a product is safe, many natural lip balms — including our new plastic-free lip balm — are made with good-for-you ingredients that soothe dehydrated lips without the questionable ingredients or ethics. 

Are you now wondering what to look for in a natural lip balm? For a pout you can feel good about, keep an eye out for the following ingredients and qualities:

  • Plant-based ingredients. Plant-based ingredients are naturally derived and often contain beneficial properties for the skin. For example, Oryza sativa (rice) bran extract, a plant ingredient, is rich in antioxidants that help strengthen and repair the skin’s natural barrier while also combating free radicals.
  • Nourishing butters. Mango butter, cocoa butter and shea butter are found in many high-quality lip balms, and for good reason — they’re full of moisturizing fatty acids that soften your pout naturally.
  • Safe wax base. As mentioned above, most lip balms contain a wax base — usually beeswax or carnauba wax — to ensure the ingredients stay on your lips. Our vegan lip balm uses bayberry (fruit) wax, which is derived from the berries of the Myrica Cerifera fruit tree.
  • Plastic-free packaging. The vast majority of lip balms come in cheap plastic tubes that can’t be recycled curbside. And sure, those plastic tubes are tiny, but when you consider that half a million lip balms are purchased every day, you can see how quickly it adds up. That’s why we made a zero-waste lip balm that comes in 100 percent post-consumer recycled paperboard. 

Shop Zero-Waste Lip Balm

earthling co peppermint lip balm graphic

Ultra-Soft Lips, Minus the Waste and Toxic Chemicals

In summary, a good lip balm can do a lot for your pout — it can protect against harsh weather, soothe dry lips, speed up the healing process and keep your pucker supple and healthy year-round. But if you want to enjoy smooth, hydrated lips without the waste or toxic chemicals, consider skipping the conventional plastic tubes and try a natural, zero-waste lip balm instead. Your lips and the planet will be better off for it!