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Your lip balm could be making your lips more chapped — derms explain why

For more hydrated lips, there are certain ingredients that you should avoid.
Kara Birnbaum / TODAY

As the colder weather creeps in, we find ourselves continuously reaching for our most hydrating skin care products to help beat the dryness that comes with the changing seasons— and that includes lip balm.

But, if you've recently found yourself needing more and more balm to help soothe your chapped lips, we have some news for you: The one that you're using might actually be doing more harm than good.

To gain more insight, we consulted two experts, Dr. Mona Gohara, an associate clinical professor of dermatology at the Yale School of Medicine, and Dr. Brendan Camp, a dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology in New York, to find out why certain lip balms dry out your lips and which ones you should be reaching for instead.

What causes chapped lips? | Lip balm ingredients to look for | The best lip balms for dry lips | How we chose | Meet our experts

Lip balms for dry lips

What causes chapped lips?

There are several reasons why your lips might be feeling dry and irritated, especially at this time of the year. As you may already know, the cold weather can have an effect on your pout, as your lips are very thin-skinned, so they're much more likely to dry out, Gohara says.

Everyday factors like the enzymes in saliva, yeast or bacteria or certain ingredients in skin care products or food, can also cause irritation, Camp explained.

It also might be a matter of not giving them enough attention. "A lot of people don't give love to their lips," Gohara says. "They'll moisturize their face, but they're not moisturizing their lips."

Though, if you are giving them plenty of love, but find that they're ending up chapped and dry not long after you apply a balm, it could be because you're using what Gohara calls the "wrong balm."

Lip balm ingredients to look for

So now that you're well-versed on what you should avoid, the question remains: How do you choose a lip balm that's actually going to help your lips, instead of hurting them?

To maximize hydration, you want to look for ingredients that will help trap water in the skin while keeping it moisturized for a long period of time, Camp says. "Ingredients like beeswax, olive oil, castor oil, coconut oil, and shea butter are often used for this purpose."

Gohara says that the ideal formula has a combination of humectants (like hyaluronic acid and glycerin), which draw moisture into the skin as well as occlusives (such as shea butter and mineral oil), which work to lock the moisture in.

Camp also recommends getting a formula with SPF, to help protect the area from the sun.

The best lip balms for dry lips

Dr. Bronner's Organic Lip Balm Peppermint

What we like
  • Moisturizes quickly
  • It feels refreshing
Something to note
  • Extremely small

When the weather is extremely cold, protect your lips with this beeswax-infused lip balm. SEO senior editor Jess Bender loves this one.

"I’ve used (and lost) dozens of lip balms in my days, with most making my lips more chapped than they were prior. Dr. Bronner’s is probably the first that has actually delivered on its promise of relieving sore, peeling lips. It utilizes various oils (hemp, avocaco, jojoba) that moisturize, plus it has a soothing peppermint aroma!"

Eco Lips Plant Pod Lip Balm

What we like
  • It's plant-based
Something to note
  • Has a texture feel

"I’ve been trying my best to stay away from products that have a long ingredient list of items that I don’t recognize, and this lip balm not only includes plant-based ingredients, but it’s also made in my hometown, making me trust it even more,” shares editorial assistant Sierra Hoeger. "The lavender scent soothes my lips and calms down redness due to picking at them (bad habit, I know!) and it’s affordable, quickly making it my go-to," she adds.

Rosebud Salve Tin

What we like
  • Has a light scent
Something to note
  • Application can get messy

This lip balm is sure to become a new favorite among Amazon consumers for the soothing ingredients. According to commerce writer Danielle Murphy, "This NEVER fails me. I use this practically every night and I have yet to have chapped lips this season."

Poppy & Pout All Natural Lip Balm

What we like
  • Doesn't feel sticky
  • Moisturizes fast
Something to note
Nothing to note at this time

If you want a little flavor on your lips, this product is the right one. It's formulated with natural ingredients like beeswax, sunflower oil and coconut oil to deliver a soothing texture. According to social media editorial assistant Annie Shigo, "It feels instantly moisturizing, smells nice and lasts a long time without having to re-apply.

Cetaphil Healing Ointment

What we like
  • Can be used on different areas
  • It's hypoallergenic
Something to note
  • Can feel slightly greasy

"This ointment has many uses, aside from being a lip balm," Camp says. "It can be used on dry, cracked skin, rough cuticles and cuts and scrapes. It also contains shea butter and vitamin E."

Vaseline Lip Therapy Lip Balm

Gohara says that she likes Vaseline's lip balms. The non-greasy formula is designed to lock in moisture to soothe dry lips and prevent them from getting chapped later on.

Aquaphor Healing Ointment

What we like
  • It has multiple use
Something to note
  • Can feel greasy in big amount

According to associate editor Kamari Stewart, this ointment works better than the Aquaphor Lip Repair.

"This is my tried-and-true lip balm. I love it because it’s a multi-use product. I’ve also used it for dry skin and for healing tattoos. A little goes a long way so this tube will last you quite a while. I recently introduced my mom to using Aquaphor on your lips and she couldn’t believe how moisturizing it was!"

Malin + Goetz Lip Moisturizer

Camp says that this lip moisturizer from Malin + Goetz is "smooth" and "hydrating" and is designed to keep your lips nourished for hours.

EltaMD UV Lip Balm

"This lip balm offers SPF 36 protection and contains vitamins C and E, antioxidants along with glycerin to keep lips protected and soft," Camp says.

Burt’s Bees Lip Balm

What we like
  • Glides on easy
  • It has an angled tip
Something to note
  • Tube can leak

Burt's Bees is well known for its soothing lip balms, and this formula from the brand is loaded with hydrating ingredients, like beeswax, shea butter, coconut oil and more.

First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Lip Therapy

What we like
  • Feels very soothing
Something to note
  • It has a mint scent

According to the brand, this formula is free from alcohol, artificial colorants, artificial fragrances and more, so you're just getting the good stuff, like shea butter and glycerin. It's also said to feature First Aid Beauty's FAB Antioxidant Booster, to help further nourish your lips.

Summer Fridays Lip Butter Balm

What we like
  • Smells very good
Something to note
  • Higher price tag

Aside from delivering hydration, this lip balm comes in different shades - a great alternative if you want to give your lipsticks a break.

"This TikTok-viral lip balm has quickly become one of my favorites to use. It’s not only hydrating, it’s moisturizing and leaves your lips feeling super soft and smooth. It’s an investment but I think it’s worth it. I keep (at least) one on me at all times," shares Stewart.

How we chose

We leaned on the expertise of board-certified dermatologists and got their recommendations on the best ingredients and lip balms to soothe dry, chapped lips. We also tapped into the knowledge of Shop TODAY editors, asking them to share the tried-and-true products they use to keep their pouts soft and supple on a daily basis.

Meet our experts

  • Dr. Mona Gohara, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist at Dermatology Physicians of Connecticut in Hamden. She is an associate clinical professor of dermatology at the Yale School of Medicine and vice president of the Women’s Dermatologic Society.
  • Dr. Brendan Camp, MD, is a dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology in New York. He is double board-certified in dermatology and dermatopathology.