What's in Lip Balm

Medically Reviewed by Laura J. Martin, MD on November 19, 2012
2 min read

The purpose of all lip balms, even those called salves or butters, is to protect the lips. They contain a moisturizing ingredient (such as petroleum jelly, shea butter, or lanolin) that prevents water loss.

Wax is added to help lip balm stick to lips. Cosmetic chemist Nikita Wilson, vice president of Cosmetech Laboratories in Fairfield, N.J., says lip balm in a tin or pot has less wax than twist-up balms, but it's just as therapeutic.

The wax keeps even tinted lip balms from having the shine of a lip gloss or the color intensity of a lipstick. 

Camphor and menthol in medicated lip balms act as mild anesthetics and soothe irritated lips. They're also the ingredients that give lip balm its cool tingle.

Your lips need sun protection, just like the rest of your skin.

Some lip balms contain sun protection as high as SPF 30 and antioxidants such as coenzyme Q10. Other common ingredients are vitamins C and E, which neutralize free radicals that damage the skin's collagen and elastin.

Anti-aging formulas for lip balm add ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, atelocollagen (a moisturizer), and dipalmitoyl hydroxyproline (a line filler). These help plump lips and reduce the furrows around the edge of your lips.

Other Lip Balm Uses

Lip balm is often used for other purposes, such as softening dry elbows, knees, and cuticles; grooming unruly eyebrows; and -- in a pinch -- freeing a stuck zipper.

It might also help you with your lipstick or lip gloss.

Reed Cromwell IV, director of product development for Anastasia Beverly Hills, says, "When you're using a bold lipstick or bright gloss, lining the border of your lips with lip balm will keep the color from bleeding into the fine lines around your mouth. Use a lip brush to apply the balm just a slight bit beyond your natural lip line."