The perfect lip balm is both thin enough to sink into your lips and thick enough to sit on top of them in a protective, watertight layer. In other words, it doesn’t exist—but you can fake it with a little bit of clever layering.
If your lips are painfully dry right now, try rubbing a tiny dab of your regular facial moisturizer or eye cream on your bare lips, then slathering a thick balm on top. Lotions and creams contain more water and moisturizing ingredients than lip balm, but more importantly, they’re formulated to actually absorb into your skin. Layering something something waxy and occlusive on top slows down the evaporation process, keeping that moisture right where you need it: on your dry, cracked, miserable lips. This technique is a godsend for anyone with stubborn chapped lips, but it’s especially handy for people who can’t use lanolin. Waxy sheep sebum heals dry skin like nothing else on earth, but it’s a fairly common allergen; trying to find an effective lip balm without it is both harder and more expensive than layering two products you already own.
Any moisturizer you like will work here, as long as it doesn’t contain active ingredients. Sure, the concentrations of retinol, chemical exfoliants (AHAs, BHAs, or otherwise), and vitamin C derivatives found in moisturizers are tiny, but it’s not worth the risk. Don’t put your favorite retinol cream on your lips—use a facial oil, hydrating serum, eye cream, hand cream, or even body lotion instead. Your lips will thank you.