Emily Cieslak is a fashion and beauty writer whose work has been published in Real Simple, The Knot, and New York Moves Magazine.
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Nothing is worse than dry, cracked lips. The condition can make everything from smiling to eating painful, and let’s be honest, doesn’t look too pretty. Just as our skin needs regular hydration and sun protection, so do our lips. UV radiation can dry out the lips as well as increase chances of skin cancer and the depletion of collagen and elastin, causing lips to lose their volume with age, says Kavita Mariwalla, MD and dermatologist at Mariwalla Dermatology.
While vaseline and beeswax have often been the go-to ingredients in lip balms, consumers are becoming more aware of the negative impact of fossil fuel-based petroleum as well as wanting vegan, beeswax-free formulas. Thankfully, today’s beauty brands have formulated plenty of organic lip balms that promise a clean, hydrated pout.
“It’s important to be aware of what you are putting on your lips [as] many people develop allergies to lip balms and then start feeling dependent on them,” says Julie Russak, MD and dermatologist at Russak Dermatology Clinic in Manhattan. “We also ingest what is being put on our lips, so it is important to use clean ingredients.”
Besides ingredients, lip balms vary in flavor, form, and certifications. No matter your preferences, we found the best certified organic lip balms to keep your lips moisturized and protected.
Flavors: Naturally clear, playful, joyful | Certifications: Leaping Bunny Cruelty Free, Peta Cruelty Free | Packaging: 0.15 ounce plastic tube in Forest Stewardship Council paper
This trio of lip balms from Juice Beauty check off all our boxes. Organic ingredients? Check. Mineral sunscreen? Check. No beeswax? Check. Tinted shades? Check.
The first ingredient in the balm is sunflower seed oil, which is known to enhance skin barrier repair thanks to its high concentration of linoleic acid. Cocoa seed butter and aloe vera work together to fend off the negative effects of UV exposure while vitamin E fights free radicals and heals wounds. With a little shimmer and sparkle, these lip balms make skin protection a little more glam.
Flavors: Mint burst, citrus, beeswax, eucalyptus mint, vanilla, coconut | Certifications: USDA Organic, Peta Cruelty Free, Oregon Tilth Certified Organic | Packaging: 0.15 ounce plastic tube
Variety is the spice of life, right? With this variety pack from Cliganic, you can enjoy a different flavor of lip balm for almost every day of the week. Most importantly, the various flavors use organic, non-GMO essential oils to capture the real taste. Some days you may be leaning more towards fruity; another day towards minty, and this affordable set has you covered while packing moisturizing ingredients like sunflower seed, coconut, and olive oils.
Flavors: Unflavored | Certifications: USDA Organic, Leaping Bunny Cruelty Free | Packaging: 0.15 ounce plastic tube or 32 ounce plastic jar
There is a reason why this lip balm has “luxury” in its name. Besides the higher price tag, it has several rich, USDA certified organic moisturizers to hydrate and protect the lips. The first and main ingredient is coconut oil, which studies have shown to positively impact skin barrier repair, wound recovery and skin ageing, as well as possessing anti‐bacterial, anti‐inflammatory, and antioxidant effects. In addition, you get avocado oil, shea butter, and jojoba oil which also have moisturizing, anti-aging, and anti‐inflammatory properties.
By not containing essential oils, this formula is also good for those with sensitive skin that may be prone to irritation. Choose between a stick or a small jar for whatever provides an easier application.
Flavors: Unflavored, lemon lime, sweet mint, superfruit | Certifications: Vegan Certified (Vegan.Org), NSF Certified, Non-GMO Project Verified, Fair Trade Certified, Gluten-Free, Leaping Bunny Cruelty Free | Packaging: 0.15 ounce plant based, plastic-free tube
For those who want to go completely vegan in their beauty routine and avoid products with beeswax, finding a lip balm can be tricky as many organic blends still use the ingredient. Eco Lips’ Bee Free line has swapped beeswax for candelilla wax, a plant-based wax with a soft, glossy consistency.
A blend of sunflower seed oil, cocoa seed butter, coconut oil, and vitamin E nourish the lips.
They’ve also swapped the traditional plastic tube for a plant-based, 100% plastic-free tube that is just as easy to use. It’s made from materials re-claimed from farm byproducts which otherwise would have been burned. Even the product’s label is plastic free.
Flavors: Peppermint, lemon lime, orange ginger, naked | Certifications: USDA Organic, Leaping Bunny Cruelty Free, Non GMO Project Verified, Oregon Tilth Certified Organic | Packaging: 0.15 ounce plastic tube
There’s a reason why peppermint lip balm is so popular. Not only is it a classic flavor, but the essential oil can increase alertness and create the illusion of a fresher breath. Dr. Bonner’s Organic Lip Balm in Peppermint is a simple blend of beeswax, peppermint oil, and other moisturizing oils to nourish and plump the lips. The brand says you can even apply it to other areas of your body, like dry cuticles or to your eyebrows to keep the hairs in place, making a multifunctional addition to your personal care kit.
Flavors: Vanilla, plain, coconut, grapefruit, watermelon, strawberry, lavender, caramel popcorn | Certifications: Certified Vegan | Packaging: 0.15 ounce plastic tube
If you like the taste and smell of vanilla, you’ll love Luxe Beauty’s Lip Balm in Vanilla Cupcake. Insteading of using beeswax, this balm uses two plant based waxes; organic carnauba wax from the carnauba palm and candelilla wax from the candelilla shrub.
It also packs in moisturizing avocado, sunflower, castor, and evening primrose oils. With organic aloe leaf extract, this lip balm is a good choice to apply if your lips are sunburned from the beach or slope, as the plant has been shown to decrease the negative effects of UV exposure. If you like sweet balms in general, they carry a variety of flavors from caramel popcorn to grapefruit. Sweet swiping!
Flavors: Coconut cacao, rosemary eucalyptus, sweet orange tangerine | Certifications: Leaping Bunny Cruelty free, USDA Organic | Packaging: 1 ounce paper tube
Besides the fact that it is adorable, the paper packaging of Meow Meow Tweet’s Vegan Lip Balm wins us over because it is biodegradable. Once you’ve pushed out all the product, simply throw the packaging into your backyard or municipal compost.
The balm is available in three different flavors (Rosemary Eucalyptus, Coconut Cacao, Sweet Orange Tangerine), and feature different essential oils for the flavors but share a vegan blend of olive oil, coconut oil, cocoa seed butter, and candelilla wax. The larger size makes it easy to apply to other areas for the body like cuticles and heels.
Flavors: Pink champagne, shimmer, plum, raisin | Certifications: Peta Cruelty Free | Packaging: Plastic tube
Rather than layer on lip balm and then a lip color, wouldn't it just be easier to use one product that adds both hydration and color? Well that’s what these tinted lip balms are for! Made with nourishing oils and beeswax, these lip balms add a sheer wash of color and shimmer. We like how this four pack has a range of shades from pink champagne to raisin. Once you find your favorite shade or two, you can stock up on it directly. These balms are comparable to lipstick with their staying power and color payoff. Your lips will be Zoom—and kiss—ready.
Flavors: Matcha | Certifications: USDA Organic, CCOF Organic | Packaging: 0.5 ounce plastic tube
Several of the balms on this list can be applied to other parts of the body, but this one from Cocokind caught our attention by being formulated to be used under the eyes as well. With only three organic ingredients and no essential oils, it is gentle enough for that delicate area. The matcha tea powder is rich in caffeine, which can help reduce under eye dark circles and puffiness. Whether you are on the road or simply like to keep your beauty routine as simple as possible, this multi-tasking balm needs to be in your arsenal.
Flavors: Unscented, coconut | Certifications: Certified Organic by NSF, Certified B Corporation, 1% for the Planet, Leaping Bunny Cruelty Free, Reef Friendly, Climate Neutral | Packaging: 0.15 ounce plastic tube
Think you can just slather sunscreen on your face and call it good? Not so fast! Just like your skin, your lips are exposed to UV radiation on a daily basis, whether you are walking on the beach, skiing down the slopes, or simply driving to work. This constant exposure can slowly develop into skin cancer as well as non-healing dry spots on the lips and the appearance of brown discoloration and aging, according to Dr. Russak.
Using a lip balm with sunscreen of at least SPF 15 is an easy way to protect the lips. We like this unscented version from All Good that provides broad spectrum SPF 20 from non-nanoparticle zinc oxide. Olive oil also provides antioxidant properties to further help prevent sun damage on the skin as well as non GMO vitamin E. The unscented formula is great for sensitive skin, though the brand also makes a coconut formula with SPF for those who crave a tropical taste.
You can’t go wrong with Juice Beauty’s trio of vegan lip balms (view at Thrive Market). You get two tinted shades plus a plain one for all occasions. The mineral SPF keeps your lips protected whether you are sitting by the window at your desk or by the lake. If you get bored with just one flavor, try Cliganic’s set (view at Walmart). You’ll get six different flavored lip balms for the price of one.
From eating spicy and salty foods to bad habits like licking our lips, we put our lips through a lot that can dry them out. The key to keeping them hydrated is trapping in the moisture with the right ingredients.
“When looking for a lip balm that is natural you want to focus on ingredients that are emollients—in other words, ones that will trap moisture into the skin,” says Dr. Mariwalla. “I do like humectants as well because of their ease of use and glide on the skin. For example, some of my favorite ingredients are glycerin and manuka honey.”
Other popular moisturizing ingredients include different vitamin rich oils like coconut, sunflower seed, jojoba, and olive oil as well as cocoa butter.
Besides moisturizing ingredients, both dermatologists encourage readers to look for formulas with SPF between 15-30 to help prevent skin cancer and premature aging of the lips.
“UV radiation can not only cause burns and increase the risk of skin cancer, but can also speed up the degradation of collagen and elastin, which normally plump up the lips,” says Dr. Mariwalla. “Meaning the lips will lose their volume and look more wrinkled.”
When it comes to what to avoid in lip balms, Dr. Russak recommends skipping products with fragrances, alcohol, phenol, preservatives, and dyes.
For this roundup, we looked for lip balms with USDA certified organic ingredients. Because there currently is no certification program to certify cosmetics as organic, looking for products with a majority of USDA certified organic ingredients is the best way to ensure you are using the most natural product.
We also looked for products that are Leaping Bunny and Peta Cruelty Free, meaning there is no animal testing involved in making the product. Because many organic lip balms use beeswax, not all of them are certified vegan but certain products on the list are Vegan Certified.
Whether you lean towards vanilla or peppermint, some people love the smell and taste of flavored lip balm. Going clean doesn’t mean you have to give up the flavor though. While it’s best to avoid artificial fragrances and flavors, many organic lip balms are naturally flavored with oils like peppermint, coconut, rose, and various other fruits and flowers. These ingredients are often nourishing for the lips as well, so you get two benefits in one.
If you feel like your lips are always chapped no matter what hydrating lip balms you use, Dr. Mariwalla suggests looking at your routine for habits that may be drying out your lips.
“Think about the things you are doing in terms of lifestyle. For example, are you using whitening toothpaste? Are you wearing a mask that you are washing with a harsh detergent or drying with a lot of dryer sheets?” says Dr. Mariwalla. “Also, are you over-using chapsticks? Overuse of a lip balm can stop your skin from producing its own oils. Beware of bleeding of your exfoliants and acids onto your lip skin from adjacent facial skin when washing or doing your night time routine.”
Dr. Mariwalla also recommends avoiding lip plumping products, matte lipstick, and spicy foods if you tend to have sensitive, dry lips.
Another reason why your lip balm may not seem to be working is because the ingredients are not penetrating. Before you apply any lip treatment, Dr. Russak says it’s important to gently exfoliate the lips to remove dead skin cells. Check out these homemade lip scrub recipes to reveal revived lips.
When it comes to any beauty product, it’s best to check with the label and brand for the expiration date. Most products have a small jar icon with a number on the bottom of the packaging. The number represents the number of months the product will be good for after opening.
Regardless, if you do start to notice that your lip balm has a weird texture or smell than when you first opened it, it’s probably time to get a replacement. Keep in mind that since many organic lip balms use plant oils, they can easily melt in very hot conditions. So don’t just stow all your lip balms in your boiling car if you want to maintain the full shelf life.
When reading the label of organic lip balms, you may notice that you already have several of the ingredients in your pantry, from coconut to olive oil. Just add a few more emollients like shea butter and/or beeswax and you can make your own lip balm at balm by following homemade recipes.
The beauty of going DIY is you can customize the formula to include ingredients with relevant benefits for you. You also can cut out the plastic packaging and overproduction. Plus, who doesn't like a fun DIY project?
Emily Cieslak loves writing about sustainable fashion and beauty for Treehugger and other publications. As someone who enjoys hitting the beach as much as the slopes, she knows the importance of using a moisturizing, SPF-filled lip balm that will protect her lips from the elements. She’s tried a variety of formulas over the years, including a few on this list.
For this article, Emily researched the benefits of different natural ingredients and cosmetic certifications. She also interviewed Kavita Mariwalla, MD and dermatologist at Mariwalla Dermatology and Julie Russak, MD and dermatologist at Russak Dermatology Clinic in Manhattan. The dermatologists explained what happens to the lips as we age along with what clean ingredients to look for to keep lips healthy.
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