3 Categories of Affordable Lip Balm Everyone Should Own

I love lip balm. I have big lip insecurities that prevent me from wearing lip color or even gloss on a regular basis. However, I never leave home without at least five lip balms because I need to have options throughout the day. I apply lip balm obsessively. It is fun. It is fresh. It is exciting. It feels like goddamn self care. My usual approach to lip moisturization goes something like this: I assemble a collection of different types of balms I like to use throughout the day, including a variety of flavors, textures, and formulas. For example, in past weeks, I have toted around Burt’s Bees original balm, Burt’s Bees honey balm, True Botanica Boswellia balm, Burt’s Bees medicated balm, and cherry ChapStick. While this is admittedly not my favorite collection of products, I do recognize that when throwing it together I had some semblance of logic attached to which products I included. I had a tinted balm (cherry ChapStick), some sweet balms (honey and boswellia), a minty balm (Burt’s Bees original), and a medicated balm.

After reading "There Are Five Levels of Lip Balm" by Into The Gloss, I am looking at my collection of balms with renewed energy. The article essentially boils down the issue of lip balm into five general categories: basic, medicated, thick, luxury, and trendy. While I love their list, I am a broke college student, so I do not find myself dropping more than $5 on any one lip product, while many of the categories they include necessitate spending $20 or more for a single balm. After reading the article, I decided to make my own essential categories of lip balm, all of which are on the more affordable end. Read on for my three categories of balms, and my favorite products for each type.

  1. 1. Basic

    This first category of lip balm is fundamental. Everyone has their basic, everyday tube of lip balm, regardless of how much (or little) makeup you wear on a daily basis. This is the kind of balm that has a nice formula and makes you keep coming back, but it is cheap enough that losing it is not a tragedy. I have discovered that I am extremely picky about my balms. I have so many basic balms, and I dislike most of them. With more variety comes more mediocrity, apparently. My ideal balm is soft but not too soft, thick enough that I do not have to constantly reapply, and nicely scented (although I am very into a wide variety of flavors). To demonstrate just how picky I actually am, let us peruse my current collection, and which balms I actually enjoy. As much as I want to love Burt’s Bees original, and as much as the tingly peppermint scent appeals, it is far too waxy and I find myself having to rub it on my lips for an obnoxious amount of time to get even an adequate amount of product payout. As appealing as Katy Perry makes cherry ChapStick sound, I am a hippie LA girl and it simply tastes too artificial. I feel like I am doing something deeply wrong whenever I apply it. Burt’s Bees honey is nice, but a bit cloying and has similar textural issues to the original.

    Going through my collection and weighing the pros and cons of each balm like the connoisseur I am, I have landed on the three everyday balms that have my heart. The first one is True Botanica Boswellia. I discovered this balm as a child in a co-op in rural Wisconsin, and have used it consistently ever since. With a single swipe, your lips get coated in tons of product, and it is the most luscious, moisturizing balm I have ever used. The scent is also amazing: it smells slightly of vanilla and cinnamon, which I love. The other two everyday balms I love are Burt’s Bees coconut pear and mango. One thing I have realized about Burt’s Bees is that each flavor has a very different formula, and both of these flavors are softer and thicker than the original. The scents are incredible, and I always find myself reaching for these.

  2. 2. Medicated

    My second fundamental category is medicated balm. I have chronically chapped lips, so I use regular balms throughout the day and then slather on a thick layer of medicated balm before bed. I have not tried many medicated balms, but I absolutely love the two I have tried. My go-to medicated balms are the Burt’s Bees medicated lip balm and Carmex. Both have menthol and are hella tingly. I love balms that make my lips burn, and I always wake up moisturized and happy when I put these on. I do limit my use of them, though: frequent use can result in lips getting even more chapped.

  3. 3. Thicc

    Although having a super heavy duty, moisturizing balm is essential for me, I realized that I just do not have many that have the desired effect. I have heard fantastic things about the Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask, but I simply do not have $20 to drop on a tub of balm at the moment. For now, Glossier Balm Dotcom has been doing fine in this category: I particularly like the mint and coconut flavors. While the formulas are not exceptionally thick, I find that if I slather on a thick layer before starting homework or watching Netflix, they give me a protective barrier for several hours and do a pretty good job of heavily moisturizing my lips. I find that the birthday flavor does not do as good a job of this (its formula is different) and I hate the rose flavor. I know people will come for me because I said that, but I don’t care: it’s totally true. The other lip balm I like in this category is Smith’s Rosebud balm in minted rose.

I don't have any luxury lip products, so that concludes my categories of lip balm. I find that when it comes to basic moisturization, price is often not correlated to quality, and I already have such an extensive collection of cheap balms that getting expensive ones seems unnecessary. So, this was, if you will, a broke college student’s version of Into The Gloss’s 5 lip balm categories. Through categorizing my products, I have realized just how many products I actually need (answer: very few), and what is actually important to me in a lip balm. Now this is essential information every person should know.