The other day my friend was staying over, and, as per nightly routine, I smeared on some lip butter just before lights-off. This was met by confusion; she wanted to know what I was doing.
“Getting some lip balm on,” I replied very matter-of-factly, confused by her confusion.
She raised an eyebrow. “What? Why?”
Lip salves primarily work to create a layer of protection that retains moisture, fighting against the likes of dry air, cold climates and wind – all of which tend to draw moisture away from the lips. They’re typically tintless, but not necessarily so. Great for unforgiving winters. Meanwhile, I live in a tropical country, where walking for ten minutes feels like a total chore (to me, at least) because heat and humidity weigh down on the skin like unnecessary baggage.
I can sort of see why it is, then, lip balms may not be as big a thing here as they are in places such as Canada and the UK. But if, like me, you love the feeling of your lips being super soft and hydrated, or if the skin there just peels a lot, you can reduce the need to exfoliate so frequently by slapping (or swiping) on some product onto your otherwise naked lips.
I used to have a really bad habit of obsessively picking at the peeling skin and sometimes my lips would even bleed a little, and end up being generally uneven in terms of the surface texture (because some parts would have more layers peeled off than others), but putting on the right lip salve helped almost miraculously. I do this when I’m not wearing gloss or lipstick out, but applying it just before I go to bed and leaving it on overnight has always done the most magic for me. I seriously recommend the latter especially if you sleep with air conditioning and have dry, chapped lips, because you’ll wake up with visibly smoother, moisturised results.
To help your underrated lip balm endeavour, without further ado, here’s an ever-expanding list of non-tinted lip salves I’ve personally tried for at least a good few weeks.
Baby Lips Lip Balm in Mango Pie, Maybelline, no longer available
O N E : I first tried Maybelline’s Baby Lips Lip Balm in Mango Pie, then promptly moved on to the Watermelon Smooth iteration of it because these not only smelt great and felt great, but left my lips looking great as well. When that tube was as good as gone, I remember going frantically to at least four different drugstores, but to no avail.
[-] The lip balms in this range generally claimed health perks, such as SPF 20 protection and eight- to twelve-hour hydration durability, depending on the flavour, but to be honest, as good as these were, I’d wake up with the moisture wearing off three-quarters through the promised longevity duration (i.e. an application would last maybe six hours instead of eight).
[+] Nonetheless, Maybelline has apparently stopped producing these babies, which really sucks because they were ultimately so effective in keeping my lips soft and smooth, were incredibly affordable (around S$5, tops), and seriously smelt amazing (I have to reiterate this because it’s true).
It looks like the closest alternative Maybelline now produces is the Baby Lips Dr. Rescue Medicated Lip Balm – for a suggested retail price of US$4.49 because nice numbers are so mainstream. I’ll give this a try one day if I can and review it properly. [Rating: 4/5]
T W O : Moving on from Maybelline’s Baby Lips Lip Balm to The Body Shop’s Shea Lip Butter was not a good switch. Don’t get me wrong; I love The Body Shop for quite a few of its products, such as its eaux de toilette and day creams, and I really respect its commitment to being an ethical and sustainable global brand, but its Shea Lip Butter just didn’t work for me.
[-] To begin with, I prefer my lip salves in tubes. Having to dip my finger into its buttery texture and swiping it onto my lips make for a two-step process I find potentially unhygienic and troublesome, and generally unfavourable. But this, I could acknowledge, is very much just a preference of mine, so it’s mild at best, as a product flaw.
[-] But! The real problem I had with this? Even after layering it on right before going to bed, I’d wake up the next morning with still-peeled, uneven lips. In other words, as luscious and luxurious as the product seemed in theory, it wasn’t helping curb the dryness of my lips.
[-] It also isn’t a lip salve I felt comfortable wearing out, because it tends to leave the lips with a faint, pale, buttery, off-white / cream look, instead of being transparent and subtly glossy like most lip balms I’ve used throughout the past decade or so do (I’ve had dry lips since I was a child, so trust me when I say I’ve tried lots), so it really does risk just making my lips look unattractively coated and highlights the peeling bits, thus emphasising the roughness of my lips.
[+] That being said, The Body Shop’s Fair Trade Shea Lip Butter comprises, but of course, Shea butter sourced from Ghana. This star ingredient is created in a complex, meticulous 18-stage process that utilises traditional Ghanaian methods, and is made by the community’s women, thus providing a steady stream of income for them. Shea butter moisturises and softens the lips, just like the other key ingredient – organic beeswax – aims to do. Organic beeswax also seals in moisture by serving as a barrier. It maintains the texture of the lip butter so the product always feels great. The third main ingredient is Vitamin E, which is an antioxidant that not only softens, but conditions and protects the lips as well. It’s certainly a well-thought-out product from a reputable brand, and, okay, I may be committing a few fallacies or logical errors or making false assumptions here, based on some skewed version of an inductive reasoning attempt, or whatever, but hey; given The Body Shop’s long-standing rep, plus the Shea Lip Butter’s four-star rating here, this product might just be worth a shot anyway, because while it didn’t work for me, maybe it will for you.
I used this for over a month, solely because I kept convincing myself that maybe I just needed to give it more time to work its magic, but for me, personally, it was ultimately a disappointment, and I only realised the extent of its ineffectiveness when I swapped it out for – well, read on; it’s up next. [Rating: 2/5]
T H R E E : My heart actually soared when I saw Lip Smacker’s Coca-Cola Lip Balm at a sale at Toa Payoh Hub. They reminded me of fragments of my childhood, and more significantly, the lost narrative of an era I would never get to live: the ’90s (and ’80s too, I suppose). I’m not fetishising the past, but I certainly would love to see the resurgence of certain music genres, fashion fads, beauty trends, film styles and TV shows (my heart is vacuous now, thanks to the absence of Freaks and Geeks, Season 2).
Getting back on track: Can we please bring Lip Smackers back?!
Here’s a bite into history for those who aren’t familiar with Lip Smackers and their legacy. In 1973, American cosmetics company Bonne Bell Co. launched the world’s first flavoured lip pomade. In 1975, the famed Dr. Pepper iteration was released, and eventually, with a whole ton of other delicious tastes hitting the markets, Lip Smackers became the craze for the decades to come.
I remember seeing Lip Smacker ads on yellowed pages of my mom’s Archie Comics. (See this and this.) My dad bought me some when I was a kid, and I remember this so distinctly because the lip balm smelt so much like Coca-Cola it’d drive me wild, hyberbole intended. You can imagine my excitement when I copped one again a few weeks ago, for about S$7, if I recall correctly.
[-] I didn’t really expect much of it, to be honest, because of how hush-hush the company’s become. They’re also not very easy to find in Singapore and are just slightly above market price. But my primary gripe is how underrated Lip Smackers have become! Because other than that, I’m in utter love with my purchase!
[+] I wear Lip Smacker’s Coca-Cola Lip Balm every night before I go to bed, and sometimes even out, when I’m not feeling a full-coloured lip. The balm makes for a great bare-faced, low-maintenance, au naturel look, and has seriously been keeping my lips the softest and smoothest they’ve been ever since my Shea Lip Butter fiasco. I wake up and find that the product’s still very much slathered on in a comfortable layer, meaning it really retains moisture and is uber-durable. It’s my favourite lip product thusfar, and that says a lot.
I’m honestly all-for the revival of Lip Smackers into the mainstream because I fully believe the brand stands for fun, enjoyable, effective wearability. They have so many flavours to choose from and are constantly experimenting with more. Since they’re pretty difficult to find in-store here, in Singapore, I recommend checking out Lazada’s stock here, Shopee suppliers here or Carousell listings here. Do this at your own risk, though, lest you buy a fake. You can also visit the official Lip Smacker website to see the full range of products and flavours, if you are keen on getting them shipped here via a third-party shipping agent (it doesn’t seem like Lip Smacker ships to anywhere but within the US and Canada) or are just curious. [Rating: 4.9/5, because I love the product but hate its lack of convenient availability]