Tried and tested: lip balm

Tried and tested: eco-friendly lip balm
High on petrochemicals and low on efficacy, it’s time to swap your Vaseline for something a little greener. Ruth Styles puts the planet-pleasing alternatives to the test

It’s a beauty essential and most of us own at least one, but how green is your lip balm? Chances are, it’s not eco-friendly at all. Although natural brand, Burt's Bees, is currently home to the world’s biggest selling lip balm, it’s propped up by brands such as Carmex, Blistex and Chapstick, all of which rely on ingredients such as petroleum jelly. But of all the brands on the market, Vaseline, has to be one of the most frightening. Made from 100 per cent pure petroleum jelly, one pot is sold every 39 seconds worldwide. Its single ingredient is a by-product of the oil industry and like crude oil, contains crystalline and liquid hydrocarbons. What’s more, the efficacy of Vaseline has been challenged by dermatologists who say that rather than moisturising lips, it merely works as a sealant and has no real hydrating benefits at all. ‘Petroleum jelly was once the industry standard for lip balms and, apart from it being a petrochemical, it also in effect seals in moisture to the lips,’ comments Balm Balm founder, Glenda Taylor. ‘People mistakenly felt that this sealing in process was protection but in reality, it stops the delicate skin of the lips from breathing while sealing in any bacteria that may be on the lips to begin with.’

While the petrochemical content of Vaseline is well known, other brands aren’t quite so forthcoming. Carmex, the third-biggest seller on the list, contains, among other things, Salicylic Acid – a drying ingredient used in acne products – and the anaesthetic, Phenol. According to the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep cosmetic database, Phenol is a neurotoxin and a waterborne pollutant. Salicylic Acid meanwhile, is a bioaccumulative hazard for wildlife. Then, there’s Blistex, next on the list and equally high in chemicals. An Ecologist Behind the Label investigation into Blistex found that it contained no fewer than six chemicals with no safety data whatsoever. Oleochemicals, although often described as ‘naturally derived’ are chemically treated and come direct from the biofuels industry. Natural they might be but green they are not. What’s more, the hydrogenation process turns what was once a healthy natural oil into a toxin. ‘Of all cosmetics and toiletries, lip balms are the ones that are applied most regularly and are most ingested so the greener, more organic and eco-friendly they can be the better,’ adds Taylor. ‘Ironically lip balms are also the most likely to contain artificial, flavours and petrochemicals and the worst ones of all are usually the ones aimed at children.’  So which ones should you be using? We put five of the greenest to the test.

Lanolips Lip Ointment with Colour SPF15, £8.16
Based on medical grade lanolin, a naturally occurring wax derived from wool, Lanolips’ ointment offers serious protection and leaves lips hydrated and soft. Despite the fact its main ingredient is animal-derived, Lanolips is suitable for vegetarians (if not vegans) and uses lanolin sourced from fleeces rather than skins. Coconut oil, shea butter and beeswax add to its smoothing and softening properties, while the hint of colour helps to liven up your look. Better still, it lasts for ages and delivers a non-sticky sheen. If you’ve been looking for a natural alternative to Clinique’s top-selling Superbalm, this is it.
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Balm Balm Rose Geranium Lip Balm, £3.50
With the oiliest texture of all the lip balms we tried, Balm Balm’s Rose Geranium effort gives lips a beautiful, natural sheen and smells glorious to boot. Shea butter, sunflower and jojoba oils moisturise the lips, while the beeswax seals it all in. Helpfully, it doubles as cuticle cream and is excellent for tackling tough, dry skin on elbows and heels. ‘Balm Balm is made only from vegetable oils and waxes which penetrate the skin easily, allowing it to breathe while conditioning, nourishing and moisturising them,’ adds Taylor. ‘All the ingredients in our lip balms are perfectly safe if ingested so won't interfere with eating, drinking or kissing!’
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Pai Bergamot Orange Organic Lip Balm, £7
Made from a hydrating blend of beeswax and sweet almond oil, Pai’s lip balm is an intensive moisturiser that banishes chapping and dryness. A mood booster is also included in the shape of Sicilian bergamot essential oil – the aromatic ingredient in Earl Grey tea. 100 per cent organic, it’s Soil Association certified and suitable for vegetarians and vegans. And despite the small pot, it also lasts for ages.
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Shell Lip Balm in White Frangipani, £12.99
Winner of the prettiest packaging prize by a country mile, all of Shell Lip Balm’s products come packaged inside a recycled (read picked up from the beach) seashell. The shells are polished up and cleaned before becoming the receptacle for an organic lip balm made from coconut, rosehip and macadamia oil plus enriching lanolin and sealant beeswax. All varieties hydrate and nourish lips but the wonderful White Frangipani smells the best.
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Burt’s Bees Beeswax Lip Balm, £3.69
The world’s biggest selling natural lip balm is popular for a reason. Not only does the beeswax blend cost peanuts and last for ages, it also does what it says on the tin: hydrate, protect and nourish lips. Coconut and sunflower oils deliver an extra shot of vitamins and fatty acids, while peppermint essential oil gives the balm an uplifting tingle. If you can’t kick the Carmex addiction, try this: you’ll jump ship in no time.
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