Written by Grove Collaborative

Beginner's guide to natural lip balm: Our top picks & tips.

Last Updated: December 21, 2020


We breakdown what exactly makes a lip balm "natural," the benefits of switching, and our top picks for eco-friendly lip hydration.

Here at Grove Collaborative, we’re big believers in the power of natural products — both for ourselves and for the planet. But we know making the switch can be daunting, especially if you’re accustomed to conventional products and are new to the world of natural, eco-friendly alternatives. That’s why we’ve created Beginner’s Guides to Natural. Each week, we’ll give you a primer on the ins and outs of transitioning to a natural version of a common household item, plus a few of our favorite brands for making the switch. Let’s get to swapping!

Our lips have the thinnest skin on your body, and they need special care. Moreover, lips don’t have any oil glands like the rest of your body, so keeping them healthy and moisturized is up to you. But like so many other segments of the beauty and wellness industry, the array of lip balms and treatments is overwhelmingly vast, and conventional lip balms often contain synthetic, unhealthy, and often unnecessary chemicals.


Allow us to be of (lip) service: Let’s talk about what exactly goes into conventional — and, by contrast, natural — lip balms and treatments, and also see which natural lip balms our customers and staff love.




Conventional vs. natural lip balm

Thanks to our lack of oil glands in our lips — as well as their frequent exposure to the elements — dermatologists generally recommend some sort of lip balm or treatment. But at the same time, doctors warn against certain ingredients in lip balms that can actually irritate lips and make them worse. In fact, many commercial lip balms cause a tingling or cooling sensation, and that can actually be an allergic and drying reaction — so beware of a cold kisser.


The American Dermatology Association lists several common ingredients found in conventional lip balm to avoid:


  • Camphor: toxic if ingested
  • Artificial fragrance: unregulated; can irritate skin or cause allergic reactions
  • Lanolin: toxic if ingested; often connected with pesticides
  • Phenol (or phenyl): can burn or irritate skin
  • Propyl gallate: carcinogenic; can cause asthmatic or allergic reactions
  • Salicylic acid: can irritate skin and cause inflammation and peeling

In addition, heavily flavored lip balms can irritate and further dry out your lips, as can any sort of alcohol-based ingredient.


Plus, you’ve probably heard the rumor that lipstick-wearers ingest up to something like 10 pounds of lipstick per year? Well, whether that’s an urban legend or not, we just don’t like the idea of ANY harmful ingredients slipping past our lips. That’s why it’s much easier to go with a natural lip balm.

Grove Tip

Say no to eating fossil fuel.


"Rather than being derived from natural materials, many conventional lip balms are ultimately derived from fossil fuels (petroleum jelly) as well as contain chemicals and fragrances that are potentially harmful to human health over time," says Grove Collaborative Director of Sustainability, Danielle Jezienicki. "Since we are more or less ingesting what we put on our lips, this is a great place to prioritize the safest products out there!"

What is natural lip balm?

Natural lip balm is just as effective at hydrating and protecting your lips as conventional balms, but it doesn’t contain the synthetic chemicals, fragrances, and artificial flavors that actually are often designed to dry out lips and require more product (tricky little lip balm marketers).

Natural lip balm ingredients

Beeswax

Most natural lip balms use beeswax as the base, since it’s nonallergenic, anti-inflammatory, and it softens the skin. Beeswax is also known to have antimicrobial properties, making it a healing balm for cracked, chapped lips. It’s important to note that beeswax isn’t considered vegan or vegetarian.

Plant oils

Plant-derived oils and butters are not only moisturizers, but many are also emollients, which means they offer a protective layer that keeps the moisture on the lips. Plant-based oils and butters commonly found in natural lip balms include coconut oil, which moisturizes, softens, and fights bacteria; shea butter, an emollient and anti-inflammatory; and argan oil, which is an antioxidant that helps protect against sun damage.

Natural sunscreen

Many conventional lip balms contain harmful chemical sunscreen ingredients, such as Oxybenzone, Octinoxate, Octisalate, Octocrylene, Avobenzone, and Padimate O. Some of these ingredients are carcinogens, and others share blame for damaging coral reefs. Natural lip balms contain zinc oxide, a naturally occurring mineral, to provide a gentle, non-toxic barrier to the sun’s harmful rays — especially important for this delicate area of your body.

How to use natural lip balm

As is always the answer — except when it comes to coffee and ice cream — moderation is key. In fact, a good lip balm should only be needed a few times a day (more when you’re in the sun) and before bedtime, according to dermatologists.


Doctors and experts also recommend regularly exfoliating your lips to remove dead skin cells and improve lip balm adherence and benefits Just be sure to exfoliate so very gently — use a warm washcloth, or treat your kissers to a sugar-in-oil scrub (see our DIY recipe below).

Which is the best natural lip balm?

Our top 5 picks

Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Balm

Why we love it: A perennial favorite, Burt’s Bees offers the benefits of beeswax plus coconut oil, olive oil, sunflower oil, and other naturally-derived ingredients. Customers also love the subtle colors of this lip balm.

Rooted Beauty Protective Lip Balm

Why we love it: Rooted Beauty cares not only about humans, but also our oceans, so we love their values. Plus, this lip balm has 3.5% zinc oxide to protect your lips against harmful UV rays. This along with ingredients like olive oil, beeswax, and lavender make it a soothing treat for your lips.

Henne Organics Luxury Lip Balm

Why we love it: With shea butter, cocoa butter, coconut oil, vitamin E, and more, this lip balm is skin- and earth-friendly. Henne is a woman-owned business, and this lip balm features a plastic-free case and all certified organic ingredients. It’s sheer luxury on your lips.

Rooted Beauty Smoothing Lip Balm

Why we love it: This every day lip balm includes hydrating sunflower oil, argan oil, coconut oil, cocoa butter, and chia seed oil, for deep moisturizing that lasts. Formulated with peppermint and spearmint essential oils for a subtle cooling effect on lips.

Kari Gran Lip Whip Treatment Balm

Why we love it: Kari Gran is a plastic-neutral, woman-owned business with uncompromising standards. This lightweight balm is packed with sunflower, olive, and avocado oils, plus a hint of peppermint. Customers rave over how non-sticky this balm feels, and it’s available in either a clear or sheer pink tint.

Grove Beauty Tip

How to make a homemade lip scrub


Remember to exfoliate your lips, which removes dead skin cells and prepares your lips for natural balm. Here’s how to make your own three-ingredient lip scrub!

What you'll need:


  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon melted coconut oil
  • Optional: 1-3 drops food-grade essential oil such as grapefruit, sweet orange, or vanilla absolute

Instructions:

Combine ingredients and gently apply to your lips in a circular motion for a minute or two, then remove with a damp cloth. Instant kiss-worthy smackers!

Other natural products for lips

We have a couple of other recos to — ahem — put your money where your mouth is.

Rooted Beauty Restorative Lip Treatment

Why we love it: Rooted Beauty’s restorative lip treatment is a deeply intensive surge of moisture for when you need more help with very dry lips. It works like a lip mask to leave on overnight, and features tons of rich oils, agave nectar, and Rooted’s trademark R7 root extracts to thoroughly heal and treat lips.

Beauty by Earth Lip Scrub

Why we love it: Exfoliating your lips is recommended by experts, and this Beauty by Earth lip scrub doesn’t disappoint. We’re super impressed by its natural ingredients, including fair trade sugar, and customers find this lip scrub delish and effective in removing dead skin cells and softening lips.

Shop natural lip balms


Looking for more sustainable skin care swaps and other eco-friendly switches you can make at home? Grove has you covered. From timely topics such as our handwashing and hand sanitizer breakdown to evergreen primers like our simple ways to reduce your plastic use at home, our handy guides are here to answer your most pressing questions. And let us know how if you have any menstrual cup questions (or share your own tips for making the switch using #grovehome) by following Grove Collaborative on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

If you're ready to make the switch to natural lip balm or other eco- and body-friendly products, explore Grove Collaborative's clean beauty selection.

Shop Clean Beauty

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