There are two types of lip balm: the pretty, flavoursome type for a quick and pleasing slick of moisture, gloss or colour; and the no-frills tube that’s deployed in the event of chapping, flaking, cracking or even bleeding.
In winter, it’s the no-frills tube that’s invaluable, since it can restore, replenish and transform lips in a few days. The hokey cokey between central heating (should you be fortunate enough to have yours turned on) and icy winds wreaks havoc, and it’s all too easy to absentmindedly lick your lips for lubrication and make matters even worse.
Some medications (especially those for acne), vitamin deficiencies (not enough B12 from food is common) and the irresistible urge to bite off loose flakes compound the issue and so the big guns must be fetched.
I used to stock up on the brilliantly effective Aquaphor Lip Repair whenever I was in the US (you can now buy it for about a fiver on Amazon), but Eucerin Acute Lip Balm (£5.25) is pretty much identical and available in Boots. Glamorous it is not, but it works quickly and efficiently and is cheap enough to allow for the best practice of slathering on hourly to seal in any moisture and keep skin pliable, thus never allowing lips to feel naked.
If skin is cracked, you’ll need something even heavier. My ingredient of choice is the unfashionable but incomparable lanolin. Lanolips is reliably excellent (the original 101 Ointment, £7.33, is good value for medical-grade lanolin), but I’ve also grown very keen on Dr Sam Bunting’s lip balm (£12), which contains both lanolin for moisture and ceramides to repair any damage from biting, picking and cracking.
An older favourite is First Aid Beauty’s remarkable Ultra Repair Lip Therapy (£11), which contains heaps of good stuff: soothing allantoin and oatmeal, and not one but three sturdy, dependable moisturisers in glycerine, shea butter and squalane. It has an instantly noticeable effect and doesn’t slide off at the mere sight of a cuppa.
If you absolutely cannot bear the sensation of waxy, oily balms, I’d recommend Dr Esho’s deceptively thin-textured Drench hyaluronic acid lip serum (£19.99) as a perfect, if pricey, alternative. The milky moisturiser feels like a face serum but soothes, smoothes and rehydrates surprisingly fast, and can almost immediately form a non-glossy and consequently stable base for lipstick that won’t attract hair like flypaper.