Each time I fall in love with a skin care product, I become convinced that it’s the one. “This is so good, I’ll never use anything else,” I tell myself assuredly as I wipe off a no-rinse cleanser or massage a lightweight oil into the dry area around my chin. But no matter how good the product is, no matter how much I really do love it, I always end up straying. Always.
I’m obsessed with what’s new and interesting, and what promises to do things that no product has ever done before, so I’m always jumping from one new thing to the next. Every once in a while I’ll recall a product I once loved and pull it out from the archives and back into rotation. I tried a new multipurpose balm recently, and it made me remember the 2,345,284 other balms I had tucked away in the industrial-sized plastic bins in my closet. It’s true: I am, and always have been, very fond of balms.
Balms frequently come in tins or tubes, and have a thick, slightly viscous texture that differentiate them from other moisturizing formulas—when packaged in tubes, they might be kind of hard to squeeze out. And they’re not just for your lips: The balms I gravitate to generally have more than one use, so you can use them on dry skin, cuticles, lips, and basically anywhere else you need a little bit of moisture and protection. Hell, I even like to dab balms on my cheekbones as highlighter. There’s my secret.
Unlike many of the frivolous beauty products I collect and enjoy, I am pleased to say that balms are genuinely useful, for all things, at all times. Chapped lips? Balm. Cracked elbows? Balm. Flaky face? Balm. Dull skin? Balm. And so, here are 25 balms I’m so glad I rediscovered in the depths of my product hoarding situation.
The basics just got a lot better, thanks to this multitasking ointment that does just about everything. In fact, I can't think of a single thing it doesn't do, except maybe drive. It's non-irritating, hypoallergenic, and safe for even the most sensitive skin—and babies!!—and leaves out sulfates, parabens, and synthetic color and fragrance, so you really can't go wrong.
Lano 101 Ointment Multipurpose Superbalm, $19; at Net-a-Porter
This balm is simple, highly effective, and a saving grace for all skin types and struggles. That's where it gets its name: Much like an anchor to a ship, it'll help you keep your shit together come hell or high water. Almond oil, shea butter, beeswax, Vitamin E, and lavender oil combine for a softly fragranced, deeply moisturizing formula that just feels luxurious.
Captain Blankenship Anchor Balm, $20; at Captain Blankenship
The cool-girl product that's currently starring in your Instagram feed is basically a hydrating do-everything salve packed with antioxidants and natural emollients. So good you'll want one for your bag and another for your bedside. (See also: the four flavored iterations, two of which come tinted for lush lip color.)
Glossier Balm Dotcom, $12; at Glossier
This one literally feels like whipped butter, so much so that I almost feel weird about putting it on my skin. It's so, so moisturizing—maybe the most moisturizing?—and instantly makes even the driest skin feel more comfortable, just like the "ultimate hydration blanket" the brand describes it as. Surprisingly accurate!
Kiehl's Ultra Facial Deep Moisture Balm, $56; at Kiehl's
I keep a huge tin of this at my desk for all of my dry skin needs, as well as that feeling you get when you really, really need to do something with your hands (massage a balm into your cuticles, natch). The fragrance is very light, but the rose hip and evening primrose oils give it a calming earthiness. Again, good for keeping at your desk.
Trilogy Everything Balm, $22; at Trilogy
This classic formula is beloved by everyone from Rosie Huntington-Whiteley to, uh, me. It’s super hydrating, which makes it great for lips, and the antibacterial papaw fruit it's named after also makes it really good for relieving eczema and healing zits you've picked at. This is the one that will give you the glowiest skin.
Lucas' Papaw Ointment, $12; at Beautylish
Lips, nipples, cuticles, split ends, sunburns—I don't discriminate when it comes to where I use this classic balm, which was originally created to address sore nipples from breastfeeding. The all-natural formula is thick and really holds to skin for long-lasting effects, and it makes a great highlighter and even works to keep brows in place.
Dr. Lipp Original Nipple Balm for Lips, $16.50; at Birchbox
If money were no object, I would slather my entire body in this thick, majorly moisturizing water-free balm. Because it's so concentrated, it melts from a solid balm into a silky fluid as soon as it hits the skin, creating a soothing, hydrating, acne-fighting, anti-inflammatory veil of protection and comfort that fades away signs of aging and what is referred to as "life stressors." Sign. Me. Up.
Mahalo Mahalo Balm, $90; at Integrity Botanicals
A universal balm that's so effective—and so gentle—you can even use it around your eyes to smooth away crow's feet, not to mention your own feet when they're in a need of a little TLC. Certified organic oils of jojoba, olive, argan, and borage soothe, calm, and leave skin feeling protected, and geranium and bergamot orange give the balm a light, subtle fragrance that just smells good.
Acure Quick Fix Correcting Balm, $15.99; at Acure Organics
When they say that this one is especially fit for extra dry skin, they're not kidding: In the second it takes the formula to transform from a balm to an oil, it melts in and creates a kind of shield that seals in hydration from plant oils, ceramides, and protective waxes. It's not just for parched complexions, either—it caters to all things chapped and chafed, plus cuticles, elbows, nails, and hair in need of hydration.
Dr. Jart+ Ceramidin Oil Balm, $35; at Sephora
This healing, moisturizing, protecting balm is not to be missed, and not just because it comes in a push-up stick so portable you'll never have to worry about getting caught with chapped lips again. Whether you use it to hydrate dry hands and cuticles or dab it on to highlight your cheekbones, this all-star formula will get the job done—and the naturally aromatherapeutic fragrance is the icing on the cake.
Earth Tu Face Skin Stick, $34; at Earth Tu Face
One of the O.G. multipurpose balms, and also one I have repurchased this one on countless occasions, and not because I ran out: The tin is so tiny and unobtrusive that it is maybe the easiest thing ever to lose. I like it, though—it smells faintly yet gloriously of a citrus fruit, and it's great for lips, cuticles, elbows, what have you—so I keep buying it, and losing it, and buying it again.
Jurlique Rose Love Balm, $10; at Jurlique
This multipurpose balm is so soothing and gentle, and it really cuts down on both dry, flaky skin and irritation. I actually use it as a primer sometimes—the non-oily matte finish and soft texture it leaves behind makes it a solid (off-label) choice for wearing under makeup. You can use it on lips, too, and if you have a baby, you can even use it on that baby.
La Roche-Posay Cicaplast Baume B5, $14.99; at Target
Made with just five ingredients, this reparative healing balm will soothe all your worries, at least as far as your skin is concerned. Its star component is myrrh, an essential oil that's been used as a panacea for all things skin since the beginning of time, which works with sesame oil, shea butter, candelilla wax, chamomile, and vetiver to create the beauty product equivalent of a hug from your mom.
Meow Meow Tweet Repair Balm, $18; at Meow Meow Tweet
Jessica Alba set out to make a pleasant, nicely moisturizing balm you can use for just about everything, and she succeeded. It works to relieve any and all dryness and irritation, and the waxy, not slick, texture makes it ideal for dabbing on cheekbones or even eyelids for subtle, natural dewiness.
Honest Beauty Magic Balm, $18; at Honest Beauty
Hydrating, plumping, long-wearing, smoothing and soothing and sculpting and more, this whipped balm puts your standard-issue primer to shame… and your finishing powder, too. Use it as a lightweight moisturizing base under makeup for unrivaled radiance, or dab it on top to set and reduce shine. What's more, it contains pure argan oil, shea butter, and Vitamin B3 for anti-aging, making it maybe the most useful product of all time.
Josie Maran Surreal Skin Argan Finishing Balm, $36; at Sephora
This classic salve is great for any and all irritations, and the waxy texture leaves skin feeling coated in a way that's protective, not pore-clogging. It’s very good for extremely dry areas, like if you get chapped skin around your nose in the winter—and don’t we all. I slather it on my knees and elbows, too.
Le Couvent des Minimes Ultra Nourishing Salve, $23; at Le Couvent des Minimes
Any product can call itself a "wonder balm," but the true testament to this one's greatness is just how universally beloved it is. Everyone likes it! Rubbed all over dry skin and wiped away with a warm damp cloth, it's crazy good as a nourishing cleanser; a teeny tiny dab is sufficient to coat your whole face in dewy, comforting moisture. Basically, it addresses every winter skin pain point in one travel-friendly jar.
One Love Organics Skin Savior Multitasking Wonder Balm, $49; at One Love Organics
Impossible to find in U.S. stores (like, really, they don’t sell it), ordering it from France is the next best thing to actually going to France. This "homeopathic ointment" has an above-and-beyond cult following for a reason: It's an antiseptic and a soothing emollient that heals and protects every inch of skin it touches. There's really nothing on the American market quite like it.
Homeoplasmine, $22; at Avibon
High and dry and desperate for a quick fix? (Same.) This rich balm is a must-have for anyone who needs a total skin overhaul, like, yesterday. Packed with all your favorite oils and extracts, and even a fermented anti-aging essence complex, it works just as well as a key step in your skin care routine as it does as a head-to-toe multitasker.
The Beauty Chef Beauty Fix Balm, $30; at Shen Beauty
This balm is made with everything you need to hydrate, protect, and hide (and fend off) signs of aging. The hyaluronic acid-rich formula instantly plumps and moisturizes the skin, so it’ll instantly make you look like you’ve got your shit together even without makeup. Calendula and shea butter make it super soothing, too.
Rodial Glam Balm Multi, $44; at Nordstrom
Because one's life would not be complete without an expensive yet effective "body balm," this incredibly rich shea butter-based formula makes skin crazy soft and smells like a farm in Vermont, which is exactly where it comes from. It's also intended to reduce appearance of scar tissue and prevent future stretch marks from occurring, which I'm excited about should I ever choose to get pregnant while also continuing to spend $115 on body balms from farms in Vermont.
Tata Harper Redefining Body Balm, $115; at Tata Harper
Gentle, fragrance-free, and deeply hydrating, this cooling balm is packed with good stuff, like calming colloidal oatmeal, fatty acid-rich oils, and water straight outta an Icelandic glacier. It has a lightweight feel without any stickiness or oily residue, which makes it ideal for layering with other skin care products. Particularly nice worn under an oil!
Skyn Iceland Arctic Hydrating Balm, $35; at Skyn Iceland
It may notoriously smell like a hospital, but this easily absorbed, ridiculously hydrating formula is among the very best for leaving dry skin, lips, and hands feeling normal again. It has camphor to thank for its minty, medicinal fragrance—which is actually a good thing, given how soothing the essential oil is—and is packed with vitamins to help heal damaged skin.
Yu-Be Moisturizing Skin Cream, $16; at BeautyBar
This stuff is seriously dense—do not underestimate its hydrating powers just because the jar is tiny. A little goes a very, very long way, so even just a pea-sized dab will cover your entire face once blended. The geranium and rosemary oils are super soothing for angry skin, and you can even use it on lips.
Bobbi Brown Extra Soothing Balm, $62; at Bobbi Brown Cosmetics