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The Best Petroleum-Free Balms

New York has felt remarkably balmy for late winter, fittingly as we’ve got balms on the mind,  petroleum-free balms to be exact.  Petroleum is a bit of a divisive topic within the beauty community.  Most dermatologists stand behind its safety, even the ever-vigilant Environmental Working Group gives the substance the highest of ratings.  Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi, Founder and Director of Capital Laser and Skin Care and Assistant Clinical Professor, Department of Dermatology at the George Washington University Medical Center maintains, “Petroleum-based products have been used for decades and are good, safe products.”

There are a few reasons some folks choose to avoid the stuff.  Petroleum is a by-product of oil refining which isn’t a renewable resource, it literally was discovered chilling at the bottom of oil rigs back in the 19th century.  Not a huge deal as most petroleum used in beauty products is triple refined to remove impurities like  poly-aromatic hydrocarbons which have been linked to cancer. However, unlike in Europe, there is no governing body to standardize refining methods so you aren’t guaranteed a completely safe product. Not cool.

There is also the issue of long-term efficacy.  Petroleum feels amazing on skin and creates an occlusive barrier that keeps moisture in, but it does nothing to improve or nourish skin.  We totally get its appeal particularly when it comes to parched lips.  Petroleum jelly’s instantly soothing impact is difficult to replicate.   I also know some hard-core Chalait-frequenting, face oil guzzling ladies who suffer from eczema or psoriasis that alternate between petroleum-based products and organic oils because sometimes they just need the air tight seal of the goop.

Joanna Vargas, acclaimed facialist to discerning celebs like Sofia Coppola and Julianne Moore notes, “I’m a big fan of using coconut or avocado oil.  It’s fabulous for soothing and hydrating.”  Joanna recommends a five minute mask to rejuvenate winter-weary lips.  Just mix a tablespoon of honey and a teaspoon of coconut oil and massage on and around lips. 

For stash-in-your-bag options, we spent the last few months of winter testing out a huge crop of lip products comprised only of wholesome fruit and vegetable oils, butters, herbs and florals that more than hold up to conventional formulas.  Here are our top eight.

The Classic: Weleda Lip Balm:  Just try this.  It’s the best.  The beeswax is firm yet easily gives, imparting just the right amount of coverage. Also, anything from Weleda is top-notch.

Best All-Around: Olio e Osso: Started by a Portland mom to soothe her son’s ultra sensitive skin, this four-ingredient formula (olive, shea,and grapefruit seed oil as well as beeswax) goes on like a dream and lasts.  We love the deodorant-style packaging offering a wide oblong surface area to cover the lips easily and quickly.  Great logo, too and let’s face it, packaging matters.

For Chapstick Lovers: Steward and Claire La Nuit:  This is for all you Chapstick lovers infused with jojoba, safflower and castor oil in a shea butter and beeswax base. Jasmine absolute lends a bit of elegance.

For Miss Fancy Pants: Vapour Organic Beauty Lux Lip Conditioner: The black tube looks like an oversized Chanel lipstick. A beeswax base infused with jojoba, antioxidant helichrysum flower, anti-inflammatory lemon balm, and restorative calendula flower proves its more than just a pretty face.

For Miss Fancy Pants 2.0: Rodin Ollio Lusso Lip Balm:  The blush-colored balm combines jasmine, orange flower and castor seed oil, shea butter and beeswax. The texture is the most waxy of this bunch making it a great base for a matte lip. We love the scent, but some sensitive types may want to go with an unfragranced option.  The Lucite packaging looks great, which is what we have come to expect from perpetually stylish Miss Rodin.

For C.O. Bigelow Menthe Lip Shine Addicts:  Kari Gran Lip Whip in Peppermint: The texture is very similar to petroleum jelly and the peppermint essential oil is lovely. Formula includes castor, camelia seed, avocado and olive oil . The black pots are also tres chic.

For Control Freaks: Tata Harper Sheer Lip Treatment: This feels just a touch lighter than some of the others but still incredibly moisturizing and its very slim tube will appeal to those who value precise application.  The ingredient list is impressively packed with the usual oils like olive and shea but also powered by fruit and flower extracts like elderbery, meadowfoam and lavender. 

For the Coconut Connoisseur: RMS Lip and Skin Balm: Coconut oil is the first ingredient of this formula followed by the ever-popular beeswax and shea butter, it’s the delicious cocoa seed butter that makes this one a lip smacker.


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