Isotretinoin, also commonly known as Accutane, is not for the faint of heart. One of the most aggressive acne treatments available, although highly effective, taking this prescription comes with a host of side effects. That was the case for me, after undergoing two rounds of the medication to treat my persistent cystic acne. After months on isotretinoin, virtually every pore of your body shrinks to dried up pockets of flaky, moisture-deprived skin. As someone who has battled with excessively oily skin since childhood, I enjoyed the temporary reprieve from pools of oil collecting on my face, however, my lips did not.
By its nature, isotretinoin (also a powerful retinoid) creates a dry environment all over the body by shrinking sebaceous glands and reducing sebum production. As a result one of the most notorious side effects is extremely dry, cracked lips. Since I also had the pleasure of taking the medication during the winter months (I say this in the most sarcastic way possible), these issues manifested two-fold in my case.
In conjunction with the dry, cold weather, my lips were on an uphill battle towards proper hydration. It only took a few weeks after taking isotretinoin to realize that lip balms were going to be a huge necessity. It wasn't before long that I amassed an arsenal of them–hiding in every nook and cranny of my office, apartment, and handbags. Needless to say, I became an experienced purveyor of lip balms, and finally, here I'm writing them all down. Ahead, see the best of the best balms that completely transformed my cracked, parched lips.
First up, Weleda's Skin Food Lip Butter. The company's cream version is a cold-weather skin essential, so of course, during my lip balm hunt, this was the first one I bought. It's incredibly moisturizing, and I love its budget-friendly price point. Best of all, it's made from all-natural ingredients.
There's an almost cult-like status surrounding this lip balm, which prompted me to see for myself what the hype was all about. After many months of aggressively swiping this over my lips, I can assure you that the praise is warranted. It's a no-fuss lip balm in that it won't give you a shiny finish or deposit any color, but sometimes all you want is a balm that simply does its job and nourishes your flaky lips.
My holy-grail, I like to use this as a smoothing base layer for liquid lip colors or lipsticks. Wearing matte anything is like a death wish for isotretinoin affected lips due to the dryness, but I found that it wasn't entirely impossible after a coat of this to prime my lips. It's not greasy in that it shows through the matte finish. You can also grab a pack of three for under $10–for me, that's a win.
Welcome to bougie-ness in a jar. I'm sure you're wondering if $76 for a lip treatment is really worth it, but if you're not shy about dropping stacks on your skincare, Sisley's lip balm certainly is worth the investment. As the name implies, it's ideal for emergencies; when your lips become so cracked that you start tasting the blood. It's an icky situation, but when I've been there, this has been my savior.
Truly an oldie, but a goodie. I don't exactly remember how I ended up with this–maybe I pawned it from my mother–but it has been my little sidekick when I need intense immediate relief. Just a heads up: it won't leave your lips moist for long stretches of time on its own, but for the price, I don't mind keeping it in stock as a backup.
If you want to splurge a bit, I highly suggest Dior's Lip Glow. I had my reservations– I thought a lip balm this exquisite looking couldn't possibly deliver on hydration– but to my shock, this balm has joined my top five picks. It gains bonus points for not being greasy or waxy, and I love how it glides on like butter. It's my favorite when I'm looking for some color without piling on a plethora of products.
Marketed as "The World's Best Lip Balm", Lanolips makes a bold claim as a "superbalm". Made from lanolin–a natural oil derived from sheep sebaceous glands–you can technically use this as a multi-purpose balm for your entire body. Is it the best lip balm I've ever tried? No, but it certainly came in handy when I forgot my hand lotion in the car or needed to quickly treat my dry hands. However, after continued use, I did feel a noticeable difference in the softness of my lips.
Grown Alchemist anything smells wonderfully calming and intoxicating, and it's no different when it comes to this balm. Each time I applied it felt like a personal at-home spa experience. My boyfriend has high-jacked this balm for himself, which you could very well consider an endorsement. I also appreciate that it's stored in a jar for easy access.
Like First Aid's Lip Repair, this too had a lot of hype surrounding it. I was already a fan of Fresh's line of Sugar balms before my isotretinoin treatment, but found them a bit lacking when it came down to relieving my parched, newly affected lips. I found the Advanced Therapy version to be much more hydrating than its predecessors. The only caveat? It tends to soften up really quickly, so after long-term use, the stick breaks apart.
Consider this a fancier version of Aquaphor. It's similar in consistency to petroleum jelly, so just be prepared for a goopy texture upon application. When my lips were especially cracked, I often turned to ointments like this to help to seal in moisture.
Also on the bougie end of the spectrum, By Terry's rose lip balm is another cult-favorite that caught my attention. Formulated with Vitamin E and Hyaluronic Acid, it's an ideal hydrating follow-up to an exfoliating lip scrub. I could instantly feel the lasting softening effect on my lips and fervently kept this on my nightstand.
When I'm out of First Aid Beauty's Lip Therapy, I often turn to this. Packed with coconut oil, cocoa butter, shea butter, and almond oil, I consider this a solid every-day type of balm. After application you'll feel immediate moisture, but for severely dry lips be aware that you will likely have to reapply several times a day.
Here's a product that doesn't need much introduction: if you've ever researched lip treatments, guaranteed you already know about Laniege's highly coveted lip sleeping mask. It became somewhat of a joke that my former coworkers would have this mask on each of their desks at the office. This transformed my lips at its most chapped and cracked moments, especially after I began applying it nightly as the last step of my skincare routine.
If you enjoy the smell of tea, you'll appreciate this scent. I could sniff this all day, it's that good, but most of all I really loved the subtle hint of color that seemed to liven up my lips. This is one you will have to consistently reapply throughout the day, but with a smell like this, I really don't mind.
The newest addition to my lip balm lineup, Tatcha's take on lip masks, has really impressed me thus far. Despite finishing my acne medication, I still experience flare-ups of cracked lips, and with consistent use, this has helped tremendously. Another plus is its glossy plumping effect. As a lip-gloss lover, I'm sold.
Similar to Lanolips, Glossier's Balm Dotcom uses lanolin in addition to castor oil and beeswax to deliver a trifecta of hydrating ingredients. I like to keep this one in my bag for those "just in case" moments.
Each day I continually curse the beauty gods for discontinuing Glamglow's Poutmud. First off, it's super shiny, so if you're not into that you might want to give this one a pass, however, after swiping this on I guaranteed your lips will look deceptively plumper. It won't cure cracked lips on its own, but I highly recommend it as a colorful supplemental treatment to a more hydrating balm. Despite this, it's one of my favorites on this list.