Lip Balm vs Lip Gloss: Which is Better?

As the dry weather of winter approaches, we’re quickly reminded of the resulting staticky hair, flaky skin and cracked lips. We know to lather on lotion and go easy on the number of times we shampoo our locks. But what should we use when it comes to our kisser? Lip balm seems to offer enough moisture, but it can feel like we’re reapplying every few minutes in order for it to last. Lip gloss gives that nice shine and a pop of color, but does it have any other properties? Here’s what you should really keep in your back pocket when the chilly season begins.

Lip balm

Lip balm has come a long way since the days we all carried around a pack of neon-colored, sparkle-infused Lipsmackers. And that’s a good thing, because our lips need all of the moisture they can get in the chilly, dry winter months. Our pouts produce a natural oil that keeps them moist, but during the winter, we often lick off this layer of oil or it gets wicked away by cold, windy weather.

Here’s the somewhat tricky part: Don’t lick your lips! Our saliva just increases the irritation and continues to keep them chapped. To prevent a cracked or flaky kisser, look for a balm that contains ingredients like shea butter, glycerin and natural oils. Some salves may even contain anti-aging components and antioxidants.

Whatever lip balm you find for this season, make sure it also contains SPF. While we cover the rest of our body under jackets and scarves, our lips are constantly exposed to the environment and vulnerable to losing pigmentation and even developing skin cancer. The skin on our lips don’t produce as much melanin—the component that protects against UV rays—as the skin on the rest of our body, so look for a balm with SPF 30 or higher to slather on all winter long.

Lip gloss

While this sheer stuff makes your pucker appear fuller, it doesn’t exactly provide the moisture you need this season. If you’re finding yourself coating on layers and layers of gloss and your lips still feel flaky, it could mean your entire body is craving a little more hydration. Keep your skin looking supple by drinking water throughout the day and incorporating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like fish, into your diet. Soon enough, the same smooth feeling of your skin will translate to your lips.

Stay attuned to how long your lip gloss sits around in your makeup kit or purse, too. Gloss can expire and dry out, which in turn can dry out your lips. Plus, like other makeup, old tubes of gloss can grow bacteria. Now that’s something that shouldn’t go anywhere near your (or anyone’s else’s) mouth.

If you really don’t want to skimp on that voluptuous look but your chapped lips need some love, apply balm before topping with gloss. You’ll gain some hydration, and the color from the gloss will actually adhere better to the balm’s waxy texture.

Lip balm vs lip gloss

Our lips are exposed to the sun’s harmful UV rays year-round, so apply a lip balm with SPF 30 or higher no matter what season it is. In addition to sun protection, balm also wards off the chapped flaky skin that comes with dryer weather. While gloss likely won’t provide that moisture your lips need, you don’t have to skip that section of the beauty aisle completely. You can still get that shiny puckered look by dabbing on some balm before the gloss. Dry lips have nothing on you and your lip routine. Time to say hello to hydration!

Emily is a recent graduate and proud Midwesterner who just moved to the big city to start her career in magazine journalism. When she isn't commuting between Brooklyn and Manhattan, she enjoys browsing bookstores for her next read, sipping chai tea lattes at local coffee shops, and playing tourist in the city she always dreamed of living in.