I basically called my mom for help. Except when I say mom, I mean an esthetician.
I've always been proud of my full lips. However, a month ago, they started seeming a bit fuller than usual. And also itchy. I doubled down on the lip balm, hoping it would soothe my increasingly flaky lips. Finally, they got so irritated that I switched to Aquaphor, a cult favorite due to its simple yet healing formula.
And that's when I woke up looking like this:
After sending a few pics to my derm, he confirmed that I was having an allergic reaction, and helped me narrow down lanolin as the potential culprit. I checked the labels of all my favorite lip balms, and it turned out that all of them, from Burt's Bees to Aquaphor to my beloved Bite Beauty Agave Lip Mask, had lanolin on the list.
Lanolin is a wax that comes from sheep's wool and functions on the skin very similarly to human sebum, which makes it one of the best lip moisturizers out there — if you can tolerate it. Unfortunately for me, it's not that uncommon to be allergic to those cute little sheepies, and allergies can develop at any time, so my entire lip balm stash had to be landfilled.
If you have a similar allergy (or you're a vegan), you're in luck. I've been on the hunt for the best lanolin-free lip balms, and here are three of my faves.
Vaseline Lip Therapy
When I was still having an allergic reaction, my dermatologist instructed me to stop using all my lip products and switch to just petroleum jelly and a cortisone cream. Vaseline has one ingredient, and a particularly bland one, so it's a safe bet to use if you don't know why your lips are freaking out.
Petroleum jelly is a bare-bones occlusive, meaning it won't be absorbed into the skin. It just sits on the surface keeping existing moisture in and dirt, germs and other nastiness out. If you're looking for something to add moisture to your lips that isn't already there, read on, but for the price, regular petroleum jelly is pretty much at the top of the game.
Finding a lip balm in stick form without lanolin was a freaking challenge, y'all. Was it fate that finally brought me to this shea butter stick in an airport L'Occitane?
At $8 a tube, it won't break the bank, but you'll want to make sure you're not always sending them through the wash in your jeans pockets either. It's really softening, thanks to all the shea butter, but doesn't have a greasy texture at all. It's maybe the best lip balm I've used under matte lipsticks, and that includes the pre-allergy days. It's also helpfully unscented, if fragrance is an irritant for you too.
Letting go of my Bite Beauty Agave Lip Mask left a hole in my heart; it was a bit extravagant, but it healed chapped lips like no other and smelled absolutely amazing. A little dab at night could undo the damage of a million matte liquid lipsticks and Midwestern winters, but lanolin was right there at the top of the ingredient list.
Grown Alchemist, however, is a line that prides itself on its cruelty-free, organic products, so I figured I'd be safe from sheep wax with them. And sure enough, I found a pretty close replacement for my lip mask in their Watermelon & Vanilla Lip Balm. The texture is not quite as thick, but it still substantially coats your lips with a blend of castor, sweet almond, rosehip, and other plant oils. It also makes a really nice gloss you can layer on top of your lip color.
Bonus? It smells exactly like a watermelon LipSmacker, but looks a lot more adult in your makeup bag.
- Have you ever developed a sudden allergy to a beauty product?
- What's your ride-or-die lip balm?