How Do I Choose the Best Lip Salve?

Lip salve may help treat cold sores.
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  • Written By: Wanda Marie Thibodeaux
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 10 April 2014
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Choosing the best lip salve is a fairly uncomplicated process which involves looking at the ingredients and their ability to treat symptoms of lip conditions, checking how long the salve lasts and whether the salve looks, tastes and smells acceptable. Although ingredients are readily listed on salve packaging, some trial and error usually is necessary to find the best salve simply because the salves usually cannot be opened and tested in the store.

The first factor in choosing the best lip salve is to check the ingredient list. Due to the fact so many individuals have allergies to certain chemicals, and because many chemicals are toxic, the best lip salves generally have very few chemicals or are chemical-free. If a chemical is present, ideally the manufacturer should identify the purpose of the chemical, such as to prevent discoloration or hardening.

Although any lip salve is designed to form a protective barrier between the lips and the environment, the best ones usually have some kind of medication added. For example, they might have a medication that helps cold sores to heal or which acts as a topical pain reliever. Excellent lip salves also contain ingredients that give the salve some ability to protect the lips against ultraviolet radiation and sun damage. Ingredients that alleviate the symptoms of lip ailments and offer UV protection need not be man-made — shea butter, for example, is a natural anti-inflammatory agent that contains cinnamic acid, which is a very mild natural sunscreen.


As people go through their day and talk, eat and drink, salves eventually wear off. This forces the consumer to reapply the product, which makes the salve run out faster and inconveniences the wearer. The best lip salves thus are durable and long-lasting. Thicker formulas with a wax base usually win out in this area, although salves that are more like lotions might be better for getting absorbed into the lips.

Lip salves sometimes don't taste, smell or look very good even if they are very effective. This is a problem because the lips are directly under the nose and because people often taste the lip salve as they talk or if they lick their lips. Thus, even though additives should be minimal, sometimes natural ingredients such as cherry extract can make the lip salve more appealing.

Once the consumer knows that the ingredients, taste, smell and aesthetics of the lip salve is suitable, he has to look at its price. Generally speaking, medicated salves tend to be more expensive than a very basic salve with no medications. It often is worth abandoning loyalty to a particular brand — sometimes a lesser-known variety has the exact ingredients as a salve from a popular company without the expense.


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