I’m not usually in the business of recommending $35 lip balms (I know, I know), but there is just one I would classify as a necessary winter splurge: this golden tub of shiny, sugary stuff. In the constant rotation of items jangling in my coat pocket, it always makes the cut.
The Apa Lush Lip Balm comes from a New York-based dentist with a beauty line: Dr. Michael Apa, whose clients include the Olsen twins and Uma Thurman. In the two winters I’ve been using and hoarding it, I’ve miraculously avoided any splitting or flaking lips. It glides on like clear, sweet varnish (did I mention it tastes like syrup?), expertly seals in moisture, and has a better texture than anything else I’ve tried.
Too waxy (Burt’s Bees and Glossier) and my lips feel drier than before, too greasy (Vaseline and Carmex) and the stuff is seeping into my mouth. Too light (Love+Sage) and it wears off within the hour. Even cult favorites like Lanolips (too scented), Kiehl’s (meh), and Fresh (too melty) miss the mark. Tatcha’s camellia lip balm comes the closest to lip nirvana, but the Apa still beats it for lasting hydration.
I asked dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, the director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai’s department of dermatology, why exactly the Apa works so well. He says that while “lip balms and sticks typically contain a combination of waxes and oils to hydrate the lips and keep the product in place,” the Apa’s something of an overachiever. “In addition to waxes, this product also contains occlusive ingredients like petrolatum,” which help to seal in moisture, plus “emollient butters and oils. Sweet almond oil, jojoba seed oil, and shea butter all soften rough cells on the outer skin layer to smooth and hydrate dry lips.” It’s a winning combo: The emollients hydrate, and the occlusives trap in moisture.
The Apa gradually dries to reveal smooth, conditioned lips that only need to be shined up maybe once or twice daily — one coat lasts hours at a time. Compare that to Burt’s Bees, which I had to reapply almost constantly. I’ve foisted it onto an ex-boyfriend with perpetually flaky lips (a passive-aggressive move), and risked contamination by letting my friends dip their fingers into it. One friend — an avowed Balm Dotcom user — used some this month and told me her lips felt “a million times better,” as if “the balm was erasing every rough bump on my lips.” It lasts long enough that I don’t need to reapply that often — it’s just that I want to.