The History of Lip Balm

Woman using Panama Jack Lip Balm

Our lips can signal the first signs of dehydration or even a change in the weather, nudging us throughout the day (sometimes persistently) to find ways to keep them soft, hydrated and safe from the sun. In today's world, a compact and convenient lip balm is often our go-to solution for all three. But have you ever wondered about the history of lip balm? Where does it come from, and how did we get here?

From ancient civilizations to the present day, we've tried tirelessly for centuries to keep our lips moisturized and protected from the elements. Here, we trace the fascinating evolution of lip care, and reveal why modern iterations like our collection of Broad Spectrum SPF 45 lip balms can be the ultimate year-round defense for your lips.

Lip Balm: More Than a Luxury

First thing’s first: do we really even need lip balm? If you’ve ever experienced the feeling of cracked lips on a bitterly cold day on the slopes, or the sensation of salty, sunburned lips after a trip to the beach, then you know the answer is a resounding yes.

In fact, there are a number of reasons why having access to a high-quality lip balm is more than a luxury—it’s a necessity:

Moisture Lock

Lip balms can create a protective barrier on the lips' surface, locking in moisture and keeping them hydrated for longer periods than bare lips alone. This is particularly useful in harsh weather conditions where lips are susceptible to becoming dry, chapped, and exposed to the sun’s UV rays.

Sun Protection

Speaking of the sun: it’s important to ensure your chosen lip balm offers high-performance sun protection (like ours!), safeguarding the delicate skin of your lips from harmful UV rays. With frequent reapplication, this can reduce the risk of sunburn, premature aging, and even skin cancer.

Soothing Properties

Ingredients such as aloe vera and vitamin E in lip balms can offer soothing qualities. For one thing, they can speed up the body’s natural recovery of chapped lips, and they also offer short-term relief from dryness and sensitivity. 

Flavor and Comfort

The simple fact is, lip balms have come a long way from their flavorless, waxy predecessors. With tasty, flavored lip balm options ranging from mango to dreamsicle and more, the sensory experience of applying the product can be just as enjoyable as it is functional.

The Origins of Lip Care

Origins of Lip Balm Egyptian etching

With so many benefits in mind, it’s pretty clear why we use lip balm today—but how did we get to this point, with so many nourishing, flavored and fragrant options available today?

The history of lip balm can be traced all the way back to ancient civilizations. As early as 40 B.C., Egyptians—who were widely known for their dedication to cosmetics and the preservation of natural beauty—had figured out how to create a concoction of beeswax, olive oil, and animal fat to soothe their parched lips.

While various civilizations and cultures would continue to put their own spin on lip balm over the coming millenia, it would ultimately take until the late 19th century before the world would see its next giant leap in lip care. That’s when, in 1870, Robert Chesebrough patented a new formulation that used petroleum jelly—which we know today as the ubiquitous Vaseline. 

By the early 1900s, in regions across the world, such as in Japan and Sweden, ingredients like yuzu (Japanese citrus fruit), camellia oil, and tea had become popular remedies for dry lips. These ingredients provided essential fatty acids that helped nourish and moisturize the lips. And the evolution of ingredients only continued from there.

The Emergence of Lip Balm in the United States

In America, the "American Frugal Housewife" book (originally published in 1829) mentioned the use of wax and other emollients to protect and soothe cracked lips. However, it wasn't until the late 1800s that lip care began its commercial journey.

Pharmacist Charles Brown Fleet is credited with introducing the first dedicated lip care product in the early 1880s, which closely resembled today's lip balm. This product, later called "ChapStick," became a household name. Soon after, in the 1930s, Alfred Woelbing created Carmex, a lip balm intended to treat chapped lips and cold sores, recognizing the breadth of conditions and sensitivities that lips can face.

The Evolution of Ingredients

Evolution of Ingredients Lip Balm Coconut

The early versions of lip balm as we know it used petroleum jelly as a base—thanks, in part, to the rising popularity of Vaseline throughout the early 1900s. Over the years, though, as our collective knowledge of skin health expanded and evolved, many more beneficial ingredients soon began to emerge. And those developing lip care products took note.

Nowadays, lip balms boast a variety of soothing and protective ingredients providing essential hydration along with a barrier against the elements. Modern lip balms also cater to flavor preferences, and the most versatile of these—such as ours—provide crucial sun protection as well. 

The Future of Lip Care

From ancient concoctions of beeswax, olive oil, and animal fat to the flavored and protective products of today, the history of lip balm tells a tale of our collective and continuous effort to protect and beautify one of our most expressive features. As we continue to understand more about skin health and sun care, there’s no doubt we’ll see new ingredients and formulations continue to enter the scene in the years to come.

In the meantime, we can kick back and enjoy the outdoors year-round, knowing that our SPF 45 lip balms are at the very cutting edge of moisturization and sun protection—and even better, they’re available in multi-packs so you’ll never be without. Here's to the future of happy, healthy lips—and bring on the sunshine!