Here’s what your lip balm choice says about your personality

From ChapStick to chic, I’m now high maintenance.

I used to think lip balm was just a pocket-sized hero for dry lips. But oh, how times have changed! These days, that little stick has had a serious glow-up. It’s no longer just about stopping your lips from flaking off your face; it’s a full-on status symbol, paraded on TikTok (which has a current view count of over five billion btw) and Instagram like a new-age Birkin bag—or whatever the cool kids are flaunting these days.

It’s not the plump, juicy lips that people are talking about though, it’s the product, or should I say the ‘status’ that comes with them (sorry Chapsticks and Vaseline, your days might be numbered). Everyone under 40 seems to have gone a little lip balm mad. And yes, I’ve shamelessly hopped on the glossy bandwagon too.

The stats speak for themselves

In Australia, the lip treatment market has exploded, growing by a staggering 23% from 2023 to 2024, with Aussie brand Summer Friday’s Lip Butter Balms ($40 at Mecca) taking the cake with a reported increase of 876 per cent over the past 12 months! Across the pond, Space NK retailer has reported their lip balm sales have jumped a staggering 179 per cent year on year, and when it comes to the US, it’s no surprise that the numbers are even higher. We can probably relate half those sales to Hailey Bieber’s lip balm phone case alone.

(Credit: @haileybieber via Instagram)

Yes, bigger really is better

The lip balm category doesn’t allow for boring or practical aesthetics either. Beauty lovers don’t care that their balm won’t fit perfectly into their handbag; they want it big, bold, bright, and bursting with flavour! I am, of course, referring to one of my personal favourites, the Laneige Lip Sleeping Masks ($31 at Adore Beauty). More than a mere balm, this viral mask is like a layer of literal butter on your pout.

The fashion elite have gone one step further by having their favourite balm literally attached to them at all times thanks to the aforementioned sell-out viral ‘Lip Case’ from Rhode. (No, you can’t buy these in Australia yet, sigh).

cult lipbalms

I’m not the only addict! (Celebs are too)

“I have a pot in every handbag, on my bedside table, in the car, and a couple of flavours at my desk at work,” admits WHO’s Fashion Editor, Aimee. And she’s not alone in her can’t-be-without panic. “I have lip balm anxiety,” Pretty Little Liars star Lucy Hale, 34, admitted in a recent interview. “So if I don’t have it on or near me, I get really panicky. I have it in my car, in my gym bag, in a travel bag,” she continued, and I can hard-relate Lucy. Because I too, am an addict.

I apply a different lip balm depending on my mood, location, or event, because, as I’ve clearly outlined – one size does not fit all. (My current new squeezes? Sulwhasoo Glowing Lip Balm ($59 at Adore Beauty) and the delish new Crème Brûlée flavoured Peptide Lip Treatment from Ole Henriksen ($29 from Sephora).

As mentioned, we can thank social media as the driving force behind this balm revolution. Every time I open TikTok or Instagram, influencers and celebrities are showing off their favourite luxury lip products with brands like Dior’s Lip Glow ($64 at Adore Beauty) and Ultra Violet’s Sheen Screen SPF 50’s ($27 at Adore Beauty) who are the stars of countless “what’s in my bag” videos.

So as a beauty editor who is dedicated to her profession (and will always put her face on the line in the name of research), naturally I had to try them all too.

beauty editor elise wilson pouting selfie
(Credit: @elisebeautyeditor via Instagram)

Get your credit cards at the ready

Gone are the days of cheap balms though; now we’re talking double-digit splurges. It’s pretty normal to drop around $40 on these mini luxuries, with brands like Hourglass, Dr. Dennis Gross, La Mer, and Estee Lauder pushing $60 or more for a tiny tube. So, after discovering I have at least three lip balms stashed in every bag I own, it’s clear what’s really delaying mine (and everyone else’s) millennial homeownership—and it’s definitely not our daily $8 iced-almond lattes!

However, when I pull out my August Bader The Lip Balm ($66 at Mecca – the one that contains the brand’s secret TFC8 complex of ‘amino acids, vitamins, and synthesised molecules that rejuvenate lips while reducing the visible signs of ageing with each application,’ yes, that one), it’s not just a beauty routine; it’s a fashion statement. A sense of belonging to an exclusive club of beauty lovers, if you will.

Most dermatologists, of course, think it’s just a clever ploy to empty our wallets. They’ll swear up and down that slathering on a basic blend of shea butter, beeswax, and ceramides from the bargain bin at your local pharmacy is just as good. But hey, who needs logic when you’ve got the allure of fancy packaging and exotic ingredients?

A final word

In a current cost of living crisis, I’ve justified that tiny little treats (that come in the form of a tub or a tube) are a lot more cost-effective than giant splurges on handbags and shoes. I’ve decided to swap the feeling of guilt for joy instead. The next time I swipe on my lip balm, I’ll remember: it’s not just about smooth lips; it’s about making a declaration. My lip balm says I have arrived—and I’ve arrived in style, with a perfectly hydrated pout to match.

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