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Reviewed: Mad Alchemy Lip Balm

Where do you stand on lip balm? Do you prefer fruity flavors? What about herbal? Do you prefer simple, like using Vaseline straight up? Do you prefer something that has a little action, like Carmex?

While it’s hard to know if all, or even any, cavemen used some sort of smile salve, it’s hard to imagine life without having something to relieve the discomfort of dry, chapped lips, something that probably has been experienced since there were humans to experience it. According to Wikipedia, “The primary purpose of lip balm is to provide an occlusive layer on the lip surface to seal moisture in lips and protect them from external exposure. Dry air, cold temperatures, and wind all have a drying effect on skin by drawing moisture away from the body. Lips are particularly vulnerable because the skin is so thin, and thus they are often the first to present signs of dryness.” Occlusive, for those not familiar with the term, means a covering or protective layer.

Generic petroleum jelly is certainly the cheapest way to protect your pucker, but it’s pretty boring. We like a little flavor, and the “stick” format most lip balms come in definitely makes for easy application and transportation. Can’t remember the last time we actually emptied one of those little cylinders, but we dutifully pick them up when we’re in need and one isn’t handy. Occasionally, we pick up a free tube here and there. As a result, we seemed to have stockpiled lip balm. Just counted the containers in our left desk drawer, and we have seven there. By our bed, we have four. For the most part, these stay in place until needed. Then, they migrate into pockets and bags as the need arises, typically as the seasons change, and if we spend most of a day outside in the winter. Considering our usage rate, it will take us years to empty these tubes.

Mad Alchemy’s Beeswax Lip Balm comes in a standard-size and action cylinder. .15 ounces in the 6.7cm long by 1.5cm diameter tube that is accessed by spinning a disc at the bottom of the container. Unlike Chapstick, the base is beeswax rather than petrolatum. Like Carmex, there’s a counter-irritant, in this case peppermint, which tells you the balm is on. Peppermint gives a cooling sensation. And like many lip balms these days, it has sunscreen rated at a sun protection factor (spf) 15. We’re not sure it’s relevant, but this is the one lotion product that the Alchemists don’t make in house.

When we first applied, the solid salve felt a bit “softer,” more like lotion than standard-issue Chapstick. It feels like it goes on smoother and easier. The flavor comes from the peppermint. We sensed it seconds after applying and the sensation builds over the next few minutes, and then the sensation starts fading away after ten to fifteen minutes. Whether or not it’s good to have more blood in our lips we don’t know. Maybe increased circulation is a benefit.

The counter-irritant sensation is not nearly as strong as Carmex. There are stories about Carmex addiction floating around. Maybe someone has even told you about someone they knew who knew someone. Don’t believe them. If there’s anything to believe about the purported addiction is that the cooling sensation is pleasing, and that pleasure is what causes people to re-apply in excess of what they need, though “need” is notoriously hard to define.

Sunscreen in lip lotion is an idea that makes lots of sense. Lips are skin, particularly sensitive skin at that. They can get burned by the sun as well as by the wind. After slathering sunscreen on most of your face, the occlusive layer on the lips finishes the job. SPF 15, meaning using the product will result in 15 times the protection you’d get without the covering. So if your unprotected skin would burn in an hour, you should be able to withstand 15 hours of sun before burning.

Going through the sunscreen aisles at the super drug pharmacy food store seems to indicate that SPF 15 is probably the highest quantity of the sunscreening chemicals people can apply without it feeling like sunscreen and not lotion. Unless you’re very sensitive to the sun or spend all day every day outside, SPF 15 is probably plenty of protection.

We can’t remember the last time our lips felt sunburnt. Maybe it has happened and we haven’t noticed. More frequently we’ve felt our lips get painfully dry. It typically happens as summer gives way to fall and after particularly long, cold, windy days in the saddle. This Beeswax Lip Balm came along at a good time for our seasonal needs. And our lips still have yet to experience the burn of the sun

We used the Mad Alchemy tube sporadically for a few weeks and have used it daily for the past week, keeping it with us and applying it whenever we have stopped sensing any occlusive layer on our lips. Our lips are in great shape. They are soft and moist and don’t notice them most of the time.

The peppermint is a pleasant sensation. For us, it seems to warm up mostly on the edge of the lips, like we’ve eaten something with a big dose of red pepper. If you want to know your lip balm is on, but think Carmex goes too far, this is probably an excellent covering for your pucker.

Overall, our preference is for something that doesn’t have a topical counter-irritant in them and this experience hasn’t changed our feelings. We still prefer something with flavor but without the kick, as we don’t like the distraction on our pucker. But that written, Mad Alchemy’s Beeswax Lip Balm feels good and works well.