as good as or better than

I Like My $3 Drugstore ‘Color-Enhancing’ Lip Balm More Than Dior Lip Glow

Photo: Hilary Reid

The first time I spent over $30 on Dior Lip Glow was on a hot summer day three years ago at the Sephora on 34th Street. I’d been skeptical of the culty balm, whose promise to enhance your natural lip color reminded me of Lip Venom, the early aughts gloss that “plumped” your lips by irritating them. And yet when I put on the Lip Glow and looked in the mirror, I was sold. My lips gleaned with a golden pink tint which, somehow, gave my whole face a sheen of rosy good health. I bought it.

I went through the $34 tube quickly, and when it was time to re-up, I couldn’t quite bring myself to spend the money. I went months without lip glow, until one fateful day at CVS, in a scenario not unlike that day at Sephora — killing time, not looking for anything in particular — when I came across Maybelline’s Baby Lips Glow Balm. I’d heard of the (pervy-named) balm before, but had never seen the Glow formula, which had pink and silver packaging like Dior’s Lip Glow, not so shyly announcing it as a dupe. Not quite a lipstick, the lip balm claimed to simply give your natural lip color a zhuzh via “pH transforming,” which would reveal your “ideal, custom shade of pink.” It was also $3.

I bought the Baby Lips Glow, put it on outside CVS, and forgot about it — until later, when I was in a restaurant bathroom and noticed that my face looked … refreshed. The Maybelline Baby Lips Glow gave my lips almost the exact same rosy tint as the Dior Lip Glow, at less than one-tenth of the price. In fact, the pink glow produced by the Baby Lips might even be better. When I used the Dior, I sometimes found that my lips turned an almost-neon shade of pink, a bit too pronounced to be considered “naturally enhanced.” With Baby Lips, that’s never been a problem. In my mind, the subtle rosy shade Baby Lips produces places it in the canon of non-makeup makeup, alongside other glow-enhancing products like Yves Saint Laurent’s Touche Eclat and Clarins Beauty Flash Balm. It’s just as hydrating as the Dior balm, too, and feels like it lasts longer (or maybe I’m just not so precious about reapplying, since it costs so much less.) The packaging’s not nearly as elegant, but really, what matters is the glow, and now that I can buy ten Baby Lips for the price of one Dior Glow, I’ll be glowing for a long, long time.

More Strat-Approved Lip Balms

Rio called this the “Best Lip Moisturizer I’ve Ever Tried” (and we know she’s tried many). She writes, “Let me just say: This product has single-handedly changed the game. What’s most unusual is its texture — the consistency is syrupy rather than creamy … Put this on in the morning and you’ll notice a huge change in the texture of your lips throughout the day — that tightness will disappear, and they’ll feel smooth and hydrated all day long.”

Friday Night Lights author and lip balm aficionado Buzz Bissinger recommended several balms to us, including some luxe picks from Chanel and By Terry, and this (less expensive) Burt’s Bees Lip Shimmer. He calls it “steady and reliable,” and says, “the ingredients of vitamin E and beeswax offer both nourishment and protection. It also costs less than $5, which means you can get ten colors for less than the cost of any of the other products on this list.”

Revlon Balm Stain

Alice Gregory describes Revlon’s Colorburst Balm Stain as “Pigmented just enough to neutralize the effects of glasses or dirty hair, Revlon Balm Stain is basically the perfect beauty product. I know of no better visual distraction for when you’ve lost the will to groom.”

“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,” says Lori Keong of this balm made by New York–based dentist with Dr. Michael Apa, who has a beauty line and whose clients include the Olsen twins and Uma Thurman.

Emily Gould refers to this as the balm she wears “to show the world that I haven’t given up.” She writes, “If I’m feeling fancy and want to look like I’m wearing lipstick, I look in the mirror while applying it, but in a pinch, I just smear some LBS on my bottom lip and smoosh my lips together for more of a natural, ‘this is just the color my lips are’ situation.”

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I Like My $3 ‘Color-Enhancing’ Lip Balm More Than Dior