Balm is defined as a medicated ointment that can be used to soothe or resolve skin issues. Lip balm in particular may come in small round jars, or in cylinders like those used in Chap Stick®. In many cases, it may be applied with the fingers from small jars and is used to help soothe chapped or sunburned lips. This differs from the more oily lip gloss, which may contain color or glitter, and is used to give the lips a shiny appearance.
Not all lip balm is equally effective. Many are made with infusions of natural herbs like mint or chamomile. Some lip balms can calm down or prevent chapping. Some also offer sunscreen to prevent sun damage.
Lip balm may not have much effect if chapped lips are related to other problems. For example, chapped lips may be indication of anemia, and any lip product will have little affect on this problem. People who are chronically dehydrated will also not see much change when using lip balm, because what they really need to do is to drink more fluids.
Some lip glosses can also be medicated and soothe chapped lips. Primarily, however, their goal is to provide an esthetically pleasing look to the mouth, which a lip balm does not provide. A lip gloss with Vitamin E or aloe vera may be soothing as well as pretty. It may not address severe chapping problems. Some people wear lip gloss over balm to hide the waxy appearance of the balm.
Some lipsticks may also function as a lip balm. Unlike lip gloss they tend to be opaque, rather than transparent. They may also contain Vitamin E or supplements to help keep the lips moist. Not all lipsticks provide this. In fact some have a primary ingredient of alcohol in them, which tends to dry out the lips.
If chapped lips are the result of cold sores, one should not reuse lip balm after a cold sore has resolved. One should especially not share products with a friend, especially if one gets cold sores. These are usually a form of herpes virus that can be passed to other people. If one develops a cold sore while using any type of lip product, be certain to discard the product so as not to reinfect the area.