We all use lip balm now but rarely stop to think about where it came from. Lip balm is primarily made from an emollient such as shea butter, petroleum jelly, or lanolin mixed with wax (caranuba or beeswax). The wax gives substance to the emollient and allows it to stick to the lips. Other ingredients such as colorings and flavorings are today often joined by sunscreens. Sometimes anti-aging or antioxidant ingredients are added. Camphor and menthol are classic ingredients to numb chapped lips which might be painful, but the basic emollient and wax formula hasn’t changed much through lip balm’s history.
There is a history of some form of lip protection beginning with the ancient Egyptians. They used beeswax mixed with olive oil and other natural emollients. These were all home remedies, but in the nineteenth century, the first commercial lip balm was created.
In the 1880s, doctor and pharmacist Charles Browne Fleet in Lynchburg, Virginia made lip balm in a stick form wrapped in tin foil. Though he was in the business for years, he failed to ever make it into a profitable business, selling it to John Morton in 1912 for five dollars.
Morton put his wife to work cooking it up in the kitchen and changed the packaging to tubes. He called it Chapstick, and it became wildly successful. It is still one of the top lip balms in the world today.
Many other commercial lip balms were developed as lip balm became a household item. Yojiya in Japan, LypSyl in Sweden, and Rosebud Salve in the U.S. all came out around the turn of the century. Carmex was created in the 1930s especially geared toward cold sore sufferers. Blistex was invented in the the 1940s. Bonnebell began in the 1970s and focused on fun flavors. Burt’s Bees started in the 1990s. EOS became trendy in the 2010s and focuses on organic ingredients and trendy packaging.