Introducing The Kit’s new editor-tested shopping awards, the Shop Smart Guide. The idea is simple: Every month, The Kit editors exhaustively test-drive items in desert-island categories — not the season’s exciting yet ephemeral trends but the evergreen essentials you’re most likely to buy now and wear or use forever. We’re talking mascara, jeans, retinol serum, red lipstick, white sneakers, etc. Our hope is that Shop Smart helps you reach that mythic shopping ideal: to buy less but better. Here, our guide to black turtlenecks.
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If there’s one makeup product I can always count on, it’s a tinted lip balm. I adore them for their ability to keep my lips soft and hydrated while adding just enough colour to wake up my face.
Through the winter months, they soothe cracked, stinging lips; in the summer heat, they’re a welcome reprieve from heavy lipsticks and sticky glosses. Stashed in my car, coat pockets and handbags, tinted balms take any look from plain to polished in one quick swipe. Best of all, I can apply it without a single glance at a mirror. It’s colour without the commitment.
But the tinted lippies of today aren’t like the Lip Smackers of years past. Today’s generation of tinted lip products are available in endless packaging options, shade ranges and finishes, and perform just as well — if not better — than the top lipsticks on the market. That’s because they’re often packed with ingredients that hydrate and repair the lips, in addition to adding a gorgeous flush of colour to the mouth. So whether you’re partial to pot, tube or stick packaging; a pigmented or sheer hue; or a glossy, shimmery or matte finish, we’ve rounded up the very best ones that deserve a spot in your makeup cabinet.
Ahead, the top 10 tinted lip balms that passed the swipe test.
Covergirl Clean Fresh Lip Balm in Bliss You Berry, $8, shoppersdrugmart.ca SHOP HERE
The cost: $8
The shades: Six options, including a clear version as well as Bliss You Berry (pictured above), a dupe for Clinique’s Black Honey
The review: I’m not going to beat around the bush: When I’m choosing a makeup product, I tend to gravitate toward the fancier options. The ones with luxe packaging, rare colours and devastating price tags — it comes with the territory of being a Libra. But as I tested my way through dozens of balms, Covergirl’s Clean Fresh was love at first swipe. First, the hyaluronic-acid-infused balm coats lips in a weightless cocoon of moisture. Second, the colour applies effortlessly in one coat with a soft-shine finish that holds up throughout the day. But what really got me excited was one particular shade. Bliss You Berry looks like an intimidating deep shade of burgundy in the tube, but once you apply it on the lips, the colour transforms into a barely-there chocolate berry shade. It’s perfectly ’90s in a Doc Martens — wearing, Fiona Apple — listening, effortless type of way. Consider it the more affordable twin of Clinique’s iconic Almost Lipstick in Black Honey (more on that product later), but much easier to get your hands on.
Ilia Balmy Tint Hydrating Lip Balm in Heartbeats, $37, thedetoxmarket.ca SHOP HERE
Best for red lipstick lovers: Ilia
The cost: $37
The shades: Eight buildable shades in cherry red, pink and berry tones
The review: Like a red lipstick without all the fuss, Ilia’s Balmy Tint in Heartbeats is low-maintenance makeup at its finest. Each shade is impressively pigmented while still maintaining the lightweight feel of a balm, which makes it a great day-to-night option. It’s made with a blend of avocado, rosehip and jojoba oils to add a hefty dose of moisture to the lips while keeping all the hydrating goodness locked in. Build it up with a few layers for a more opaque look, or apply one coat for a subtle kiss of colour. Bonus: The natural vanilla scent is a sweet addition without being overpowering, and the weighty tube clicks into place in the most satisfying of ways. All-in-all, it’s a well-made (and Canadian!) product.
Nars Soft Matte Tinted Lip Balm in Brief Encounter, $37, sephora.ca SHOP HERE
Best matte tinted lip balm: Nars
The cost: $37
The shades: Six neutral matte shades, from beige to mocha brown
The review: When I think of lip balms, matte is not one of the first words that come to mind. Typically, I seek out the dewiest, juiciest products I can get my hands on. Yet, I was pleasantly surprised when I applied the Nars Soft Matte balms. The product glides on lips like a dream and deposits just the right amount of colour, almost like you are filling in your lips with the softest pastel crayon you can imagine. This is thanks to the addition of bamboo fibres, which create a finish that is almost powdery (the brand describes it as a “soft-focus effect”) without drying out the lips. Ingredients like amino acid powder allow the product to spread effortlessly, while olive oil adds creaminess without shine. The result is a matte lip product that hydrates like a balm but looks like a liquid lipstick. My only wish is that they extend the range to include non-neutral shades (please!) Tip: For a shinier, shimmery look, opt for the Nars Afterglow Lip Balm, which is equally excellent.
Tower 28 BeachPlease Lip + Cheek Cream Blush in After Hours, $26, sephora.com SHOP HERE
Best multipurpose tinted lip balm: Tower 28
The cost: $26
The shades: Seven “sun-kissed” colour options
The review: Confession: I’ve been using Tower 28’s BeachPlease for years exclusively as a blush. While I loved it dearly, it never occurred to me to apply it on my lips. But while I was researching the most-loved tinted balms, I kept coming across this very product. Billed as a “lip and cheek cream blush,” the formula is made with plant-based ingredients like green tea extract and aloe vera for extra skincare benefits, while the easy-to-blend texture creates that covetable flushed look. When I finally got around to trying it, I dabbed the shade After Hours onto my lips and, unsurprisingly, was delighted. The colour is the perfect summer berry shade; it reminds me of the way fingertips get stained after eating a handful of overripe raspberries. It’s dewy without being shiny, and it’s the most long-lasting product of the bunch. Is it lip balm? Is it blush? Who cares! All you need to know is that this is a great product.
Charlotte Tilbury Hyaluronic Happikiss Lipstick Balm in Pillow Talk, $40, nordstrom.com SHOP HERE
Best hydrating tinted lip balm: Charlotte Tilbury
The cost: $40
The shades: Ten shades including the original Pillow Talk (pictured above)
The review: Take your favourite lipstick, gloss and balm and roll it into one product: That is Charlotte Tilbury’s Happikiss Lipstick Balm. It’s got the most gorgeous, glassy, high-shine finish and hydrates like a heavy-duty lip mask, while still being lightweight enough for everyday wear. Its star ingredient, hyaluronic acid, adds plenty of hydration that lasts well into the day, while the range of pink-tinged shades flatter the natural colour of lips. For a no-fail option, opt for the beloved Pillow Talk shade (hey, it’s a classic for a reason). Wear it alone or over your favourite lipstick to really up the va-va-voom factor.
Clinique Almost Lipstick in Black Honey, $26, clinique.ca SHOP HERE
Best universal colour: Clinique
The cost: $26
The shades: Just the one!
The review: As someone writing about the very best tinted balms, I couldn’t possibly go without mentioning *the* tinted balm: Clinique’s Almost Lipstick in Black Honey. Loved in the ’90s and still celebrated today, this skinny silver tube is as timeless as it gets. The sell-out lippie (and the brand’s number 1 claim to fame as far as makeup goes) is totally worth the hype. The semi-sheer, rum-raisin colour is one of the few that is truly universally flattering — mostly because the almost-transparent hue is meant to enhance the wearer’s natural lip colour. It’s almost like a filter for your lips, which likely has contributed to its viral success on apps like TikTok. Priced at $26, it’s a more affordable prestige option compared to some of the other balms on this list. Scoop it up if you can get your hands on it!
Dior Addict Lip Glow Balm in Rosewood, $45, sephora.com SHOP HERE
Best luxe tinted lip balm: Dior
The cost: $45
The shades: 17 options including a new coral pink shade
The review: Now, Dior is well-known for it’s outstanding lip products (hello, sold out Lip Glow Oil), so I was very excited to get my hands on the Lip Glow Balm. Encased in a pretty pink case with the Dior logo embossed overtop, it automatically feels a little more elevated, a little more chic, when you pop off the cap and twist up the metal tube. Once you apply it, it feels soft and rather weightless. An even wash of colour coats the lips, and the product has a pleasant and very subtle, dreamy vanilla scent that I adore. I appreciate the extensive range of shades which go from luminous red to shimmery coral. Bonus: The cool thing about this product is that it uses the brand’s “Color Reviver” technology, which allows the product to react to the moisture level of the lips to create a custom colour every time.
Shiseido Color Gel Lip Balm in Azalea, $35, thebay.com SHOP HERE
Best for saturated colour: Shiseido
The cost: $35
The shades: 14 vibrant shades, from violet to dark cocoa
The review: If punchy colour is what you’re after, look no further than Shiseido’s Color Gel Lip Balm. It has a semi-sheer finish that places it in the “balm” category, but I would argue that the pigment power on this line makes it strong competition against my favourite lipsticks. A touch of shine makes the more extreme colours a little more approachable if you’re new to the vibrant lip club. The shade Azalea is particularly impressive if you’re after a hot pink lip (very on-trend this summer). I’m also a fan of the violet purple shade Wisteria, which reminds me of a more modern, wearable version of M.A.C’s Heroine.
Vapour Lip Nectar in Coquette, $37, thedetoxmarket.ca SHOP HERE
Best clean tinted lip balm: Vapour
The cost: $37
The shades: Six colours, mostly sheer pink tones
The review: I first tried Vapour’s Lip Nectar a year or two ago, and since that very moment I’ve kept it by my desk, ready to save the day on a moment’s notice (*ahem* seconds before logging on to a video call). The colour payoff is strong but not overwhelming. It’s just enough to make it look like your lipstick wasn’t freshly applied in a hurry, and the colour slowly fades in a natural way. The clean formula boasts plenty of nourishing ingredients like organic jojoba, camellia, avocado oils, shea butter, and calendula and lemon balm extracts, plus the plum, apricot and fig flavours are divine. Personally, I’m a big fan of the berry shade Coquette, but Tempest, an orangey-red colour, is a close second.
Trinny London Lip Glow in Cordy, $27, trinnylondon.com SHOP HERE
Best glossy tinted lip balm: Trinny London
The cost: $27
The shades: 11 options, including Cory (pictured above) and two new shades: Freya, a soft berry; and Lara, a sheer orange-red.
The review: Leave it to makeover expert Trinny Woodall to reinvent lip balm in a pot. Lip Glow, which acts like a gloss but has all the benefits of a balm, is a sure pick if you’re after glazed-donut lips. It’s available in a range of sheer neutral shades, as well as more vibrant colours like fire-engine red and cherry blossom pink. Stash this tiny pot in your purse or pocket for a quick glossy touch-up, minus the stickiness.
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