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Why is Lipstick Gloss Better?

Mar. 07, 2024
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When it comes to your lips, there are loads of products to choose from — lip liners, liquid sticks, plumpers, and more. But are these products actually good for your lips, and do they provide any benefits beyond appearance? Or, are you better off with your faithful black and white tube of ChapStick? We get to the bottom of these questions by battling out two of the most popular products in the lip world: lip balm and lip gloss.

What is lip gloss?

Lip gloss is primarily a cosmetic product designed to give your lips a glossy finish. Note: According to the FDA, cosmetic products are used to alter a person’s appearance, but they don’t impact the human body‘s structure or functions.¹

Lip glosses are typically liquid or semi-fluid and may come packaged in a squeezable tube for applying directly to the lips. Some lip gloss tubes come with a doe foot applicator (a sponge-tipped wand) instead.

Lip gloss can add a high-shine top coat to give your favorite lipstick a glass-like finish. Or it can be applied on its own to add a shine to your natural lip color. You can also buy tinted lip gloss, which comes in just about every shade imaginable. From metallic shimmers to subtle pinks, these liquids add a pop of color and glossiness to make your lips stand out.

Okay, but what’s the difference between lip balm and lip gloss when it comes to ingredients?

Every lip gloss has its own combination of ingredients, but these are some common ones:

  • Emollients moisturize and soften the skin. Synthetic and refined emollients include squalane and mineral oils. Lanolin and jojoba are natural, moisturizing emollients.

  • Thickeners help keep the gloss on your lips. They include waxes, like ozokerite, and clays, like kaolin.

  • Coloring agents, like dyes, pigments, mica, and iron oxide, create different hues and add sparkle.

  • Polybutene and polyisobutene² act as binding agents to create a sticky texture.

Finally, the million-dollar question: are there benefits to lip gloss from a medical perspective? This can depend on the product formula.

Some lip glosses have benefits due to additional ingredients, like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide (for sun protection), and moisturizing ingredients, like glycerin or jojoba oil. Other lip glosses, however, may have pore-clogging ingredients that can lead to acne around your mouth.

We recommend carefully reading each product label to know what ingredients you’re applying to your lips. If you’re ever uncertain about an ingredient, Curology’s licensed dermatology providers are here to help.

What is lip balm?

Lip balm is generally meant to moisturize your lips and treat and help prevent chapped and cracked lips. Most lip balms are wax-like substances packaged in sticks, jars, or roll-on containers.

Things get a bit technical when it comes to lip balm product classification. Your standard lip balm is a cosmetic product. But a lip balm with active ingredients that treat a medical condition is both a cosmetic and a drug.³ An example is a lip balm that treats cold sores.

And, unlike lip gloss, lip balm is not typically a makeup product. It’s generally considered a personal care product and skin protectant.

Here are some common ingredients that may be found in lip balm:

(Keep in mind that this is by no means an all-inclusive list. Different lip balm brands will have their own product ingredients.)

  • Beeswax and carnauba wax

  • Cocoa butter, shea butter, and palm butter

  • Petrolatum and petroleum jelly

  • Lanolin

  • Honey

  • Plant oils like jojoba, almond, and avocado oil

  • Vitamin E

  • Hemp seed oil and castor seed oil

  • Dimethicone

  • Coloring and flavoring agents

Most lip balms are made to give your lips the care they need. But are there any disadvantages of lip balm?

Lip balms made with certain ingredients may harm your lips by drying them out instead of moisturizing them.⁴ And, like lip gloss, some ingredients in lip balms may be comedogenic, potentially clogging the pores around your mouth.

Check out our helpful list of common pore-clogging ingredients to avoid.

Lip balm vs lip gloss: which is better for my lips?

Because the purposes of lip gloss and lip balm can differ, your final choice will depend on your goals. Although some lip glosses have hydrating and protecting benefits, they’re more often beauty products. For healthy, hydrated skin, lip balm is probably your best bet.

The good news? You don’t have to choose one or the other. Applying lip balm regularly will keep your lips healthy and create a smooth canvas on which you can apply beauty products like lip gloss.

Wondering which lip balm is best for daily use? Dermatologists recommend applying a non-irritating lip balm throughout the day and before you go to bed.⁵ When outdoors, apply a lip balm with SPF 30 or higher every two hours. Add some gentle exfoliation to the mix, and your lip care routine will be good to go.

Take care of your lips with Curology

Getting your lips to pouty perfection shouldn’t be a game of trial and error. If you’d like expert advice on how to use lip balm, Curology is here to help.

Our dermatologists have developed an acne-friendly, non-greasy lip balm to soften and soothe your lips. It’s packed with all the good stuff, like natural butters, plant-based oils, and even SPF 30!

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

Sign up for a Curology trial* and get your Curology lip balm along with other customized products picked for your skin goals. Take a quick quiz, send us some selfies, and kiss dry lips goodbye.


Is lip balm better than lip gloss?

This depends on what you’re trying to achieve with your lip product. If you want to relieve dry or chapped lips, a lip balm can provide your lips with the hydration they need. But if your motive is more aesthetic, lip gloss can make your lips shimmer.

Is lip balm healthy for your lips?

Lip balms with the right ingredients moisturize dry lips and help protect them from the sun. But some lip balms may contain ingredients that can harm your lips and cause irritation. Keep in mind that everyone’s lips are different.

Lip balm vs ChapStick vs lip gloss: Are they the same thing?

Nope, and let’s make this distinction clear. ChapStick is one of many lip balm brands, like Curology and Burt’s Bees. Lip gloss is a makeup product that adds shine and color to the lips.

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P.S. We did the homework so you don’t have to:

Melissa Hunter is a board certified family nurse practitioner at Curology. She received her MSN from George Washington University in Washington, DC.

*Cancel at any time. Subject to consultation. Results may vary.

• • •

Our medical review process:  

We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.

Our policy on product links:  

Empowering you with knowledge is our top priority. Our reviews of other brands’ products in this post are not paid endorsements—but they do meet our medically fact-checked standards for ingredients (at the time of publication).

Written by

Curology Team

Medically reviewed by

Melissa Hunter, NP-C

The summer months may see you spending a significant amount of time outdoors. That means you’ve been stocking up on SPF sunscreen and slathering it on generously. However, almost 70 percent of people that use sunscreen tend to overlook one sensitive part of their body – their lips.

Most people are aware that the sun’s UV rays damage their skin. However, a large percentage are unaware that excessive exposure to the sun can potentially lead to lip cancer. The sun’s UV rays are the most critical risk factor for skin cancer. Lips do not have any melanin, which makes them far more susceptible to the damage caused by exposure to the sun’s UV rays.

The signs of sun damage on your lips will develop over time due to excessive exposure to the sun over the years. These rays can hamper collagen production in the lip area, which results in the formation of fine lines and wrinkles around and on the lips. These are the early signs of sun damage and aging.

Professional Makeup Artist Courses

Today, many products such as lipsticks and lip gloss mention SPF content. One of the most widely debated topics during professional makeup classes and within the beauty community is centered on the use of lipstick versus lip gloss.

Anyone genuinely interested in knowing more about getting their makeup right or who wants to move into the makeup field can benefit from attending makeup artist classes. The experts at these institutes have in-depth knowledge of the different techniques and products and how to use them. They know how these products stand up against each other in terms of function, appearance, quality, durability, and more.

Lipstick vs. Lip Gloss

Returning to the topic of lipsticks and lip gloss, let’s look at which one is better to use during the warmer months. When determining what lip makeup you should use, you should consider factors like application, finish, staying power, and price.

While there are various mediums for lip products, such as lip stains, tinted lip balms, and lip pencils, the most popular are lipsticks and lip glosses. Here we take a detailed look at each of these and understand which one is better for summer:

1. Lipsticks

Lipsticks are waxy, oil-based, velvety, crayon-like beauty products used to color the lips. The tubular containers they come in and their baton shape is where they get their name from. They may or may not have hydrating properties and are available in various finishes like gloss, semi-gloss, matte, metallic, and more. Lipsticks contain waxes, pigments, and oils and are usually designed to have a long-lasting effect. This effect means they may not require frequent reapplication.

But not all lipsticks are made equal, and if you are clumsy with the application, they will smudge during summertime. You may find yourself reapplying your lipstick several times a day, especially during the hotter months. Professional makeup artist classes can teach you how to make your makeup resistant to fading.

2. Lip Gloss

Lip gloss gives your lips a shiny or glossy texture. The primary purpose of using lip gloss is to give your lips shine. While some lip gloss products have a slight pigmentation to add color to the lips, most have a sheer tint. However, you will also find products with some shimmer or translucent glitter in them. Glosses with a low tone and shimmer have more staying power, but you need to reapply them at some point in the day.

Even lip glosses of different shades have a see-through color, and the pigmentation is very subtle. This means you can apply lip gloss without any significant change to the color of your lips. Glosses help maintain plumpness and moisture in the lips during summertime.

Good quality lip gloss is nourishing and helps maintain plumpness in your lips. Some products have argan oil and jojoba that help keep lips well-hydrated and are great for summertime use. The one downside, however, is that lip gloss attracts dust and pollen from the air; food crumbs and stray baby or pet hair can quickly get stuck to your lip gloss.

The Verdict

Keeping the different characteristics of lipstick and lipgloss in view, it’s a good idea to bid farewell to your heavy lipsticks during summer. Use lip gloss sparingly and preferably when you will be indoors for a more extended period. That raises the question- If you can use neither lipstick nor lip gloss, what option do you have?

Most experts like the ones at well-established professional makeup institutes will tell you that it’s better to use lip stains during the warmer months. These offer sheer coverage and are long-lasting formulations. They are amazingly versatile, and you can apply them without worrying about color traveling.

Four Tips for Summer Lip Care

Tip 1: If your lips are starting to peel and are very dry, use some olive oil and fine sugar to exfoliate the accumulated dead cells on your lips lightly.

Tip 2: Zero in on lip products with paraffin, petroleum jelly, or beeswax bases. These seal in the moisture and will last on your lips for a more extended period compared to thin glosses or lipsticks.

Tip 3: Give the lip gloss a miss and use an SPF 30 matte lip stain instead.

Tip 4: If you still prefer to use lip gloss, first apply some lipstick to your lips, and then add a coat of gloss. Make sure that the lipstick also has the recommended SPF content.

It’s a little challenging to determine which product to settle for during the summertime. While lip glosses offer an excellent finish, the application method and stickiness don’t work for everyone. You can create genuinely vibrant lips using lip stains and stick of the best brands. 

Learn More About LMI

Teaching the art and science of makeup artistry to the next generation of makeup and special effects artists since 2010, the L Makeup Institute offers classes covering all styles of makeup artistry. There are thousands of cosmetology schools, but only a handful of schools like L Makeup Institute that focus exclusively on preparing you to work as a professional makeup artist immediately upon graduating. Discover why LMI is well known in the MUA community as producing talented, well-rounded, and sought-after graduates. We can’t wait to meet you!

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