-Look for a balm that contains emollient ingredients. Nut butters (like cocoa butter, shea butter, etc...) Oils (and yes, mineral oil is good. I repeat, mineral oil is GOOD), lanolin and petroleum (like Vaseline) are all good emollients.
-Stay away from balms that contain menthol, camphor, phenol, or any mint oil. These ingredients are surprisingly common in some very popular brands (Carmex, and Blistex to name a couple) and are irritants. These ingredients are the root of the myth that lips can become "dependent" on lip balm, or that balms make chapped skin worse. If you're applying irritants to your lips, they will remain chapped. Period.
-Skip balms that are mostly wax based without emollients like the ones listed above appearing higher on the ingredient list- wax just forms a barrier, it won't do anything to add moisture to the skin (which is what will actually relieve chapping).
-Don't forget sunscreen! I know I've talked about this before, but it bears repeating. Sun burnt lips have pretty much the same symptoms as chapped lips- dry, red, peeling...and if the damage is from the sun, those aren't your only concerns. Why risk it?
My current favorite balm is, believe it or not, Aquaphor. If you don't have a baby's butt in your general vicinity on a regular basis, you may not be familiar with this stuff, and while there isn't a whole lot to it, what's in there does the trick. I buy the regular old formula in the 3 oz "Baby" tube which runs a whole $6.99. Oddly, the 1.75 oz non-baby tube is only a buck cheaper, and is the same exact thing, so even sans-butts, it's a better deal. Another trick that's helped me a lot is that I put my CeraVe cream on my lips day and night, then seal in that moisture with the Aquaphor. Works like a charm.
For a great day-time option, I love my Sleek Pout Polishes. They're chock full of emollients, SPF, and just enough color for me. I know the company seems a bit sketchy right now (check out the comments on their Facebook page if you're unaware) but that doesn't change the fact that the product is fantastic. If you're looking for a similar option and don't mind a higher price tag, MAC's Tinted Lip Conditioners look VERY similar. As in almost identical....do I smell a Drugstore Dupe showdown ahead?
What's your favorite winter-time lip saver? Do you have any secrets for keeping your pout smooth? Don't lurk, share!!!