I Tried The Ordinary’s First Lip Balm & It’s Unique In So Many Ways

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Photo: Courtesy of The Ordinary.
When I visited The Ordinary’s Toronto HQ back in 2019, I had only one request for the brand’s chief scientific officer, Prudvi Kaka: Please formulate a lip balm. In the years since, The Ordinary has unveiled haircare (namely the viral Multi Peptide Serum For Hair Density and a shampoo that doubles up as a body cleanser), lifted the lid on not one but two new cleansers (both of which I use down to the last drop, they’re that good), and launched a retinal serum that I think gives prescription skincare a run for its money. Still, there was a lip balm-shaped hole in my skincare routine. Until today, that is.
I can’t take any credit for the product, of course, but I know that it was pretty much made for me and the plenty of others who grapple with dry lips all year round. As such, I was among one of the very first beauty journalists to put it to the test. Concealing the strictly embargoed, uniquely shaped tube from friends and strangers was no mean feat. But now I can finally talk about it, here’s everything you need to know. 

Is The Ordinary’s Squalane + Amino Acids Lip Balm any good?

This lip balm is like nothing you own currently. Firstly the tube itself, which is a compact round shape with a slanted applicator. (Simply squeeze the belly of the tube to release the product.) Secondly, the texture, which is a silky water gel. At first, this felt alien to me, and that’s because I’m used to thick, unctuous lip balms packed with ingredients like petrolatum, which lock in moisture but don’t do much else. The key difference is that the ingredients in this lip balm don’t simply place a temporary plaster over the issue like others. Instead they actively work to heal and soothe lips. 
That’s all down to two main ingredients: squalane and amino acids.

What is squalane and what are the skin benefits in a lip balm?

Keen to know exactly how a lip balm like this works, I asked consultant dermatologist Dr Magnus Lynch to break down the ingredients. 
“Squalane is a natural substance found in human sebum [oil],” says Dr Lynch. In skincare products, the ingredient is derived from plant sources such as olives, rice bran and sugarcane, adds Dr Lynch, making it a stable and effective moisturising agent. “Squalane works by creating a barrier on the skin to prevent moisture loss,” says Dr Lynch, “and for the lips, this means keeping them hydrated and preventing chapping and dryness.” One major benefit of squalane is that it’s lightweight, not greasy, making it suitable for all skin types including sensitive and acne-prone skin. “On the lips, it provides hydration without causing breakouts around the mouth area,” says Dr Lynch — something I’m prone to with thicker lip balms containing the likes of shea butter, petrolatum and oils. 
Its moisturising properties are just the tip of the iceberg. Squalane also helps fight free radicals, says Dr Lynch, which are essentially unstable molecules in the environment from the likes of pollution and UV, that can damage the skin and lips. Finally, its anti-inflammatory properties are a soothing influence on sore, chapped lips.

What are amino acids and what are the skin benefits in a lip balm?

Aside from squalane, this lip balm also boasts amino acids. Without taking you back to chemistry class, these are the building blocks of proteins, which are essential for various biological processes in the skin including the production of collagen and elastin — both of which are responsible for keeping skin (and lips) supple, says Dr Lynch. In something like a lip balm, amino acids help to attract and retain moisture, continues Dr Lynch. “For the lips this translates to improved hydration and reducing dryness and flakiness.” 
Considering that amino acids promote healing and skin regeneration, they can be particularly beneficial for cracked or damaged lips. “They also support the integrity of the skin barrier [the outermost layer of our skin] which helps to lock in moisture and protect against external irritants,” says Dr Lynch. “This is crucial for keeping lips soft and supple.” Together, squalane and amino acids are a dream team, he suggests. 
Clearly, this lip balm is smarter than the rest, and because of that, I use it differently. The consistency is ultra light so I use my finger to massage an initial layer into my lips as though it’s a moisturiser or serum. Once absorbed, I apply another thick layer on top and let it sit there to work its magic. Having used it consistently for over a month, my lips are much better off: They’re softer, smoother and more plump, and there are far fewer flaky pieces of skin, so I’m not tempted to pick and make things worse. 
If you wear lipstick or lip liner, this is the ultimate product to prep your lips with. It’s not at all greasy or sticky. Instead it hydrates lips but doesn’t interfere with anything you want to apply on top. Another great thing is that it’s fragrance free, so there isn’t a strange or distracting taste to contend with. One downside is that it doesn’t contain SPF, but I slather my entire face — including my lips — with Ultra Violette’s Fave Fluid SPF 50 Lightweight Skinscreen, £37, every morning before heading outside.
At £8.50, Squalane + Amino Acids Lip Balm is on par with the brand’s myriad serums, cost-wise, and it’s a snip of the price of revered lip products like Laneiege Lip Sleeping Mask, £21, Summer Fridays Butter Balm, £23, and Glossier Balm Dotcom, £16. Like most things The Ordinary launches, I predict that it’ll be a viral sell-out. You can shop it first at The Ordinary.

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