I’m reviewing lip care products for the 2018 Clean Beauty Awards — you get free insights into the challenges of creating excellent products, formula to packaging.
For the past four years Cert Clean, Canada’s clean skincare certification label, have been hosting the annual Clean Beauty Awards to celebrate product excellence in the industry. Green beauty experts from all over the world are invited to test and judge finalist products.
My category for the 2018 awards were lip care products and today I’m letting you in on my product reviews.
Clean Beauty Awards:
Why Packaging Matters
Packaging! Talking to many founders and executives in the organic beauty industry, I can tell you they are truly knowledgeable about all the implications of packaging and constantly looking for better solutions. After all, product packaging must check off all the boxes: budget, environmental impact (from which raw material to choose to the total shipping weight of the final product and to the end of the life cycle), hygiene requirements for the specific product category, design guidelenes for an on-brand look and feel, and so on.
Think of it as of a sudoku of decisions: all rows have to align, but you’re juggling not just numbers but also facts, restrictions and ideas. The packaging is a massive part of the product and brand experience, and it mustn’t be chosen light-heartedly.
Now, specifically lip care products can come in a variety of packagings: round tubes, soft tubes, vials, jars — packaging with or without applicators — made from different materials from plastic and glass to wood, metal, and paper. The plastic round tubes with caps however are the most common choice because they’re practical, lightweight, affordable and easily available. Brands looking to highlight how special their lip balm formula is often choose a different solution (think Dr. Hauschka glass jars or Kjaer Weis refillable design pieces).
But whatever packaging is chosen, in our day and age it’s vital to not “over-package” products in layers upon layers, and this is definitely something that will influence the score. It’s vital and urgent to have a discussion about packaging.
More and more eco-savvy consumers complain about all the “shipped air” and extra material, and if more companies request better solutions, more can be done. We may not be able to be completely 100% zero waste anytime soon as a society, but “as little waste as possible” should be a short-term goal.
Side note: I didn’t know what packaging to expect from the Clean Beauty Awards 2018 finalists before the arrival of the six products.
Evaluating The Formula
Can a lip care formula be surprising? After all, it’s a very simple product tackling one simple task. Right?
Yes and no. The answer depends on product design. Some products are made to soften the lips, others can have UV protection, plumping, priming or anti-ageing properties.
Lip care can have the texture of a solid stick, a balm, a gloss, a cream, or even of an oil. What I expect from the Clean Beauty Awards finalist products is that the lip care softens the lips, doesn’t feel greasy or sticky, and ideally works under lip make-up.
And even though I think we can all agree that choosing clean formulas makes a lot of sense for a lip product, I want to present you with…
A CASE FOR ORGANIC LIP CARE
Stiftung Warentest, a German consumer advocacy institution, found out in 2017 that regular lip balm users can “eat” up to 20 grams of lip care per year (which then amounts to 4 lip care sticks, bon appetit!). It gets unsavoury when you crunch the next numbers: of 35 conventional products tested by the researchers, 18 contained critical ingredients, Mineral Oil Saturated Hydrocarbons and Polyolefinic Oligomeric Saturated Hydrocarbon from petroleum-based ingredients — “mineral oil”, “paraffinum liquidum”, “cera microcristallina”, “polyethylene” to name a few.
As a contrast, all natural products evaluated by Warentest ended on the “recommended” list with products by Dr. Hauschka, Alverde, Alterra, Dr. Bronner’s, Lavera and Weleda.
A similar, more recent Ökotest magazine product test published in January 2019 only has two products with an excellent rating — both are certified organic lip balms (the only ones tested): Alverde Sonnenlippen-Pflege and Annemarie Börlind Sun Care Lip Stick.
Stiftung Warentest, YouTube | Stiftung Warentest recommended products (2017) | Ökotest 2019 lip care test
On the green beauty industry spectrum that ranges from “100% certified organic” all the way up to “nature-inspired conventional formulas”, the Clean Beauty Awards finalists definitely do lean green: three are certified organic, three are natural; all products have very reasonable formulations.
Which is very good.
Let’s have a closer look now!
Clean Beauty Awards:
Lip Care Finalists’ In Review
Without further ado but with a “disclaimer”: As a judge, I was evaluating what I had from the viewpoint of a consumer. If I were researching a round-up on lip care for BEAUTYCALYPSE, I would of course have reached out and asked a couple questions. But for the purpose of the awards I’ve checked the ingredients, I’ve tested the products, and I’ve read the information freely available through the companies’ websites.
LUSCIOUS WITH MANGO BUTTER
The Beeswax & Mango Butter Lip Balm (5g, CAD4.50/ approx. €3) by Calgary-based Clearwater Skin Therapy comes in a plastic tube wrapped in paper that doubles as a hygiene seal. The ingredients are listed as following: grapeseed oil, beeswax, mango seed butter, organic coconut oil, non-GMO vegetable based emulsifier, Vitamin E, lavender essential oil and organic peppermint essential oil.
Sounds good but the ingredient named „non-GMO vegetable based emulsifier“ raises questions. Why so vague? “Vegetable-based” doesn’t really say a lot, does it?
Just to fill you in: there are plant-based emulsifiers that are perfectly fine like Cetearyl Glucoside or plant-based Lecithin. There are natural emulsifiers that are still questionnable (example: PEG-7 Hydrogenated Castor Oil) and there are some that are safe to use but could be derived from potentially conflict palm kernel oil (example: Glyceryl Stearate is such an ingredient that needs clarification).
These are questions an ingredient-savvy consumer will ask anytime when faced with vague wording.
The texture of the Beeswax & Mango Butter Lip Balm is what it says it is: a lip butter. Non-sticky, with a rich melt that can get slightly too rich if your lips are extra warm, and with the soft smell of the mango seed butter — a pleasant one, far away from the harsh artificial flavour —, the balm leaves your lips feeling soft and nourished. Lovely!
P.S. Blot it thoroughly before applying lipstick.
SINGLE INGREDIENT FOR DOZENS OF USES
The Original Nipple Balm (15ml, £12/ approx. €14) by London-based Dr. Lipp takes a whole different approach. This product is based on a single ingredient, 100% pure, medical-grade lanolin from — such is the promise of the company — the wool of Australian „unpainted, free roaming sheep“. (NB: unpainted and free roaming is good, but I would love to see more information regarding the mulesing practices of those sheep farms.)
Lanolin is a time-tested ingredient that can soften skin and hair, contribute to natural healing processes of the skin and also has antistatic properties. Use the Original Nipple Balm to soothe dry lips or cuticles, or to control flyaway hairs, or even to polish your shoes, that’s completely up to you.
Dr. Lipp have a following that includes celebrities like make-up artistry icon Mary Greenwell or actress Lily Cole. The back-to-nature, down-to-Earth appeal of the super versatile single ingredient formula contrasts with the fancy, illustrated packaging that sings “beauty boutique”.
This is actually also my only beef (no pun intended) with this product: the triple packaging. The balm sits in a very cute and chic (and hygienically sealed) plastic tube which is put into a lacquered cardboard box which in turn is wrapped in foil. Granted, I can recycle them all, in Germany anyway, but — what’s that for?
The texture of the Original Nipple Balm is heavy, waxy and thick in a good way, and works both under a lipstick and on top of it. The finish is ultra-glossy. The lips feel ultra soft and smooth. Because of the versatile nature of lanolin, the balm is genuinely multi-use and ideal for minimalists, mothers or frequent travellers that harbour no vegan aspirations.
The balm is unscented, but it has a faint, unmistakable natural smell of lanolin (think pure merino wool).
USDA ORGANIC, DOUBLE FEATURE
C2 California Clean Skincare have two finalists: Organic Lip Conditioners „Peppermint“ and „Vanilla“. Each balm (0.15 oz/ 4,2 g) costs $9.50 (approx. €8,30).
„Peppermint“ is based on USDA organic certified ingredients: sunflower oil, beeswax, extra virgin olive oil, peppermint oil, hempseed oil, spearmint oil as well as non-organic Vit E (non-GMO though). „Vanilla“ is made of USDA organic certified ingredients: sunflower oil, beeswax, jojoba oil, fragrance („flavor“ on the label) and rosemary extract as well as non-organic Vit E (non-GMO).
The EWG-verified, women-owned Californian brand is rooted in scientific research and focuses on healthy innovation in skincare. Is it any wonder the lip conditioners’ ingredient declaration is music to my ears?
The C2 lip conditioners have the silkiest texture of all products tested here. They nourish and soften while behaving beautifully under a lipstick or lip liner. The Peppermint conditioner tingles the lips with a refreshing light sting upon application. While they look (and feel!) rather subtle on the lips, both conditioners can be layered for a silky gloss finish.
Blueberry Lip Balm (4.5 g, CAD 5/ approx. €3,30) by La Prétentieuse from Québec lists apricot (I suppose apricot kernel butter is what’s meant), cacao butter, beeswax, jojoba, honey, Blueberry natural flavour, mixed tocopherols, and sunflower seed oil as ingredients.
The transparent plastic tube is wrapped in an additional layer of plastic where a hygiene seal would do.
Upon opening the product, you’re greeted by a delicious blueberry cupcake scent; and I say “blueberry cupcake” because, sadly, fresh blueberries rarely ever have that smell these days. The texture is super rich, not sticky at all and with a pleasant buttery “melt”.
However, depending on room and lip temperature, the texture can feel slightly grainy on the lips and crumble a bit. In this case, reapplying with a warm fingertip has solved the problem.
COCONUT AND ORANGE
Organic certified lip balm „Orange“ (4g, CAD 7.99/ approx. €5,30) by Ottawa-based CoCaBee* is made from coconut oil, beeswax, wildflower honey, and essential oils of orange and eucalyptus, all Ecocert/ Cosmos certified.
* On the CoCaBee website the product is now called CoCaBee Ultra-Hydrating Lip Balm Sweet Orange, the description above is what it says on the packaging of the finalist product that I was sent.
What I love about this lip balm is the dedication to the formula. Yes, it’s only five ingredients, but they are all great quality, they work well together and they deliver. For some, a lip balm is simply an addition to the range. Here it is the range.
What I don’t love is the bamboo which had me all heart-eyed at first (and gets lots of love on the brand’s website) but, in this case, is given the role of an extra packaging layer. While you can expect a plastic or even an aluminium bullet into which the product has been poured, a complete plastic tube and cap packaging inside the bamboo tube and cap were a surprise.
The texture is delicately rich, and smells (and tastes!) very subtly of coconut oil and orange — I’m highlighting this in particular because orange in skincare can get overpowering. On the lips, the balm melts into a protective layer with the beautiful finish of a silky gloss, softening and smoothing the skin. Blotted with tissue paper, the Orange Lip Balm wears well under a lipstick or lip liner.
Soft Lips, Final Notes & Bottom Line
All six finalists deliver very good results, all have good formulas and come from independent companies that care. They’re the Clean Beauty Awards finalists, so — of course they do! I must say I can’t wait for the final decision.
A note dedicated to my ingredient-savvy readers: most products on this list are manufactured for distribution in North America and don’t comply with EU nomenclatures for ingredient and allergen declarations. This didn’t affect my rating. Neither did the absolute product price.
Interestingly and contrary to the strong trend, none of the products in the final round are vegan-friendly.
Personally, I’m more than okay with vegetarian-friendly ingredients such as organic beeswax, in fact, even many of my vegan friends committed to animal welfare are, — but since there are plant-based waxes available that other companies have successfully used to create efficient organic lip balms and conditioners, I’ve got to admit I was expecting to see at least one vegan product.
And now, sitting here with the softest lips I’ve ever had in my life, I hope there have been informative and inspiring bits for your personal life or work.
Your Clean Beauty Awards Lip Care Judge Nath