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The humble lip balm has gone from everyday basic to covetable luxury. Why not make it a new-season investment

THERE was a time when lip balm was the ChapStick that resided at the bottom of your bag, usually mottled by fluff. Today’s iterations are a mix of butters, oils and waxes, with innovative textures, fresh tints, sun protection and smart technology that enhances the lips’ natural colour. Combined with chic packaging and a luxury label, the basic balm has become a covetable statement-maker.

This is why balms now come with the waiting lists and price tags that befit a colour cosmetic. According to consumer data research company Statista, global sales could top $1billion (£800million) by 2023 (in 2017, the figure was with $660million). Prestigious names usually associated with high-end make-up and skincare — think La Mer, Shiseido, Hourglass and Givenchy — have launched lip treatments that go beyond soothing dryness by offering benefits such as protection and plumping.

‘Lip balm is a top three, if not number one, search term on our website every week,’ says Margaret Mitchell, chief merchandising officer at Space NK. ‘There are more formats coming on to the market such as innovative plumpers and scrubs, as well as straightforward balms. Customers can be particular about their selections but for us the category is growing in double digits.’

Neil Young, a make-up artist and Givenchy brand ambassador, says there are two reasons why luxury lip balms have fast become an exciting beauty product.

‘Firstly, upgrades in packaging make them more desirable,’ he says. ‘Secondly, balms act as primers for lipstick, keeping the colour true, while smoothing ingredients and hyaluronic acid keep lips nourished and moisturised. This helps prevent feathering, intensifies colour payoff and locks in any lip product for more comfort and longevity.’

Beauty aficionados agree, and some are happy to pay the hefty price tags. A scroll through cultbeauty.co.uk shows 58 balms and treatments costing £6 to £68.

Our lips are sealed: Huntington-Whiteley, Watson and Chung love high-end balms

Celebrities are also raising their game. Self-confessed ‘lip balm freak’ Rosie Huntington-Whiteley cites Glossier and Lanolips as favourites, while Emma Watson and Alexa Chung perfect their pouts with Dr PawPaw, and swimwear designer Melissa Odabash is a fan of L’Occitane’s lip products.

‘Customers are looking for the newest formulations, delivery techniques and, ideally, sunscreen,’ says Jenna Anderson, junior buyer at Cult Beauty. ‘Products are ever more hi-tech so we’re seeing a wider variety including oils, waters and tints, plus consistent growth in lip masks, as customers seek more luxurious treatments and are conscious about the sun protection factor for lips.’

Adaptive balms, which work with the skin’s pH to give a natural tint customised to the shade of lips, are a mainstay for luxury cosmetics companies including MAC, Dior and Bobbi Brown. Givenchy recently added eight shades to its original pink-based capsule collection.

Lipstick is following a similar trend. A report by the NPD Group, a market research firm, found that sales of prestige lip colour with added skincare benefits rose by 245 per cent in the first half of this year compared with 2018.

‘Lip treatments are seen as an essential for your bedside, desk, handbag and gym bag,’ says Mitchell. ‘But they are small and easy to lose so there’s no harm in having several on the go. In colder months, even if you don’t have time for mascara or concealer, most people wouldn’t leave home without lip balm, so they are buying multiples to stash.’

A slick move indeed.

Pucker up: Deluxe your lips

■ Starskin’s scrub and mask (pictured top). £45, lookfantastic.com

■ Hourglass No.28 treatment oil. £45, spacenk.com

■ Dr PawPaw balm. £6.95, harveynichols.co.uk

■ Shiseido ColorGel lipstick. £25, johnlewis.com

■ Lanolips Lip Water. £15, net-a-porter.com

■ L’Occitane Marmalade Kiss Delicious lip scrub. £14, loccitane.com

■ Eos Active Aloe SPF30 lip balm. £6.50, feelunique.com