What's the best tinted lip balm?

4 Tinted Lip Balms on Trial

A few weeks ago, disaster struck.

Tinted lip balm disaster, I mean. It’s not the same kind of thing as ACTUAL “disaster”, but it was still pretty serious for me, because remember my Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment? The one I declared to be the best tinted lip balm in all the land? The one I said I’d put inside my 2015 time capsule?

I lost it.*

I mean, devastated isn’t the word. (No, really, it isn’t the word. Because it’s a tinted lip balm we’re talking about, not a precious artefact, you know?) Once I’d ransacked the house in a frantic search for it, I got right online to order a replacement… and that’s when I discovered they don’t actually sell the product here in the UK. Obviously I could have it shipped from Sephora in the US (or from eBay), but with a £70 minimum purchase (which means your order costs £90, once they add in the shipping and tax), and so many brand exclusions it’s barely worth doing, it would be cheaper for me to just FLY to the US and pick one up, really.*

(*No it wouldn’t.)

So I started looking for a replacement instead. Here are four contenders for the coveted title of ‘Best Tinted Lip Balm in the World’. Can any of them beat my beloved Fresh Sugar, though? Let’s find out…
what's the best tinted lip balm

The search for the best tinted lip balm…

My requirements for this search were fairly straightforward. Like the aforementioned Fresh Sugar, the tinted lip balm of dreams had to be:

a) reasonably moisturising on the lips


b) provide a decent wash of colour

I say “reasonably” moisturising. To be perfectly honest, the “balm” part of the equation is actually less important than the colour here, because while it’s always nice to have soft, moisturised lips, my main lip-related issue is their complete lack of colour. When I’m buying a tinted lip balm, then, I’m basically looking for something that will make me look alive (or, at least, a bit less corpse-like), by giving my lips a touch of easy-to-apply colour, which doesn’t require me to mess around with lip liner for ages, or spend the day worrying that if I take a sip of water, I’ll end up looking like Dracula.

So, here are the four contenders, plus some swatches on my hand and on paper. I know it would’ve made more sense to swatch them on my actual lips, but unfortunately my lips are in pretty bad condition right now (NOT due to any of these, I hasten to add – whenever I’m stressed/busy, it seems to affect my lips first. Lucky me, huh?), and trust me when I tell you that no one needs to see close up photos of them right now. Or ever, really.

UK beauty blogL-R: Clinique Chubby Stick in ‘Two Ton Tomato’ ; MUA Sweet Sheen Lip Balm in ‘Rogue Rumba’; Benefit Bene Balm; Maybelline Baby Lips in ‘Cherry Me’

tinted lip balm - swatches

tinted lip balm - swatches

First impressions tell us quite a lot here, and what you can (hopefully) see from these swatches is that the Chubby Stick has by far the best colour payoff of the four, and is also the reddest. The MUA and Benefit lip balms, meanwhile, are pretty close dupes for each other, with the Bene Balm being just a little bit darker. The Maybelline product meanwhile, is a lilac-pink shade, which, just FYI, I totally wasn’t expecting – go to the bottom of the class, Maybelline, and have a think about what you’ve done.

Let’s take a closer look…

tinted lip balm review

Clinique Chubby Stick in ‘Two Ton Tomato’

This is probably the best looking of the four in terms of packaging, although the fact that the Chubby Stick formula has been so widely copied (tons of other brands now make these ‘lip crayon’ style tinted lip balms) maybe makes it look a bit less “exclusive”, I don’t know. I have a few similar products from other brands, but Chubby Stick is the original, and – I think – the best.

This particular shade was a new purchase, but I also have one of these in ‘Chunky Cherry’ and I find the shape of the crayon somehow makes it easier to apply than some of the copycats I’ve tried. Application aside, this was also the best lip balm in terms of colour: the bright, mid-red shade is exactly what I was looking for, and it has a pretty good colour payoff, although it’s no match for my missing lip balm, may it rest in peace. The downside? At £17, it’s also one of the most expensive of the four: ouch.

MUS Sweet Sheen Lip Balm in ‘Rogue Rumba’

This product is just £2, and it kinda shows in the packaging, which has a real ‘drugstore’ feel to it – not that that’s a bad thing, necessarily. The colour is brighter and pinker than the Clinique balm, but it has a pretty good colour deposit, and isn’t too sheer. It has a bit of a ‘cheap lipstick’ scent to it (which I actually don’t object to, because it makes me feel like a teenager again), and is reasonably moisturising – probably more so than the Chubby Stick, actually. So, not perfect (the colour is just too pink on my lips), but pretty good for the price.

Benefit Bene Balm

I had high hopes of this, because I’m a big fan of Benetint Lip & Cheek Stain (which I use on my cheeks, but not the lips, as it stains the former, but immediately disappears from the latter). On the plus side, it looks great, in its shiny red tube, and I also like the scent – it’s expensive, yes, but at least it looks it, which is half the battle.

Unfortunately, though, the product itself is a little disappointing – it’s barely visible on my lips, and although it does moisturise them fairly well, I don’t really need to pay £24 for a hint of colour and a bit of moisture, do I? While the MUA product isn’t an exact dupe for it, it’s close enough that if you’re in the market for a tinted lip balm, and you like the colour of this, I’d go for MUA instead – I really don’t think you’d notice a whole lot of difference, other than in the packaging.


Maybelline Baby Lips in ‘Cherry Me’

This is another budget option, but unfortunately I wasn’t impressed. First of all, the packaging and scent (It has that “fake cherry” smell to it, which always reminds me of childhood, for some reason. Did my parents give me a lot of fake cherries when I was young, I wonder?) have a real ‘bargain basement’ feel to them, which makes me think of the kind of product you might give to a little girl, so she could pretend she was wearing lipstick. Secondly, though, the colour, as I noted above, is a strange lilac shade, which makes me look even MORE like a corpse than my natural lip colour does. In a bid to say something positive, I will say that this seems to be a decent balm, if not a great colour (it’s also very shiny and sheer), although because it looks so bad on me, I haven’t given it much of a trial – for some reason I keep on applying it, in the hope that this time it’ll look good, and then immediately scrubbing it off again when I realise that, nope, I still look like a corpse in it – dammit.

And the winner?

What's the best tinted lip balm?For me, the best tinted lip balm of these four has to be the Clinique Chubby Stick. The price is definitely a big downside, but I genuinely think it’s worth the extra cost – the others don’t come close to providing the same amount of colour, and this shade is perfect for me, although that’s obviously a personal preference. With that said, Chubby Stick might be the best of this selection, but it’s definitely not the best tinted lip balm in the world – we all know what THAT is by now, don’t we?

Got a favourite tinted lip balm? Do tell…

Are these the best tinted lip balms ever?[*Edited to add: a few days after I wrote this post, I went out to dinner, and grabbed a clutch bag to take with me. Inside it? The missing lip balm. And also a missing lip pencil, that I was ALSO pretty annoyed about. I can’t even remember the last time I carried that bag, so I’m honestly quite confused about how it came to be there (and why I didn’t miss it sooner), but hey, I’m not complaining: the day has been saved!]

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  • I love the Clinique Chubby Stick, too. I also really like the Rouge Coco Shine Lipsticks. I’m not sure if they are a lip balm, but they are very creamy and smell great.

    Hope you are having a great holiday!


    March 10, 2016
  • Carys


    Max Factor do a brilliant tinted lip balm – super red, proper pillar box, doesn’t immediately fall off your lips as soon as you look at a glass of water and not crazy expensive! Has the slight cherry scent, but nothing too awful. About 7.99, so cheaper than Clinique!

    March 10, 2016
  • Bex Miller


    Huzzah for the lip balm recovery! Always nice when that happens ? There is a website called rose’s beauty store which imports US products. It is a bit pricey still, and I wouldn’t buy something that is widely available at a UK store from them, but for a US exclusive I’m desperate to get my hands on it’s worth looking at! Xx

    March 10, 2016
  • Flagless


    Have you tried the NYX Color Lip Balm? The one I’ve got is very, very red – like, lipstick amounts of red, and is extremely moisturising. Also, quite cheap (packaging looks cheap too, if you care about such things). The downside is that it lasts only a short amount of time – just like any other lip balm. So, it’s pretty much exactly what it says on the tin – loads of colour and balminess. I like it a lot for everyday, casual situations.

    March 10, 2016
  • Emma


    I am a huge fan of the Elizabeth Arden 8 hour sheer tint in berry. Lovely soft red with good coverage and really moisturising.

    March 10, 2016
  • Nicola M


    The Carmex moisture plus in ‘Berry’ is my favourite 🙂

    March 10, 2016
  • Oh I’ll have to check out that Clinique chubby stick!

    Have you tried the YSL Tint-in-Oils? Ridiculously priced and more of a stain/gloss combination than stain/balm. BUT the color pigmentation is amazing and the formula is so silky. Very moisturizing too considering that’s not one of the selling points.


    Ashley || Sed Bona

    March 10, 2016
  • Michelle H


    I like Burt’s Bees for tinted balm. They have a crayon and more of a tube/stick, and I like and use both regularly.

    March 10, 2016
  • Ginger


    This was really interesting! I love tinted lip balms, for all the reasons you list, and I definitely prefer the reddest possible. My favorite is probably one of the Clinique knock-offs, Revlon Color Stay “Just Bitten Kissable” Balm Stain in 045, Romantic. I’ve bought at least 4 in less than 2 years, so it’s definitely a winner. It is a strong red, at least as red as the Clinique, and stains the lips for the whole day. It’s not drying at all, either; I do like balms, and this one also fits that bill wonderfully. It’s a saturated pink-red on me – but virtually everything turns pink on me. It’s also a whole lot cheaper than the Clinique. But I have no idea if it’s available in the UK! 🙁

    March 10, 2016
  • Katie


    I have been loving the Revlon knock offs of the Clinique lip balms. I have a few of the Chubby Sticks, and I like them, but the Revlon ones are pretty similar, for way less money, so now I own about 10 different lip crayon/balms. I’ve tried the Cover Girl knock offs as well, and I think they are more balm-y, with less color deposition, while the Revlon ones are more similar to Clinique in terms of color. In case anyone was wondering.

    March 11, 2016
  • Deva


    I enjoy the Clinique “Almost Lipstick” in Black Honey. It looks like it’s going to be really dark but it’s very sheer, so it doesn’t come off nearly as dark as it is in the tube, and it’s great at moisturizing. I consider it my go-to product for looking slightly more put-together in just a few seconds.

    For something more fully pigmented, I really liked the Laqa & Co fat lip pencils. They’re fairly moisturizing but take a little more effort than a lip tint. I used to wear Ring of Fire all the time–sadly I used it up and haven’t been able to justify getting more (so many red lip products…)

    March 11, 2016
  • anya


    Soo I have A lot of feelings about the subject. There are the revlon lip butters , of which candy apple is the best sheer red ( if you like bright fuchsia i also love raspberry pie) . Quite moisturizing, don’t last very long , decent warm red. There are also the matte balms which last longer but are not as balmy for me ( i like standout a deeper red ,but you can like striking which is a little more warm) . Clinique has also a more intense balm line of which i like mightiest maraschino but at this point i feel it is more a super hydrating lipstick rather than a tinted balm . On the expensive side there are also the oils ( ysl and lancome) which are sheer and freaking expensive but feel very nice on the lips

    March 11, 2016
  • Christen


    Cherry Chapstick is my go to for color. I have a baby who likes to grab my face a lot, so if this smudges onto my cheek I don’t look like the Joker! But, adds a bit of life to a pale tired Mama’s face 🙂 and if I lose it, I can head to any store and find a three pack replacement!

    March 28, 2016
  • Alex


    I recommend Chapstick’s Total Hydration tinted lip balm. It’s $10 in Australia which is where I live, but it moisturises well and gives a subtle but still slightly noticeable wash of colour. I bought it in the Rose Petal shade, which is a rosy pink tint. They also have this lip balm in Bordeaux, which is a brick red and Coral Blush which is obviouslya coral colour. These lip balms are good for everyday use-probably even suitable for school or work.

    September 5, 2018