This story originally appeared at LittleThings.
The other day, I added one of the top-rated nipple butters to my shopping cart on Amazon. I am not breastfeeding. I’ve never breastfed. I just have really, really dry lips.
Let me explain.
I am one of those people who has to reapply lip balm about 100 times an hour. For that reason, I have a mini-collection of lip balms that I keep stashed in strategic locations: one by my bedside, one in my purse, one in my jacket, and so on. But, despite my best efforts, my lips are always chapped again within an hour (on a good day). That’s partially because I compulsively bite my lips (thanks, anxiety) and partially because winter.
Recently, I found the holy grail of lip balms. Or, at least, I thought I did. It was pure, plain, 100% shea butter. It worked much better than any lip balm I’d tried thus far (including Burt’s Bees, EOS, and good ol’ Chapstick). And by “better,” I mean that it was more effective at penetrating my lips, softening them, and staying in place to protect them for a while (until I chewed it off).
I posted an Instagram story about my newfound love of shea butter, asserting that lip balm is a lie. A family friend replied and said, “You know what really really works? Nipple butter! Like, for when you’re breastfeeding. I’m so serious.”
Me being me, I immediately wrote myself a note: “Try nipple butter.”
After some Googling, I discovered that there are, surprisingly, many folks who use nipple butter or cream on their lips. Nipple butter lip balm is a thing! A couple celebrities do it, even, like Margot Robbie and Tan France.
Although strange, it does make sense. Most nipple butters contain super-soothing plant oils and butters that are amazing for your skin. There’s no reason that they wouldn’t benefit your chapped lips, too.
For my own enlightenment, as well as all of yours, I tested not one but two nipple butters out.
Picking a Nipple Butter: Lanolin vs. Lanolin-Free
Back in 2016, an anonymous woman posted on Reddit about her new favorite lip balm: a nipple cream. The discovery quickly went viral and made the rounds on every women’s magazine you can think of, including Glamour and Allure. The lip balm in question was a brand of nipple cream called Lansinoh.
“I am not kidding you, I have NEVER put something this smooth on my lips,” the Redditor wrote. “I used the tiniest of tiny amount of the product and, an hour and a half later, it feels like I just put it on.”
Two years later, the trend is still going strong — as strong as a trend like this one could possibly get, anyway.
Lansinoh is made of 100% lanolin, an ingredient that’s derived from the fleece of sheep. Lanolin is “great for your skin,” cosmetic chemist Randy Schueller told Glamour. It works by softening and protecting your skin, and it does the exact same thing for your lips.
As great as lanolin is, many people are allergic to it. If that’s your situation, there are also some excellent nipple butters that are lanolin-free, like Earth Mama Organics Nipple Butter.
This formula features a blend of olive oil, cocoa butter, shea butter, mango butter, beeswax, and calendula. It’s the option that my family friend recommended: “It’s honestly the best.”
I decided to try BOTH nipple butters, because why not? I bought a tube of Lansinoh at my local CVS. I couldn’t find Earth Mama Organics Nipple Butter there, so I put a 2-ounce jar in my Amazon cart and waited eagerly for it to arrive in the mail.
My Experiment, Day One: This Is Already Embarrassing
My experiment came at exactly the right time. I had just run out of my two go-to lip balms, which weren’t so much my “favorites” as they were “the ones that I managed not to lose.”
While I do love my shea butter — hence the Instagram post that started this whole debacle, below — it comes in a ginormous tub that couldn’t possibly be less practical. Shea butter is great for when I’m at home in my room, but I need a lip balm in my purse and my jacket and in several pants’ pockets, don’t you see?!
My first concern about the nipple cream was that, while more portable, it would be too embarrassing to actually use in public. That fear was reinforced when I found myself in my local CVS, trying to find Lansinoh and getting totally lost because, hello, I’ve never actually breastfed. I got overwhelmed by the baby aisle and was eventually forced to ask the clerk for assistance.
“Do you sell nipple cream? Like, for breastfeeding?” I asked, gesturing vaguely at my breasts like an idiot.
“You need what?” she said. She was probably confused because people routinely think I’m 15 years old. Also, I was practically whispering.
“NIPPLE CREAM? LIKE, FOR BREASTFEEDING?” I said louder.
“Ummm,” she said, and then she had to call another clerk over for assistance because she wasn’t sure. It was horrible.
Anyway, I got the nipple cream eventually, and it looked like this, in a box.
I opened it up and it looked like this. Just like the one that Tan France uses, as well as that lady on Reddit and lots of other beauty gurus!
The tube is 1.41-oz., and you only need a tiny amount at a time to cover your lips. So, I’m hoping that the tube will last me for a million years and I’ll never have to go back to that CVS again.
My experience with Earth Mama Organics Nipple Butter was much easier, because it arrived in a discreet envelope at my doorstep one day. Amazon, I wish I could quit you.
The jar, too, is more discreet, because it could totally pass for a lip balm jar.
It also contains slightly more product at 2 oz. Again, a little goes a long way.
Day Two: Lanolin-Free Is Pretty Good
I spent the first couple days using the lanolin-free Earth Mama Organics Nipple Butter. I made it my main lip balm, which is to say that I kept it in my room and reapplied it every 20 minutes or so, whenever I discovered that I’d accidentally chewed my lip off and my mouth was now cracking open.
I really like the consistency of this product. It’s exactly like butter — it’s solid in the jar, but rapidly melts in your fingers or on your lips. It glides right on and makes my lips feel super smooth upon contact. It doesn’t have much of a scent.
On the other hand, I didn’t find it to be incredibly long-lasting on my (admittedly terrible and dry) lips. It tended to completely absorb into my lips and disappear before I even had a chance to chew it off, which is a small window of time.
Since it absorbs so quickly, I’d be more likely to use a product like this on my ankles, cuticles, hands, and other areas of the skin. (Maybe my nipples, one day!)
However, I can easily see how it would work well as a lip balm for people with fewer, uh, lip issues.
Day Four: Lanolin Is Magic
After feeling a little disappointed with nipple butter No. 1 and ever-so-slightly odd about the number of nipple creams in my child-free household, I turned to Lansinoh, the darling of the internet.
Again, I made it my main lip balm. I applied a tiny bit of it at a time, and… well, it was magic. This stuff feels a bit like Vaseline, but unlike Vaseline, it actually moisturizes your lips while also protecting them. It’s clear and completely scent-free.
My lips were silky-smooth, and the lanolin stayed on my lips seemingly forever — just like the Reddit lady said! It works amazingly for me, because it prevents me from chewing or biting my lips and it keeps them soft and it stays on for a long time.
Also, lanolin is naturally waterproof, so if you accidentally forget that licking your lips is a silly thing to do, it’s able to withstand such behavior.
I have to agree with those other weirdos on the internet: Lansinoh is the best lip balm, hands down.
Day Four: Lanolin Is Magic
What I learned from this experiment is that all great things require sacrifice. Yes, I had to shout the word “nipple” at a stranger to get my hands on my new favorite lip balm, and yes, I am going to have to figure out a way to covertly carry it around in public. Maybe a reusable mini jar?
But this lanolin stuff, man. It is exactly what my lips needed. I haven’t forgotten my beloved, trusty shea butter, but I have added a new essential product to my lip arsenal.