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Can Confirm: This $12 Plumping-and-Hydrating Lip Balm Rejuvenates My Smile In a Single Swipe

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Baby lips, anyone?

You know the girl that walks around, unbothered, with lips so chapped that you feel pain just looking at them? Well, until embarrassingly recently, I was that girl—to the point that my friends would force their Chapstick on me over dinner so that my flaking lips wouldn’t ruin their meal. Though I was militant about caring for my face and body, I honestly just never thought to give my mouth the same sort of TLC. But when I reached my 30s and found out that the lips are one of the first places to show visible signs of skin aging, I knew something needed to change. In the last few years, I’ve tested dozens of products to reinvigorate my pout, but none has impressed me more—especially at an under-$15 pricepoint—than The Inkey List Tripeptide Plumping Balm ($12).



The Inkey List, Tripeptide Plumping Lip Balm — $12.00

Key ingredients: 6% tripeptide complex, 2% hyaluronic acid filling spheres, shea butter

Size: 10 ml.

To understand how the balm works, it’s first important to understand why lip aging happens. “As time goes by, you lose volume, so your lips become less tall and wide, and the fat that hides your muscle goes away,” says Deirdre Hooper, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in New Orleans. “The muscles become a lot more apparent, and you can see every single contraction. The lips are completely encircled by muscles and connected to all sorts of muscles that contort them into facial shapes, which leads to lines.”

In addition to fine lines, there are a few other ways that lip aging shows up. “Not only do the lips lose volume, flatten, and retrude, but the vermillion border—which marks the transition of the pink mucosal lip to the skin—fades from time and sun damage,” says Luke Maxfield, DO, board-certified dermatologist. “This furthers the way an aged lip tends to hide in the background instead of being that accent of color that we’re all used to seeing highlight the lower face.”

How it works

The balm features two power-packed (and derm-beloved) ingredients to combat deflating lips. First up is a tripeptide complex. Your body’s natural supply of collagen starts to deplete around the time you hit 30 (it’s me! hi!), and peptides work to stimulate production. This helps to boost volume, delivering plumper, fuller-looking lips with fewer fine lines over time. Next, there are hyaluronic acid-rich filling spheres, which draw water into the lips to enhance moisturization and plumpness. The ingredients work together both instantly and over time so that their effects are visible long after you apply.

“Hyaluronic acid and peptides pair perfectly to bring both fast-acting and long-lasting complimentary benefits,” says Dr. Maxfield. “The hyaluronic acid is hygroscopic, meaning that it can pull moisture from the local environment to add initial volume, smoothen, and plump. Then the tripeptide complex, over time, has ingredients that have been shown to be able to do things including increase collagen and glycosaminoglycan synthesis for long-lasting, voluminous results.”

In addition to its anti-aging actives, the Inkey List Tripeptide Plumping Lip Balm is also jam-packed with lip-nourishing ingredients like chia seed oil and squalane to “help [support] the lip barrier,” says Dr. Maxfield. What’s more, it’s free of any of the common irritants that often show up in lip balms (ahem, menthol), which makes this “a soothing, hydrating product that’s perfect to save sensitive or dry lips,” says Dr. Maxfield.

When I tried the balm for the first time, I fell in love so fast that its plumping benefits hadn’t even set in yet. It feels like a nice, slippery oil—not a sticky or goopy balm—in a way that makes me want to rub my lips together nonstop. It doesn’t come with the uncomfortable tingle that most lip-plumping products do, which is a definite bonus in my book. I have to admit, though, that the lack of tingle did initially make me wonder if the product actually worked. Within five minutes though, I was convinced that it absolutely was.

Not only does the balm leave behind a glossy finish with just the right amount of shine, but it also diffuses the fine lines on my lips to the point that they’re practically invisible. And while the instant plumping effects weren’t necessarily dramatic, they were definitely there—and I have high hopes about how my lips will look over time (I’ve been using the balm daily for about a week, but it will likely take 4-6 for any non-temporary changes to set in).

I also love that Inkey List Tripeptide Plumping Lip Balmk is multi-purpose—it can be used whenever, wherever, and however you want. “It’s easy to incorporate because it doesn’t compete with any ingredients or skin-care steps,” says Dr. Maxfield. You can use it first thing in the morning after you wash your face, re-apply it over your lipstick throughout the day, and slick it on as the last step of your p.m. routine before bed.

As someone who had a tough time getting on board with lip balms, I’ve finally found one I won’t go anywhere without.