18 tinted lip balms that pack on the hydration and shine

Courtney Thompson, CNN Underscored
Mon January 20, 2020

Whether it's midsummer or midwinter, our lips often bear the brunt of harsh weather, and can become dry, chapped or worse. Moisturizing is a must, but clear lip balm is possibly the least sexy beauty product on the planet.

Which is why we're obsessed with lip tints. Ultra-moisturizing and chock full of color — from baby pinks to bold reds — lip tints easily glide onto your lips like the balms you know and love, while adding varying degrees of color, shimmer and shine. Want a barely-there look? One quick application on each lip will get you there. Interested in something more dramatic? Great news: Tinted lip balms are buildable, meaning you can add layers to achieve the look you want.

What we love most about these balms, though, is how no-fuss they are. You can apply them while running out the door — no mirror necessary. Throw some on while wearing zero makeup (or with your favorite under-eye concealer) and the effect is completely natural. Your lips will look bright and cheery, but not overdone.

A good tinted lip balm needs to be ultra-moisturizing and deliver a buildable layer of color that lasts for hours at a time. We tried more than 40 balms—ranging from a few dollars to nearly $40 a piece—and came up with this list of 18, all of which are super hydrating and will give your lips a natural-looking pop of color. When choosing our favorites, we took each balm's overall quality, ingredients, color options, moisturizing duration, packaging and price into consideration, not to mention its availability. (Read: If it's sold not at a trusted vendor, it's not on this list.)

To help you find your go-to, we've categorized the 18 best lip tints, breaking them down by "splurge" (anything over $25), the "workhorses" that provide multiple features at midlevel prices, and the bargain-basement "drugstore finds" that get the hydration-color-combo job done at just a few dollars a pop.

The splurges

Yves Saint Laurent Volupté Plump-in-Color Plumping Lip Balm ($26, originally $39; nordstrom.com)

If we were to base this list on packaging alone, this balm from YSL would win. The epitome of luxury makeup, the Volupté balm comes in a gorgeous, weighty, shiny silver case emblazoned with the brand's signature logo. Available in six hues — ranging from nude to bright fuchsia — the balm seemingly melts onto your mouth, providing tons of moisture alongside a vivid-yet-sheer color. More to love: The heart-shaped print that runs through the core of each balm.

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Dior Addict Lip Glow Color Reviving Lip Balm ($34, nordstrom.com)

While we're on the topic of fancy, we'd be remiss to not give this cult-favorite Dior balm its moment in the spotlight. With nearly 800 5-star reviews on Nordstrom, Lip Glow is a favorite among A-listers (supermodel Bella Hadid swears by it) because it hydrates, tints and plumps. Wear it solo, as a moisturizing base under your lipstick or as a shiny top coat. And yes, we're giving bonus points for its ultra-modern, millennial-pink packaging. _______________________________________________________________________________

Perricone MD No Makeup Lipstick Broad Spectrum SPF 15 ($30, perriconemd.com)

We know, this definitely looks like a traditional lipstick — but we swear it's not! Simultaneously lightweight and super-moisturizing, this lipstick contains neuropeptides and hyaluronic acid, which can work to fight wrinkles and make your lips smoother and plumper over time. It's available in six hues and is free from nuts, soy and gluten. More to know: The shiny, screw-on metal tube prevents users from smooshing the lipstick — genius!

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Beautycounter Sheer Lipstick ($32, beautycounter.com)

With more than 2,000 glowing reviews on its site, one of clean beauty brand Beautycounter's top sellers is its silky Sheer Lipstick. Even though it's called lipstick, these 11 colors apply like a tinted balm, thanks to their jojoba ester and carnauba wax composition. Each stick is ultra-hydrating, has a light vanilla scent and comes in a sleek, matte-and-shiny striped gold tube that screams "fancy!" If you're looking for a traditional balm, opt for the Pearl, which is clear but with a dash of light-catching shimmer.

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Ilia Tinted Lip Conditioner ($28, sephora.com)

In case you missed it, the initials for Tinted Lip Conditioner, Ilia's very first product — which has 27,000 likes on Sephora and has become a favorite among devotees of the clean beauty brand — spell out TLC. Which is apropos for anyone who's ever swept the conditioner over their lips! Delivering a soft wash of color, the balms come in 11 hues, are gluten-free and 86% organic, and contain ultra-nourishing ingredients like sunflower seed oil, cocoa seed butter and orange peel wax. Oh, and the chic, matte-gold tube had us at hello.

The workhorses

Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment Sunscreen SPF 15 ($24, sephora.com)

With a slew of awards under its belt, Fresh's Sugar Lip Treatment has earned its cult-favorite status — it has more 9,000 positive reviews and 292,000 likes on Sephora. Beauty fanatics love the product's roster of 15 colors and its all-natural, ultra-hydrating ingredients like sugar, grapeseed and black currant seed oils. More to know: The sheer balms can be layered for a more vivid look and boast a 15 SPF rating, too.

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Coola Mineral Liplux Organic Tinted Lip Balm Sunscreen SPF 30 ($18, bloomingdales.com)

If UV protection is a must for you, look no further than Coola. Known for its sunless tanners and sunscreens, Coola is now offering these tinted mineral balms, with SPF 30 in a variety of hues, that protect your lips and moisturize them thanks to organic shea butter and nutrient-dense mongongo oil. More to know: The reef-safe balms are water-resistant for 40 minutes, and the brand recommends reapplying every two hours when outdoors.

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Clinique Chubby Stick Moisturizing Lip Colour Balm ($18.50, sephora.com)

There's something delightful about applying the Chubby Stick, which glides on like a creamy balm, but has the precision of a lip pencil. With more than 30,000 likes on Sephora, the balms come in eight colors and are beloved for their long-lasting tints and because they're so moisturizing that your lips feel softer after wearing them, thanks to ingredients like mango and shea butter. The sticks are packed with pigment and fall somewhere between sheer and opaque on the density scale. More to know: The hashtag #chubbystick has been tagged more than 22,000 times on Instagram!

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Lanolips ($13.50, nordstrom.com)

If you're a mom who's nursed a baby, you'll immediately recognize this Aussie product's key ingredient — lanolin. In addition to soothing the painful side effects of breastfeeding, lanolin is an ultra-moisturizing natural ingredient that, it turns out, is great for lips, too! Available in three colors, the balm is applied via the built-in applicator, glides on easily and provides a dense but natural color.

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Arrow Boost Color-Enhancing Lip Balm ($15, birchbox.com)

If there were to be a fan favorite on this list, it could easily be Arrow Boost. A proprietary product from beauty e-tailer Birchbox, Arrow Boost debuted in 2016 and has since racked up more than 35,000 positive reviews. While it may look like your standard nontinted balm, Arrow Boost actually reacts with your body chemistry to create a signature-to-you shade of pink. Want it darker? Keep applying! This is about to be your everyday go-to.

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Glossier Balm Dotcom ($12, glossier.com)

Known for its barely-there makeup and pared-down packaging, millennial-favorite beauty brand Glossier is a go-to for 20-somethings in search of a tinted balm. With more than 2,300 positive reviews, Balm Dotcom is one of the brand's most-loved products, thanks to the untinted original's ability to multitask as both a balm and all-over body salve. Now available in seven fun flavors/tints, the balm smells delicious and delivers a sheer, ultra-natural tint that you can use on your lips and cheeks. And fear not, the waxy texture stays put for several hours at a time, while the castor oil, beeswax and lanolin ingredients keep lips ultra-moisturized. (Looking for something with a bit more heft? Try the Generation G sheer matte lipstick.)

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Rituel de Fille Enchanted Lip Sheer ($24, bloomingdales.com)

Rich in color, the lip sheers from Los Angeles-based Rituel de Fille go on like a balm but have the vibrant pigment of a lipstick. Made with 100% natural ingredients like castor and jojoba seed oil and beeswax, these sheers are utterly feminine, too, thanks to their long, sleek tubes — and maybe the fact that the brand was founded by three sisters. More to know: Given the density, the sheers stay put for hours. Swipe on in the morning and you're good to go through lunchtime.

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Wander Beach Balm ($22, wanderbeauty.com)

From multitasking beauty brand Wander (known for its insanely brightening eye masks) comes this line of beachy-hued balms that aren't just for your lips. Hydrating and sheer, the balms can be used on your cheeks, too. The balms include prickly pear and chamomile extracts, which stimulate collagen production, and shea butter, which helps with elasticity.

The drugstore scores

Burt's Bees Tinted Lip Balm, Set of 2 ($9.48, amazon.com)

There are drugstore finds and then there are drugstore favorites, and these balms are definitely the latter. With more than 1,400 positive reviews on Amazon, Burt's Bees Tinted Lip Balms are just like the beloved original — yep, they're also 100% natural and contain shea butter and botanical waxes — except they're infused with a long-lasting hint of color. Available in six hues named after flowers, the balms are also super hydrating and can last for up to eight hours.

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Sky Organics Tinted Lip Balms, 4 Pack ($11.95, amazon.com)

If you're looking for a bang for your (organic) buck, this four-pack of vegan tinted balms is your answer. With more than 1,800 positive reviews on Amazon, the balms have a minty smell, provide a sheer shimmer of color and are chock full of natural ingredients like beeswax, coconut oil and essential oils. The balms are nontoxic and free of gluten, soy, fillers and petroleum derivatives.

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Eos Tinted Shea + Shade Lip Balm ($4.99, amazon.com)

Eos came out with this tinted version of its longtime favorite lip balm last August, much to consumers' delight. Available in six colors — ranging from a rich merlot to a bubblegum pink — the balms glide on just like the original, providing a light shade that can be built up with each additional swipe of the lips. Free of gluten, this is the no-fuss tint you'll want to stash in every purse you own.

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Pacifica Color Quench Lip Tint ($5, amazon.com)

An easy breezy color is exactly what this 100% vegan lip tint delivers — for just 5 bucks! Containing essential fatty acids, from avocado and coconut oils, the balms treat your lips while serving a long-lasting punch of moisture and hydration. More than 500 positive Amazon reviews attest to the balms' pretty, sheer colors.

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Vaseline Tinted Lip Balm, Set of 2 ($4.79, amazon.com)

The most old-school brand on our list is definitely one of the most protective, too, thanks to its ultra-thick petroleum jelly composition. Perfect for slathering on your lips on a freezing cold day, the balm now comes in a cute, rosy tint that will simultaneously brighten and hydrate your smile. We love the mini tub packaging, too.

Note: The prices above reflect the retailers' listed prices at the time of publication.