This Once-Underrated Product Is Now One of the Biggest Trends in Beauty

Ranking up there with a bar of soap, balms have the reputation of being one of the most basic beauty products out there. But these underrated formulations have quickly become go-to essentials over the past few months. The reason: There’s a lot of cutting-edge skin care science behind them, and a whole bunch of next-generation formulations—they go way beyond a lip balm—to back up the trend. Here are some reasons why they’re having a big moment:

Korean Beauty Surge: It’s no secret that K-Beauty is still going strong, and more and more of the “traditional” brands are taking note and tweaking their formulas. “Balms are definitely a big trend right now, especially in K-Beauty, which every manufacturer sort of looks to for ‘the next big trend,’” says Tata Harper, founder of the all-natural Tata Harper line.

Waterless Products Gain Popularity: According to celebrity facialist Joanna Vargas, balms are made from waxes, oils and butters, and a true balm is waterless. “Waterless beauty, including cleansing balms, is a growing trend because there is a real fear for anyone who is concerned about the environment that water is becoming a scarce commodity,” Harper says. New York aesthetician Mandy Epley agrees, and says there’s one more plus to ditching the H20: “Without the water, you are typically getting a more potent and pure product.”

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Texture Takes Over: Harper says people are really into different textures right now in beauty—even for products that give the same effects—and balms are one way to get that. “Think about it: It’s nice to have options. It’s like ice cream versus a milkshake. You pick the one that works for your preference.”

Ingredient Explosion: From a formulation perspective, creating a balm texture involves many oil-soluble ingredients, which means you’re able to put more ingredients into a single formula. Another plus: “A balm formulation also tends to contain more natural ingredients,” Epley adds.

The Attractiveness of All-in-Ones: Simply put, balms are multitasking products, and they make life a lot easier. “It’s the inherent value in the idea of an all-in-one formula that makes a balm so attractive,” says Mark Veeder, cofounder of Farmacy, a skin care line that recently launched a multitasking balm. “They’re uncomplicated, and that’s what consumers want right now.” 

Travel Becomes Tougher: If you’ve ever had your favorite beauty product taken by TSA, you know that one big bonus of a balm is that it’s solid. “Creams and lotions can be messy when you throw them into your bag or when you’re traveling,” Epley says. “Balms are almost always completely solid, stay put and can come in stick form, which is a huge product type right now. Plus, you can take them through airport security without an issue.”

They’re Powerful: Perhaps the biggest plus for any product: Balms are powerful. By their very nature, their formulations can contain a host of powerful ingredients. “Because a true balm is waterless, you can make it with ingredients that stay stable for longer and are more potent, and you can pack a lot in there,” Vargas explains. “Plus, they are actually sitting on your skin; they don’t really evaporate or sink in, so you are treating your skin at the source.”

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