Multi-purpose balms are the unsung heroes of self-care. With their thick and buttery consistency, effective ingredients, and overall convenience, some formulas can target incredibly parched skin, helping to lock in moisture where it’s needed most, while others work wonders to relieve aches and pains (while also providing a nourishing boost).
With winter around the corner, now is the time to double-check that your skin-care arsenal has a multi-purpose balm (or two) that can address the biggest cold weather woes, including chapped, chafed, and cracked skin. To help you narrow down your selection, we tapped Dr. Deanne Robinson, a board-certified dermatologist and chief medical officer at Ideal Image for her expertise on multi-purpose balms, their ingredients, and their uses. Find her insights, plus our top picks, ahead.
- Deanne Robinson, MD, Deanne Robinson, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and the chief medical officer at Ideal Image, a national aesthetics dermatology chain.
The best multi-purpose balms, at a glance:
- Glossier After Baume, $28
- Alo Magic Multi-Balm, $48
- Ever Eden Multi-Purpose Healing Balm, $23
- SkinCeuticals Hydra Balm, $24
- Beam The Fixer, $75
- Ren Clean Skincare Evercalm Overnight Recovery Balm, $52
- Mount Lai Calming Herbal Repair Overnight Recovery Balm for Skin Barrier Support, $60
- Vermont's Original Bag Balm, $9
- Burt’s Bees Hand Salve, $3
- Dr. Scholl's Cracked Heel Repair Balm, $7
- Saje Trauma Less, $20
- Drunk Elephant Slaai Makeup-Melting Butter Cleanser, $34
The magic is in the multi
As its name suggests, a multi-purpose balm is just that—a balm with more than one use. Typically, these balms are designed to provide ultra-deep nourishment to the skin, as well as areas prone to dehydration, like the cuticles, heels, knuckles, and lips. “Balms are formulated with thicker humectants and emollients to support skin healing and protect the skin barrier,” says Robinson. Since multi-balms are so nourishing, they can also lock in moisture for longer-lasting softness (and comfort, of course).
When shopping for a multi-purpose balm, Robinson says to look for products made with oils, butters, and lipids. “Some of the most effective ones are shea butter, avocado oil, aloe vera, olive oil, castor oil, coconut oil, and jojoba oil,” she notes. Ingredients like vitamin E, glycerin, ceramides, and hyaluronic acid are also excellent for balm formulation.
The best multi-purpose balms to quench dry skin from head-to-toe
Good For: Dry or sensitive complexion skin after exposure to extreme temperatures and skin irritants.
Glossier says its After Baum is “a puffer jacket for your skin” and, quite honestly, it’s totally true. It’s made specifically for protecting dry and sensitive skin from the frigid cold, but also provides a ton of relief to the complexion after accidental over-exfoliation, excessive sun or heat exposure, more aggressive acne treatments, and even mask-wearing.
The multi-purpose balm is made with glycerin, which attracts moisture to the skin, as well as linoleic acid and babassu oil to replenish the moisture barrier. It also comes with a National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance™ and has high praise for its sensitive skin-friendly formula, which forgoes the fragrance, essential oils, and other irritating ingredients (after all, this balm is made for soothing your complexion post irritation, not adding to the concerns). We love it because, instead of a salve-like consistency, the balm feels more like a super-thick cream that glides onto the skin like butter. And, while it’s meant to be used all over the face, it also works wonders as a spot treatment for trickier, super-parched areas.
Good For: Hydrating the complexion and body skin, removing makeup, and spot-treating dehydrated areas.
When we think of Alo, we instantly think of the most comfortable and stylish workout gear—but the athleisure brand also excels at self-care products, including the Magic Multi-Balm. The multi-purpose skin balm takes its name seriously and can literally be used in so many ways. You can reach for it when you need a nourishing overnight face mask moment, when you’re in a pinch and need to remove your makeup (it’s a fantastic oil cleanser!), or when you want to add a little highlighting shine to your makeup of the day. The buttery balm nourishes everything from your complexion to your soles and works overtime on chapped lips, elbows, knees, and heels, too.
Formulated with moringa oil, which is rich in vitamin A and can target dry skin, as well as target fine lines, wrinkles, and dullness. It’s also rich in antioxidants and protects against pollutants. We love this multi-use balm because, in addition to how well it works, it has the most delicious natural orange peel sense that feels rejuvenating to the mind and body every time it wafts in your direction.
Good For: Treating chapped lips, dry hands, chafed nipples, cuts, and scars.
If you want a skin-care balm that is 100 percent natural with an array of uses and a fantastic price point (especially considering its multi-purpose nature), look no further than the Ever Eden Multi-Purpose Healing Balm. This soothing balm is designed for spot use on ultra-dehydrated areas, including chapped lips, dry hands, and chafed nipples—but it also targets and treats cuts and scars, too.
The formula is free from petroleum, lanolin, and silicone and instead enriched by castor seed oil, grape seed oil, rosehip oil, sunflower seed oil, and glycerin to nourish and attract moisture to the driest areas on the face and body.
Good For: Relief from eczema, psoriasis, and general dry, itchy, flaky skin.
If you experience eczema or psoriasis, relief from the persistent discomfort is a total game-changer. The SkinCeuticals Hydra Balm was designed with these conditions—plus general dry, itchy, and flaky skin—in mind and provides relief to the most irritating of skin conditions. The dermatologist-recommended balm is formulated with healing, soothing, and hydrating ingredients, including aloe and chamomile for anti-inflammatory benefits, plus pure petroleum to create a protective layer between the skin and the elements. And, it also comes in a squeeze tube bottle vs. a tin, making it even easier to apply all over as needed.
Good For: Muscle relief and calming the senses.
The Fixer from Beam is one of the best muscle relief products you can find—and it’s made from natural ingredients, which makes it all the more impressive. Designed for application on the body, this multi-purpose balm is formulated with hemp oil that nourishes the skin as well as targets aches and pains to offer relief from feeling sore. It also has eucalyptus for its anti-inflammatory properties and lavender oil to promote an overall sense of calm.
Thanks to its nourishing and antibacterial ingredients, this muscle relief balm has some skin benefits. However, Robinson says to avoid putting it on your face, as the eucalyptus oil could be irritating to those with more sensitive complexions.
Good For: Targeting dryness, redness, and dullness, as well as rejuvenating the complexion overnight.
The Ren Clean Skincare Evercalm Overnight Recovery Balm is essentially a moisturizer and overnight mask wrapped up in one. Designed to regenerate and target dry skin while you sleep, this soothing formula can not only treat parched complexions but also help diminish redness and brighten, too. Its formula features stand-out skincare ingredients including olive, almond, borage, and linseed oils for lipid support, a mixture of jojoba and sunflower oil for protecting the skin’s moisture barrier, and Beta-Glucan to spot treat redness. While it’s meant to be used on the complexion, we also rub it all over our necks and chests before calling it a night.
Good For: Strengthening the skin’s barrier, plumping the skin, and soothing irritation.
This herbal-infused skincare balm takes multi-tasking seriously with the ability to not only moisturize the complexion, but also protect and strengthen the skin’s moisture barrier, soothe irritation, and provide anti-aging benefits, too. The Mount Lai Calming Herbal Repair Balm is an overnight skin-care treatment formulated with squalane to balance the skin while also providing a burst of hydration. It also features green tea extract, which is known for its ability to ward off free radicals (and protect against damage caused by pollution, sun exposure, and other free radical sources), as well as an adaptogenic complex that protects and strengthens the skin’s barrier.
We love this balm because it works overtime to not only lock in moisture but also target some of the most common skin-care woes while you sleep. Plus, it can be coupled with an invigorating gua sha facial massage, making it the ultimate pre-bedtime ritual.
Good For: Treating dehydrated, cracked skin—especially on the heels, elbows, and hands.
Bag Balm might just be one of the most iconic multi-purpose balms on our list. This formula is somewhere between a medicine cabinet superstar and a skin-care savior, particularly when it comes to extremely dry and dehydrated body skin that is prone to cracks and cuts. Enhanced with four ingredients (petrolatum, lanolin, 8-hydroxyquinoline sulfate, and paraffin wax) to create a thick balm-like moisturizer, this shopper-favorite formula can be used sparingly to create a thin head-to-toe layer of protection, or slathered all over for more heavy-duty concerns.
While there are many different uses—including as a lip balm, thick hand cream, and even for treating cuts and scrapes—we prefer to rub it into our soles before bed and cover them up with a pair of thick, warm socks. When we really need it, we’ll give our hands this special treatment, too. Upon waking: We’re met with softened soles that no amount of exfoliating could achieve.
Good For: Nourishing ultra-dry hands, knuckles, and cuticles.
No matter how much you try to keep them nourished, hands seemingly love to get rid of moisture. If you find that your hands need a little more R&R from all the hand washing and sanitizing, Burt’s Bees Hand Salve is a small but mighty investment for your skin-care arsenal. Made from 100 percent natural ingredients, including a luscious and rich blend of beeswax and olive oil for deep replenishment, this skin salve can be used all over, or sparingly on knuckles and cuticles as needed.
We think it’s one of the bests for two reasons. First, it’s under $10 and can easily be found at drugstores, Target, and other convenient spots when you’re in a pinch and desperate for some moisture salvation (see what we did there?). On top of that, it actually works—plus it comes in a convenient tin that fits in most bags so you’re always prepared.
Editor’s Note: When I’m not writing, I spend my time making pottery or silversmithing—both of which are like moisture leeches on the hands. I find that Burt’s Bees Hand Salve is just about the only thing that can keep my hands actually hydrated after exposing them to extremely drying elements.
Good For: Soothing and nourishing dry, crack-prone heels.
When we think of balm formulas, we immediately always go to our heels. After all, they are usually the dryest part of the body—which can feel nearly impossible to treat. For an effective solution to cracked heels, the Dr. Scholl’s Cracked Heel Repair Balm is a must-have for your medicine cabinet. The balm is formulated with nourishing essential oils, allantoin, and epsom salt, which has impressive moisturizing properties. It also comes packaged in a convenient tube that resembles a jumbo lip balm, making it super easy to apply to specific areas as well as all over the soles if needed.
Good For: Relief from aches and pains.
Whether you experience more temporary discomfort caused by muscle soreness or chronic joint pain caused by arthritis, the Saje Trauma Less balm is a good thing to have on hand. Enhanced with menthol, this all-natural formula is designed to give the body temporary relief from aches and pains on the body. You can use it on larger areas like your low back, but it also works well on the wrists—we love targeting our carpel tunnel with it—hands, and finger joints, too.
Aside from how well it works to provide a little bit of momentary relief, the great thing about this multi-purpose salve is that it comes in a smaller container, so you can take it on the go with you. Additionally, it’s formulated with a beeswax and olive oil base, so it can nourish the skin on the fly, too.
Good For: Removing makeup on dry skin types.
Removing stubborn makeup can feel ultra-frustrating. Luckily, there’s a balm for that, too. We are in love with the Drunk Elephant Slaai Makeup-Melting Butter Cleanser and use it on our dry skin daily—whether we’re removing waterproof mascara or not. The multi-purpose balm is like a solid oil cleanser that turns into a milky consistency to lift away the day’s dirt and debris once in contact with water.
In addition to cleansing, the balm also comes with an exfoliant that you can add to the balm to slough off dry, dead skin build-up while cleansing, too. It’s not technically a recommended use, but we have even used it to lightly moisturize our complexion when we tragically forget our night cream while traveling and it made for an excellent stand-in.
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