This $6 Product Saved My Chapped and Peeling Lips When Nothing Else Could

Photo: Getty Images/Cavan Images
Earlier this week, my lips felt like they were on fire. Like I took a dive while playing beach volleyball, but instead of getting sand burn on my knees, it ended up on my face. And to add injury to injury, each time I'd smile, a rupture that makes the Marianas Trench look like a sidewalk crack would split my bottom lip in two. I had to adopt resting bitch face as my permanent look in order to avoid being confused with the Joker. And it’s not cute.

There’s a chance that my current lip predicament was caused by my recent vacation to Mexico—12 cumulative hours in an airplane plus seven days of sun exposure isn’t a recipe for moisturized, kissable lips. But more likely the cause is four months of frigid temps in New York City, which I spent with my face wrapped in a flannel scarf I’ve washed approximately zero times since Thanksgiving. We may have already sprung forward for the season, but a few days ago, I found myself rummaging way into the back of my medicine cabinet for a remedy for my winter-ravaged mouth because neither my go-to cherry Chapstick nor the blue tub of medicated Blistex I’d been digging my finger into for years (what expiration date?) were cutting it.

Within minutes, I felt relief. And within hours, my peeling lips were well on their way to smoothness. What is this witchcraft?

And there it was. On the second shelf, peeking out from behind my husband’s canister of shaving cream, was a white tube with the words “HOMEOPATHIC MEDICINE” in all-caps on the front. I can’t remember now why my friend had given this product to me (it’s a weird present), but I do remember that she told me it was magical. I put a tiny bit of the calendula ointment—a clear gel, not unlike Vaseline or Neosporin but with a less medicinal smell—on my index finger and smeared it on my “affected area.” Within minutes, I felt relief. And within hours, my peeling lips were well on their way to smoothness. What is this witchcraft?

Calendula oil, dermatologist Mona Gohara, MD, tells me, is derived from the marigold flower. “Like other botanical oils such as safflower, sunflower, and coconut oils, it has hydrating qualities,” she says. “Oils are more hydrating than creams which are more hydrating than lotions.”

Dermatologist Josh Zeichner, MD, adds that calendula ointment “is rich in linoleic acid, which is an essential fatty acid that can help seal in cracks between cells in the the outer skin layer.” It’s also chock full of carotenoids, which are antioxidants that can help reduce skin inflammation, and saponins, “which are compounds with antimicrobial and skin-cleansing properties,” says Dr. Zeichner.

The calendula ointment my friend gave me (thanks, Carolyn!) is made by Boiron and can be purchased online for as little as $6 or at Whole Foods and many drug stores for a few bucks more. Honest Company ($13) and Weleda ($17) also make balms using calendula oil, and, if you’re feeling fancy, Naturopathica ($60) uses the ingredient in a hydrating cream you can slather on your whole body. But before diving into a tub of calendula ointment, a word of advice from Dr. Gohara: “For those with eczema and rosacea, always test it on a small area before applying.”

Get ready, friends, because I’m so in love with this stuff, I’m going to take a page from Carolyn's book and start doling out calendula ointment for every birthday, holiday, and Wednesday.

For more affordable skin care, check out these products our beauty editors swear by (everything is under $15!) and peep our favorite new drugstore products of 2019.

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