PRODUCTS I 🖤 AND BELIEVE IN : Kiehl's Lip Balm #1
I have tubes of Kiehl's iconic Lip Balm #1 everywhere. In the nightstand. In my lion backpack. In every coat — winter coats, spring jackets, summer windbreakers. I have tubes of Lip Balm #1 in three or four hoodies. I even have one attached to a long silver chain that I often string from my belt loop to my pocket. Where one's keys would normally be. It has a limited-edition New York Adorned solid silver cap engraved with the Kiehl's apothecary logo. It won't open any secret doors, but I sometimes think my Lip Balm #1 can get me into Narnia. To say I'm obsessed with this little $9 lip treatment is an understatement.
But what is it about Lip Balm #1 that makes me feel like I need it, crave it, can't live without it? I have to turn back the clock quite far, to a period of time pre-LB#1. The Mesozoic Era, aka the early 90s! That's when I first encountered Kiehl's as the cosmetics department manager at Barneys Beverly Hills. Where I first discovered the cultish New York brand — where I met second-generation family founder, Mr. Aaron Morse. The cool guy with the bomber jacket and all those vintage Harleys. So, to decode my infatuation with this little magical tube: it's purely emotional.
But there's more than that. The formula is also pure perfection. Lip Balm #1 was formulated and first introduced in the early 1960s to discerning New Yorkers — patrons and visitors of Kiehl's original flagship store on 13th Street and Third Avenue, Downtown. Its star ingredient? Petrolatum. And while petrolatum gets a bad rap, it happens to be one of the most effective emollients and skin protectants of any kind approved for use in skin care. The Skincare G.O.A.T. Paul Begoun herself states, "although derived from crude oil (thus making petrolatum a natural ingredient), it is highly purified prior to being used in cosmetics, so there’s no risk of exposure to unwanted chemicals. For some unknown and unsubstantiated reason and despite solid research to the contrary, petrolatum has attained a negative image in regard to skin. Topical application of petrolatum can help replenish, soothe and beautifully moisturize skin’s outer layer. It’s widely considered safe and highly effective. Extensive clinical data has shown petrolatum to be a gentle ingredient."
You know what other skincare products feature petrolatum as their star ingredient? Vaseline and La Mer's $170/oz Creme de la Mer Moisturizing Cream! Yes, there it is. Petrolatum, ingredient #3 — right after the seaweed and mineral oil. If my calculations are correct, one jar of Crème de la Mer is equal to two tubes of Lip Balm #1. Alas, I would no sooner apply Lip Balm #1 to my face than I would Crème de la Mer. Though at least the lip balm doesn't contain pro-aging, drying denatured alcohol, irritating essential oils and fragrance!
Full disclosure: I had the honor to write for Kiehl's for nearly 8 years. In fact, I moved to New York to work for Kiehl's — my dream job at the time. Privy to many insider secrets and immersed in Kiehl's lore dating back to the company's founding by Mr. John Kiehl in 1851, one of my favorite tidbits is the fact that there was actually a Lip Balm #2 decades ago. The formula was purportedly similar to that of the classic #1, but with a slight silver tint to it. That sounds simply holographic, perhaps a precursor to MILK MAKEUP'S Holographic Stick!
Lip Balm #1 has saved my delicate lip area skin from the cold, dry New York winters for 15 years now. And, perhaps, from November to March, it's one of the few things that brings me joy. Along with Orpheus the Snarky Cat who only wishes he had lips.