America’s Test Vanity: Lotions and lips

Here’s a closer look at two of our strongest defenses against cold-weather skin.

Protect yourself! From top left: Vaseline Total Moisture, Neutrogena Moisture Wrap and Studio 35 Complete Moisture Lotion. On the scarf, from top: Aquaphor, Burt's Bees and generic Walgreens chapstick.

Bridget Bennett

Protect yourself! From top left: Vaseline Total Moisture, Neutrogena Moisture Wrap and Studio 35 Complete Moisture Lotion. On the scarf, from top: Aquaphor, Burt’s Bees and generic Walgreens chapstick.

Sarah Harper

In Minnesota, it’s never too early to start thinking about winter skin care. We’re heading into the thick of October, so it’s high time we gave our cold-weather moisturizing routines a dry run.

So what kind of skin and lip protection is best? I tested a range of lotions and balms, both cheap and slightly less cheap — I got them all at Walgreens. Sorry I’m not sorry for the lack of trendy lotions here: It’s just that there’s no point in hauling your cookies to Lush when drug stores, and all their wonderful generic brands, have you covered.

LOTIONS

I’ll put on my tin foil hat for a minute here and warn you that the lotion industry is tricking you into thinking you need different kinds of mousses and chutneys for all your different parts. Don’t fall for it. If there’s anything Regina George taught us, it’s that foot cream makes your face kissable as hell.

Your biggest protection against the wind’s whip is a good, basic lotion that you can use on your whole body after a shower.

If you do have special skin situations, like eczema or particularly dry, chapped and damaged skin, go for broke with the specialized creams.

For the rest of us smart shoppers? Let’s all-purpose the mess out of this winter. Here are three practical options:

The big daddy: Neutrogena Moisture Wrap

Cents per ounce: 89

A sophisticated smell, which comes from a combination of ingredients I will literally never try to pronounce, makes this lotion worth the cash. The light scent wafts up the nose gently, almost like a classy perfume. When you put it on your skin, it’s a smooth rub that doesn’t take much effort — but it also won’t leave you with greasy fingers. Neutrogena markets this lotion toward people with uncomfortably dry skin, but that doesn’t mean normies can’t enjoy its light, refined sheen.

Rating: 8.9 out of 10

The practical natural: Vaseline Total Moisture

Cents per ounce: 35

This lotion has a somewhat stronger smell. I avoided any flavored lotions while rounding up this crew — these are just the basics. Still, there’s something earthy about this Vaseline lotion. Maybe it’s the pure oat extract? The squeeze was not as smooth as Neutrogena, but it still came out all right. Its yellow bottle could use a fresh design: It’s easy to imagine this cap getting gross, whereas it’s a little harder to see the pump tops of the other two lotions in this roundup crusting out.

Rating: 7.9 out of 10

The generic: Studio 35 Beauty Complete Moisture Lotion

Cents per ounce: 22

This has the exact same ingredient list as Vaseline Total Moisture, but it’s worlds cheaper. See what I did there? Now you know just how much beauty there is in the world of generic skincare products. Studio 35, the personal care brand from Walgreens, produces a lotion that smells exactly the same, feels exactly the same and works exactly the same as the Vaseline equivalent — it just has a less stylish label. It has the pump, though, so it wins out.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

LIPS

My lips get so chapped in the winter that they hurt. Do you remember that feeling from last winter, too? That feeling of a numb mouth, lips literally cracking and splitting? Let’s fend that off together this winter:

The fancy choice: Burt’s Bees Tinted Lip Balm

$6.99 for one

I bought the darkest shade of this Burt’s Bees balm, Red Dahlia, and it added only a slight flush to my lips, so don’t worry about going too big on the hue. It’ll give you a hint of color more than anything else. It’ll also give you one of the cleanest lip chap experiences you’ve ever had — the tube comes in a protective cardboard cylinder, so you can finally toss your precious balm into your messy bag with abandon.

The club med: Aquaphor healing ointment

$5.79 for a pack of two

This salve will heal any lip problems — or tiny scratches and burns — but like the Neutrogena Moisture Wrap lotion, you can use it as a preventative measure now so you won’t have to use it as antidote later. This Aquaphor goo is one of my favorite tiny tricks to keep with me because you can also use it on wind-burned cheeks, chins and foreheads. Just add a little dab to your face and rub in for some healing magic.

The essential: Walgreens Well brand Chap-Aid lip balm

$1.29 for one

For less than it will cost you to get a Diet Coke from a campus vending machine, you can get yourself that classic ChapStick flavor that instantly evokes runny noses and hot bowls of soup. This waxy little number is exactly what your homesick mouth needs. Your wallet will feel good, as the price literally cannot be beaten — I dare you to try and find a good balm cheaper than this. Bonus? It’s SPF 4.

 

Four tricks for healthy winter skin

1. Put lotion all over your hands and feet and go to bed with gloves and socks on. You’ll wake up with fresh skin.

2. Wear a huge scarf to cover your face. If you don’t have one good scarf, make your life 10 times better by wrapping two or three scarves around your head — one for the space where your coat collar meets the cold air, another for the middle of your neck and maybe a third for your face.

3. Skip the long, hot showers.

4. Wear sunscreen! If your walk to class is 30 minutes, that’s 30 minutes in the same sun that shines in summer. Get yourself some SPF.

5. Another summer rule that still applies: Drink a ton of water. The chai lattes and hot chocolates may tempt, but your skin needs that fresh stuff.