Had the kids taken an expedition to the Sahara desert? Their lips looked as if they had — white, peeling, cracking, and bleeding. My daughter had ripped off a chunk of lip, and a bloody mess erupted on her face only to be replaced by a crusty black scab. The Kelly family was not photo-ready, and school photo day was fast approaching. Help!

“What about some heavy-duty lip moisturizing over the next few days,” my pal Kristen suggested during an evening run. It was a good idea, but what type of lip moisturizer? An Eve Kelly poll was in order.

“I’m a sucker for Carmex” ($.94 at Walmart), said friend Frank. “I like the medicinal burn — it tells me that it’s working, just like that old dandruff shampoo that tingles. But seriously, no matter how chapped my lips, I can always smile again a couple of minutes after smearing on the Carmex, and that’s important because I’m such a happy guy.”

His wife Bernice begged to differ. “I used to use Blistex medicated lip ointment [$1.42 at Walmart], but it would always sting my lips. Too bothersome, and the kids will have nothing to do with it.

“Now I use Hyland’s Homeopathic Calendula ointment [$6.99 for 1 ounce at Henry’s]. It’s light and stays on longer so that the skin underneath can heal better. It puts a nice barrier there, but not too thick. And even my children will use it.”

A mini-dispute erupted. “Calendula works,” agreed Frank, “but you have to deal with that sort of herbal aroma right under your nose.”

“I appreciate the smell of calendula flower on my lips,” retorted Bernice.

I left them to sort out their differences and moved along with my polling. Pal Erica also uses Carmex in her home. “My daughter gets very dry lips, especially during these Santa Anas,” she explained, “and she likes Carmex. But the rest of us are huge fans of Burt’s Bees lip gloss [$3.49 at Whole Foods]. We like the raspberry flavor; it’s very moisturizing.”

“I had a problem with chapped lips for years,” said friend Cherie, “and couldn’t find anything to help — including the expensive stuff from the makeup counters. Last year I started using Burt’s Bees lip balm [$2.99 at Henry’s], and my lips are much, much better. I put it on under my lip gloss in the morning, and I keep one in my purse at all times.”

“These days I buy whatever is cheap,” laughed sis Nancy. “But I have always liked the Trader Joe’s Virtuoso lip balm [$2.49 for three tubes]. It has a hint of spearmint to it, not overpowering, just enough to be refreshing.”

Most of the people I spoke with complained about Vaseline, particularly its thickness, except sis Meg. “I use Vaseline; it’s something I always have in the house. Little tubes of lip balm get lost in our home. Can’t really lose a huge jar of Vaseline. And during the winter, I also buy Blistex. Here in Massachusetts, with the central heat on day and night, the household shrivels up like a prune. Blistex feels more medicated. I am not sure it is actually doing anything more, but psychologically it seems better. It must be the tingling.”

“I use ChapStick Moisturizer with SPF 15” ($.98 at Walmart), offered chum Sarah. “It doesn’t have any scent or flavor. I’m not a fan of flavored moisturizers. They seem too greasy. I want a clean product on my lips, not something that feels like I have leftover lollipops on them.”

Coworker Mike proved to be a rich vein of lip-moisturizing opinions. He raved about ChapStick lip butter ($2.47 at Walmart). “It gives a nice, smooth covering without being too thick,” he explained. “With other products, I often have to wipe off excess clumpiness on the outside of my mouth. Not with this stuff — a clean, neutral flavor. I love it.”

“Alba’s pineapple lip balm [$3.49 at Henry’s] has a refreshing pineapple aroma to it but ends up a bit goopy on the edges of the mouth. Not worth the price.

“The Blistex Silk & Shine [$1.87 at Walmart]... Yes, one might ask why a man was buying a lip moisturizer named ‘Silk & Shine.’ It turned out to cover smoothly, but it wasn’t without an acidic flavor that was just too much to deal with.”

“Softlips lip protectant [$2.78 for a two-pack at Walmart] used to be my balm of choice,” stated sis Cath. “It went on as smooth as a baby’s bottom, and it had sun protection in it, but I found it wore off very quickly. I’m still looking for the perfect lip moisturizer.”

After promising to fill her in on my findings, I headed down to Bath & Body Works and the Body Shop to ask the salesladies for their best lip moisturizers. The Bath & Body Works lady pointed me to the C.O. Bigelow My Favorite Lip Balm ($5.50). “It has shea butter and sweet almond oil in it.” Her second suggestion: “C.O. Bigelow Rose Salve [$5.50], which is an all-purpose salve you can use on dry elbows or your lips.”

The Body Shop sales clerk recommended LipScuff ($12). “This is our most moisturizing lip product.”

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