Soothe dry skin this winter with safer balms and salves

One of the effects of colder temperatures is that everything dries out, including our skin. 

Balms and salves to the rescue. 

Why lower temps dry out the skin

Colder weather produces a drying effect because cool air holds less humidity than warm air. Lower humidity means moisture is drawn from the skin into the air. (Consider how much easier it is to towel off after a shower in a dry climate than in a humid one.)

Dermatologists’ recommendations for hydration, like drinking plenty of water and avoiding super-hot water in the shower, are a good place to start. 

For very dry skin, balms and salves are also helpful: They have a higher oil-to-water ratio than standard moisturizers do and are designed to sit on top of the skin. 

Balms seal in hydration. A salve is thinner, also used to moisturize, as well as sometimes to treat an infection or wound, such as the cracked skin that can develop with very dry skin. 

EWG's Quick Tips for Choosing Safer Personal Care Products

Balms and salves without toxic chemicals

But not all balms and salves are created equal. Many rely on toxic chemicals for their effectiveness. 

Below is our roundup of those that either score well in Skin Deep®, our searchable database of personal care products, or bear the EWG VERIFIED® mark, which means they’re made according to our strictest standards for transparency and health. 

1 product, many uses

One of the best products, especially for anyone who wants a pared-down skincare routine or who travels often, is one that’s multipurpose.

Ouli’s Ointment All-Purpose Balm is a true multitasker – good for lips, skin, hair, cuticles, nails and “beauty finishing.” Plus, it’s EWG VERIFIED and comes in a charmingly old-fashioned yellow tin. 

Bee Balm Cream from Morning Song Gardens – quite possibly the most poetic brand name ever? – works on the face, hands and body. And it’s fragrance free. 

A two-in-one product is La Roche Posay Lipikar Balm Ap+ Intense Repair Moisturizing Body and Face Cream

To help fight dry skin, Chagrin Valley Soap and Salve Company St. John’s wort Herbal Salve contains calendula, chickweed and plantain, in addition to St. John’s Wort. 

The EWG VERIFIED Magic Beauty Balm Stick, from Honest, the company founded by Jessica Alba, hits three cold-weather hot spots – lips, cheeks and cuticles.

And let’s not forget your feet – if you’re like most people, they almost always need help. Truly 02’s Micro-Oxygen Hand and Foot Salve will work on all 20 digits.

Finally, consider slathering on Beautycounter’s Melting Body Balm, another multipurpose product.

Targeted for specific uses

Sometimes only a product formulated for a particular body part will do. Here are some:


The face is more delicate and sensitive than other parts of the body, so it’s logical to use a product especially made for it. The Face Cuddle Moisture Balm from Em Cosmetics comes in a handy, efficient push-up tube, like a large lip balm. 

Made with mango butter, argan, aloe and tamanu, a soothing fatty nut oil, Aika Wellness Pitta Face Balm is particularly good for sensitive skin. Organic Bath Co. Nourish Night Product is formulated especially to do its thing as you sleep. 

Lip balm

Some of us stash lip balm – sometimes more than one – absolutely everywhere. Which is great if your lips, like ours, can get dry and chapped in colder weather. If that’s you, try the EWG VERIFIED Honest Beauty Tinted Lip Balm, which comes in seven deliciously named colors, like white nectarine and dragon fruit. 

Eye balm

The skin around the eyes is thin and sensitive, with its own particular moisturizing needs – hence the Era Organics Eye Balm, made with pumpkin seed oil, raw honey and papaya, among other ingredients.


This hand salve from All Things Jill contains rosemary, sweet almond oil and shea butter, as well as other nourishing ingredients. It’s also unscented and may be less likely to irritate dry skin.

Very dry skin can get chapped, requiring more than the usual winter-weather attention. Rosemary Garden’s Organic Calendula Healing Salve contains olive oil infused with calendula, a plant known for its healing properties. Butter Me Up Organics Calendula Balm is made with just three ingredients: organic calendula flowers, olive oil and shea butter.


Like the rest of the body, hair often gets especially dry in the cooler months. Chagrin Valley Coconut Primrose Hair Balm contains the perfect nourishing antidotes to fly-away tresses. 


Feet also take a beating in colder weather. If not attended to, very dry skin can get rough and crack. This foot salve by Butter Me Up Organics – whose tagline is “Don’t put anything on your body you wouldn’t put in it – can help solve the problem. Just apply to clean feet and cover them with cotton socks, wait a little while (or overnight) and voilà – softer, smoother feet.

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