Carmex. It’s one of the best beauty products around and it wasn’t dreamed up in some expensive lab after years of research, it’s got no exotic hard to find ingredients, and there’s nothing French about it. Carmex was created in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin and since 1937, it has been soothing the chapped lips of everyone who has to experience the indignity and unpleasantness of winter. If you’ve ever endured the 20-below-zero windchill of a Chicago winter, you know what I’m talking about. It’s hell on the skin and especially the lips.
Traditional Carmex comes in a little white pot with a yellow lid emblazoned with its red banner logo and the very unsexy words “FOR COLD SORES.” Someone in the marketing department recently got wise and toned that down a bit, though. It used to be in big black block letters, but now it’s in red in a smaller font.
But subtlety is not in Carmex’s DNA. In addition to the stark packaging which announces that you might have cold sores, it also stinks to high heaven. I associate the scent with only good and comforting things, but a newbie (or potential mate) may not. When you open the pot, you’re assaulted by a minty medicinal smell, and by a goopy product that is, tragically, an ear waxy yellow.
But if you’re brave enough to dip your fingertip in and apply it to your mouth, you’re in for a treat. A lot of relief and prevention comes in that little 0.25 oz. jar.
The Original Carmex Jar, according to its website, contains camphor to relieve pain, menthol to kill germs, and phenol to numb your sore lips and remove old, dead skin. It also contains waxes, paraffin, and lanolin. Salicylic acid is a surprise ingredient. My friend used to swear that Carmex cured breakouts, and maybe she was on to something. Salicylic acid is a mild exfoliator and an active ingredient in a lot of acne medications.
In addition to the iconic pot, Carmex also comes in a tube that squirts out and in a Chapstick-like stick. I was also really surprised to see it offered in a silver cylinder masquerading as a lip gloss this year. It’s even tinted! While I welcomed the addition of a cherry flavor and SPF 15 in recent years, I’m not going for the fancy tinted edition. I like my Carmex old school.
The company offers branded t-shirts, mugs, and, uh, skateboards (Yes, Carmex skateboards.) They also collaborated with Keds on a pair of slip-on sneakers decorated with “Carmex kisses.” But I think I’ll just stick to Carmex jars in every bag I own.
Oh, it also claims on the site that Carmex is not addictive. I beg to differ.