Back in 1973, cosmetics company Bonne Bell launched a line of flavored lip balms called Lip Smacker, and the rest is history for generations of middle schoolers with dry lips and an affinity for fruity flavors.
Well before its resurgence in the ’90s, when everyone was slathering on Lip Smackers in flavors like Cotton Candy and Pink Lemonade, the brand found popularity with lip balms that smell and taste like soda. It all started with their Dr Pepper-flavored balm in 1975, and to this day, Lip Smacker sells a soda variety pack—the same one I got my grubby, nostalgia-hungry hands on for this tasting.
Sadly, the variety pack doesn’t include the iconic Dr Pepper balm (it was discontinued in 2020), but it has all your other faves: Fanta Orange, Fanta Strawberry, Fanta Grape, Barq’s Root Beer, Coke Original, Coke Vanilla, Cherry Coke, and Sprite. The package claims you can “enjoy the authentic taste of your favorite beverage flavors in a lip balm.” I decided to put that claim to the test. My method for determining if each lip balm lived up to its soda inspiration included a thorough sniff and wear test, followed by sips of the soda in question. The only soda I was not able to find for this test was, sadly, the Grape Fanta, so he will not be joining us. On a happier note, this is the most moisturizing taste test I’ve ever done.
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This lip balm does smell faintly orangey, but I was expecting more sweetness to compare with the soda. Orange Fanta soda has an undeniably sweet aroma, but the lip balm tastes like a very muted orange—a whisper, if you will. Like someone is talking about orange flavoring somewhere in your vicinity. This one just barely passes what I am now dubbing the Lip Balm Likeness Test (LBLT for short).
I hate to say it, but this smells exactly like any other strawberry lip balm. It makes me wonder if there’s actually only one way to capture strawberry flavor in a lip balm. Both the balm and the soda smell like artificial strawberry but in different ways. The taste of the Fanta Strawberry lip balm is so much sweeter than its orange brother, and it has a much stronger scent too. However, this lip balm and its soda counterpart are, sadly, not in the same realm. The soda tastes like tart licorice while the lip balm has a more muted and hard candy-like scent. I cannot give it a passing grade on the LBLT.
Barq’s Root Beer
Now this, gentle-people, smells exactly like root beer. I’m not sure how they’ve done it, but this lip balm has perfectly captured the essence of Barq’s. I would know that smell anywhere because, secretly, root beer is my least favorite soda and I do not find the smell or taste of it appealing. It leans super medicine-y, in my opinion, and I am more of a cream soda kinda lady anyhow. The taste of this balm is also fairly root beery. Truly, I am impressed with how closely these two resemble one another. It makes me feel like Lip Smacker had their top scientists on this and they expertly captured the science of root beer flavor in a tube. It passes with flying colors.
This lip balm unlocked a memory for me: It smells like those little fizzy soda candies that came in little plastic cans that I remember eating way too many of as a kid. It’s weird to say, but I don’t know if regular Coke actually has that much of a smell, at least not from a cold can. I think the taste of the lip balm gets pretty close to actual Coke taste, but the grayish brown shade of it is a little haunting. Still, this balm passes the LBLT.
This balm smells wildly different from Coke!! And it’s not even brown!! Coke Vanilla was my favorite version of Coke as a kid, but having it again as an adult made me realize that there is much more acidity in Coke than I was aware of. That, somehow, is exactly what I am picking up on in this lip balm—that hint of slightly acidic vanilla-ness. Something weird is happening here, because this lip balm smells like the Coke Vanilla soda tastes. I want to be clear: It does not taste like the drink, nor do the two items have the same smell. But the smell somehow matches the taste and only the taste of the drink, which I think deserves some credit. Half credit for you, Coke Vanilla lip balm.
This is a very good standard cherry lip balm flavor. That said, I don’t think it tastes like Cherry Coke. Not even a little bit, sadly! It doesn’t smell like Cherry Coke either. Instead it tastes like a whisper of a cherry candy. Like you’re smelling artificial cherry from the next room. This is the La Croix of this batch. Don’t get me wrong, they’ve made a lovely lip balm here. But being lovely doesn’t equal success in this test. It shall not pass (the LBLT).
I’m not sure why, but I was expecting this balm to be clear. Instead, it is opaque white which was a little jarring at first glance. And it smells like bubblegum. To be fair, Sprite does not have that strong of a scent, and I’m not just saying that because I primarily drink Sprite on airplanes where the Sprite scent, if there is any, is overpowered by the smell of dank morning breath from a thousand sleepy strangers. This soda and this lip balm do not exist on the same planet. The balm has almost no flavor other than an incredibly faint sweetness and doesn’t resemble lemon or lime. I would’ve been happy with either lemon or lime! This one is a fail on my scale.
Our clear comparison victor is Barq’s, which passed the LBLT and made it look easy. Good on you, Lip Smacker and Barq’s.