Bag Balm is a multi-purpose skin moisturizer that has more uses than we can count. It’s said to not only alleviate dry skin, but also minor cuts and scrapes, soothing sunburns, treating diaper rash, softening your cuticles, and more. You can even use Bag Balm for dogs!
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This may leave you wondering: what’s so special about Bag Balm? We’re going to answer this question for you by covering the formulation details, including the Bag Balm ingredients and the research that supports (or doesn’t support) their use in skincare. We also discuss other products by this brand, the top 10 Bag Balm uses, reviews from real customers, and more.
What’s Inside Bag Balm?
The Original Bag Balm Skin Moisturizer has a very simple formulation of only four ingredients:
- Paraffin wax
- 8-hydroxyquinoline sulfate
We’ll discuss each of these Bag Balm ingredients in detail below so you’ll know exactly how they will affect your skin.
Petrolatum, also known as petroleum jelly or Vaseline, is the highest concentration ingredient in Bag Balm. It’s an occlusive agent that reduces the rate of water loss through skin. Since petrolatum has a melting point that is close to body temperature, it softens upon application and forms a water-repellant film around the applied area. This film prevents evaporation of the skin’s natural moisture and increases skin hydration by causing buildup of water in the stratum corneum (the outermost layer of skin).
Lanolin, also known as wool wax or wool grease, is a yellow wax secreted by the sebaceous (oil) glands of wool-bearing animals, such as sheep. In nature, lanolin’s role is to protect wool and skin from climate and the environment. It is thought that applying lanolin to human skin can help to protect against dry, chapped skin and other skin ailments.
Lanolin is a long-chain waxy ester that contains cholesterol, and is actually very similar to the chemical structure of the oils produced by human skin. Due to its high lipid content, lanolin is occlusive, meaning it prevents the evaporation of water from the skin (transepidermal water loss). Ultimately, lanolin benefits the skin by keeping it moisturized and promoting healing.
Another Bag Balm ingredient is paraffin wax, a petroleum derivative, which is a soft colorless solid that consists of a mixture of hydrocarbon molecules. Paraffin wax is used in the Bag Balm formula to help bind the ingredients together.
The final Bag Balm ingredient is 8-hydroxyquinoline sulfate, which has antiseptic properties and is used in the Bag Balm formulation as a preservative. Specifically, 8-hydroxyquinoline sulfate is a metal chelating agent extracted from coal tar. It has the ability to inhibit the growth of imidazolidinyl urea microbes.
Some consumers prefer to avoid products that contain petrolatum and lanolin. If you’re looking for a cleaner alternative to Bag Balm, we recommend Carrot & Stick The Moisturizer.
What is Bag Balm?
Bag Balm is a product of Vermont’s Original, a company based in Lyndonville, Vermont that has been making salve since 1899. The story behind Bag Balm is actually pretty interesting. It began when a pharmacist in Wells Rivers developed the healing balm to treat “cake bag”, a term used to describe the post-milking irritation that dairy cows experience.
As word spread of this healing balm, Lyndonville farmer John L. Norris saddled his best horse and rode 30 long miles to find out what the fuss was about. The minute he tried it on the first cow, he recognized that the balm would not only work for cow udders, but also for the dry skin conditions the people of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom experienced during the harsh winter weather.
So Norris purchased the formula and all the rights to market it — and that’s when Bag Balm was born. The company prides itself on the fact that it has been creating the product in a way that has gone unchanged since they first came into existence.
What Are The Bag Balm Products?
In addition to the Original Bag Balm Skin Moisturizer, Vermont’s Original has expanded its product line to include soaps, lotions, lip care, and more. Let’s take a closer look at each of the Bag Balm products.
Original Bag Balm Skin Moisturizer
We’ve already shared the story behind how the original Bag Balm came into existence, but what can you expect when using this moisturizer?
You’ll find just four ingredients in Bag Balm: petrolatum, lanolin, 8-hydroxyquinoline sulfate, and paraffin wax.
Together, these ingredients create a very thick ointment (to give you something to compare it to, it’s a bit thicker than Vaseline).
And fair warning: Bag Balm has a pretty strong, medicinal scent. Many people don’t seem to mind the scent, but after reading through Bag Balm reviews, we noticed that some people find the scent too unpleasant to continue using this product.
Bag Balm Hand & Body Skin Moisturizer
While this product is marketed separately from the Original Bag Balm Skin Moisturizer, it actually has the exact same ingredients. Perhaps the ingredients are used in different concentrations, but we can’t say for sure because the company does not disclose this information. This product is recommended to be used to heal dry cuticles, calluses, chafed skin, cracked skin, and split heels.
Bag Balm Daily Moisturizing Hand Lotion
The Bag Balm hand lotion has a lighter texture than the Original Balm Balm formula, making it ideal for those who don’t like thick, greasy products on their hands. But don’t get us wrong, there are still plenty of moisturizing emollients in this formula, such as caprylic/capric triglyceride, shea butter, and cocoa seed butter.
Bag Balm Lip Balm
Once again, the Bag Balm lip balm has the same ingredients as the Original Bag Balm Moisturizer. The only difference is that this lip balm comes in a convenient on-the-go 0.25 ounce tube. So not only can it be used as a lip balm, but you can also use it on your hands and cuticles if you need some extra moisture while you’re out and about.
Bag Balm Mega Moisturizing Soap
This moisturizing bar soap can be used as a hand soap and also as a moisturizing body wash. It contains many of the same ingredients as the Original Bag Balm Moisturizer, such as petrolatum and lanolin. The soap ingredient that the brand chose is sodium palmate, the sodium salt of fatty acids of palm oil. Sodium palmate can be drying, which is ironic since this soap is claimed to be a moisturizing soap. The formula also contains fragrance, which could lead to sensitization and irritation.
Bag Balm Full Spectrum CBD & Arnica Rub
This Bag Balm product was created to temporarily relieve minor symptoms such as, muscle aches and pains, strains, back pain, stiffness, bruising, and swelling. The formula includes key ingredients like 300mg organic full-spectrum CBD and organic arnica oil.
CBD is known to help alleviate aches and pains associated with muscle and joint soreness and inflammation.
Arnica oil is included in this formula to help relieve soreness, bruises, and pain. Arnica oil acts as an anti-inflammatory agent, and has also been found to be helpful in treating insect bites and sprains.
What Are The Top 10 Bag Balm Uses?
Unlike most skin care products, Bag Balm can be used for a variety of purposes, from treating diaper rash to moisturizing dry skin. Below we’ll briefly describe the top 10 best bag balm uses:
- Moisturizer for dry, rough, chapped skin on elbows, hands, feet, or anywhere on the body
- Reduce sting or burning sensation after minor burns including sunburn
- Treating cuts, scrapes, or other minor wounds
- Treating diaper rash in babies
- Keeping the nails and cuticles healthy
- Softening and moisturizing lips
- Treating skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, and sore skin
- Healing relatively recent scars and skin discolorations
- Tattoo aftercare
- Pet care (use Bag Balm for dogs dry, cracked paws and nose)
Is Bag Balm Safe?
Since Bag Balm contains petroleum-derived and animal-derived ingredients, you may be wondering: is Bag Balm safe?
Petroleum-derived ingredients like petrolatum (the key ingredient in Bag Balm) are generally considered to be safe. In fact, petrolatum is an FDA-approved skin protectant.
The concern with petrolatum and other petroleum-derived ingredients is that they can generate 1,4-dioxane, a substance known to potentially contribute to some cancers.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that these ingredients are highly purified prior to being used in cosmetics.
The other Bag Balm ingredient that has the potential to be unsafe for some people is lanolin. Lanolin is generally considered to be safe for intact skin (no cuts, scrapes, or other damage). However, lanolin products are typically designed to be used on healing skin (eczema, burns, cuts, scrapes, etc.), not normal and intact skin.
When lanolin enters the bloodstream through the damaged skin, it can cause an allergic reaction. Unfortunately, the incidence of lanolin allergy is rising.
A 2017 study evaluated more than 1,000 children with eczema and found that 66% of them reacted to lanolin alcohol.
Thus, if you have a lanolin allergy or aren’t sure if you have a lanolin allergy, it is best to stay away from all lanolin products.
Where to Buy Bag Balm Products?
Bag Balm is sold on the company’s website, as well as third party online retailers like Amazon and eBay. Bag Balm is also a staple in pharmacies, general stores, pet retailers, and farm supply retailers. The company has a store locator on their website so you can find a location that stocks their products near you.
What is Vermont’s Original Return Policy?
The Vermont’s Original return policy states, “If for any reason you are unhappy with your order, please contact us within 30 days of receiving your purchase. We will replace your item(s) or provide a refund. Please note that shipping charges are non-refundable.”
Is Bag Balm Cruelty Free?
Bag Balm is a cruelty free product.
Bag Balm Reviews
Bag Balm reviews on the brand’s website are overall very positive, however, there aren’t many customer reviews. For example, there are only 15 reviews for the Original Bag Balm Skin Moisturizer, with an average of 4.9 out of 5 stars.
Positive Bag Balm reviews confirm that it works well for a variety of purposes, such as dry skin, cuts and scrapes, diaper rash, eczema, and even a latex allergy.
For example, one Bag Balm review says, “We couldn’t find a product to heal my husband’s dry and cracked hands. We’re both farm raised so after a 40 year gap we tried Bag Balm. About 10 days later my husband’s deep cracks are finally healed. Never again will it not be in my medicine cabinet.”
The only negative Bag Balm reviews are concerning the smell, which some customers find to be a bit odd.
For example, one review says, “Great for diaper rash, cleared up within 24 hours. Only thing I could not handle is the smell, quite an odd scent.”
There are quite a few more Bag Balm reviews for the Original Bag Balm Skin Moisturizer on Amazon.com. Currently, this Bag Balm product has an average of 4.7 out of 5 stars after more than 9,000 customer reviews.
Positive Bag Balm reviews rave about the effectiveness of this salve for multiple conditions, even athlete’s foot and plantars warts.
One 5-star Bag Balm review says, “I have always been a Vaseline user when I got dry cracked hands but this is way better. It’s thicker so it doesn’t drip or tend to fall off your hand when you are rubbing it around. It smells similar to the Carmex that you can put on your lips, which is not a bad thing. I will be buying more when I run out.”
Once again, negative Bag Balm reviews are mostly concerning the smell of the product. For example, one reviewer says, “While this product does provide great moisture, it smells absolutely terrible. I want to like it for the moisturizing aspect but I cannot get over the smell. I don’t recommend it — there are other quality moisturizers that don’t smell disgusting and I will use those before I use this.”
Overall, we think that Bag Balm is a good option if you have severely dry, cracked skin, or if you’d like to use Bag Balm for one of the other uses we listed above.
- Bag Balm ingredients are very good occlusive emollients
- Many positive Bag Balm reviews
- Many different Bag Balm uses
- Bag Balm is cruelty free
- Some customers find the scent to be odd and unpleasant
What Are Some Alternatives to Bag Balm Skincare Products?
There’s no need to compromise when it comes to finding skincare that’s effective and safe.
If you’re looking for effective skincare products that skip harmful toxins, one brand we recommend is Carrot & Stick.
Carrot & Stick is committed to creating plant-derived formulas that deliver extraordinary results without relying on toxic chemicals or standard preservatives.
Carrot & Stick takes a tough love approach to skincare, perfectly balancing the gentle nurturing of plants with innovative science.
Contact Dermatitis 2017 Mar;76(3):151-159.