These days, there are a lot of skincare treatment options out there. Learn the differences between a balm vs. salve here.

Balm vs. Salve: What’s the Difference?

Take a look in almost any American medicine cabinet and you’re sure to find it: a jar of Vaseline. This famous petroleum-based jelly is one of many common salves developed in the early 20th century to be used as a “cure-all” for various skin ailments.

Skin balms and salves are still used today as effective skin treatments, but the question remains: Balm vs. salve? Which is best for your skin?

Here’s a breakdown of each of these great skincare options so you can select the one best suited for your skin.


Balm vs. salve is a common question as the terms are often used interchangeably by skincare companies. While the two have many similarities, there are a few important differences in ingredients and purposes.

Generally, salves are softer and easier to spread than balms. Think Vaseline, for example.

Like a balm, salves consist of beeswax and herbal oils. However, salves have a lower concentration of beeswax making them slightly more malleable. This gives them that lighter, softer texture like whipped cream.

Because of their unique characteristics, a healing salve is perfect for spreading on dry, severely chapped skin or rashes. 

Salves are the better choice when you need fast, soothing absorption into the skin.


Ever used body butter? That is a balm. 

Balms are thicker than salves. They tend to keep their shape better and are firmer. This makes them great moisturizers for hands and feet.

Balms contain a greater amount of that magical ingredient, beeswax, than salves and thus are often used as lip balms.

Balms stick well to dry lips. They sometimes deliver a more long-lasting soothing effect than salves which may spread easily but also wear off more quickly.

Because balms are not absorbed as easily as salves, they are used more for moisturizing that needs only to sit on top of the skin. Salves’ ability to seep into the skin makes them more suitable for preventing things like diaper rashes, saddle soreness, and other irritations that need treatment on a deeper level.

Balms, however, work to protect the skin on a more surface level. They are a great choice for instant protection and cracked skin.

Both balms and salves are natural, non-toxic medications that soothe and protect needy skin from infection and cracking. They are largely oil-based and the beeswax they contain makes either one an excellent choice for skincare.

Balm vs. Salve: Which is Best for Me?

Interestingly, salves and balms are also less expensive than the fancy skin cream you see in the stores. Why spend big bucks on less-effective skin cream when a simple salve will do the trick?

At the end of the day, the question of balm vs. salve is really a matter of user needs and preference.

Did you enjoy this article? For more helpful insights on how to take care of your skin, browse our Health section. 

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