The Balm in My Bag

If it's good enough for cows during the Vermont winter, it’s good enough for you


Story and photos by Eva Mizer

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With a formula and can design virtually unchanged in over 100 years, Bag Balm is iconic in classic style and easily recognizable in stores.

I had been hearing a lot of hype from locals and Shania Twain over the past year about Bag Balm. Bag Balm, an ointment created by the Dairy Association Co., Inc. in Lyndonville, Vt. in 1899, was originally used on cow udders and teats that became chapped by milking in the cold and dry winter months. Evidently, it became a popular non-farming household name when farmers’ wives began noticing their husband’s hands were smooth and soft in the dead of winter.

I am, admittedly, an experimenter. I am unbiased until proven that a product is just as good, if not better than the rest. After circulating through various forms of lotions that are “infused with Vitamin E”, contain “extracts”, or are made primarily of cocoa butter, I decided to give the simple and unassuming Bag Balm a try.

"I opened the can and it smelled minty—already a plus."

Unlike other products, Bag Balm isn’t flashy or constantly changing its formulas for greater customer appeal. Instead, they have used the same formula containing lanolin—extracted from wool to re-oil skin—and Vaseline. It also contains the pleasantly unpronounceable 8-hydroxyquinolinesulfate, which can help prevent and fight infections from bacteria and fungi as an added bonus.

While I doubt the placement would effect much of anything, I tried the ointment on various troubled areas such as elbows, knees, arms, and legs. I also tried a bit on my face to see how it fairs with skin reactions. (I rarely have any, but acne from lotions is never far from happening.)

I bought for less than $8, which is just about as cheap as you can get online or at other stores. It comes in a 10 oz. container, which doesn’t sound like much, but I am sure it will take a while to get through it all. You can also buy smaller containers that you can easily take around in your, well, bag.

I opened the can and it smelled minty—already a plus. I love the smell of mint, so this part could be biased. Sorry.

Although the color is a strange opaque white-yellow and very thick, I was not deterred.

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Bag Balm is thick and greasy to the touch, but smooths on nicely.

4 Months Later

After a few months now of semi-religious testing, I have to admit that I love this stuff.  I have had great results on even the most easily chapped and dry areas. So far, I have found the best way to apply it is right after a shower before blot-drying with a towel or right after putting on your favorite lotion.  

I only found two disadvantages during the whole process. When I use it right after a shower, I run the risk of getting it in my hair. To combat this, work with your hair first, let it air-dry, or be sure to get most of the stuff off your hands before you style. Bag Balm has a wicked reputation for not coming out of hair easily, and I didn’t want to tempt it.

Secondly, after using lotions and crèmes all my life, switching to thick ointment such as Bag Balm was quite a shock. Even the thickest crème spreads more easily than this. I want to issue a warning of caution, as in my first attempt to apply, I tried to spread it evenly with such force that my hand slipped and hit a wall in my bathroom. You learn very quickly that going slow works better for even distribution, and pain-free handling.

Although a tad thick, this smoothed on and absorbed really nicely, giving me skin soft to the look and touch. Even though I neglected to use other moisturizers during most of the testing, I feel as though my skin has become smoother than if I had used moisturizers alone.

Overall, this is an excellent local product that can easily compete on the regional, if not national, market. It spreads well, lasts long, and delivers great results for a great price. I’d recommend it to everyone.

APN gives Bag Balm 4 out of 5 stars—perhaps even a 4.8.

Have you ever used Bag Balm? Tell us about your experience!

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