Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Gear Review: Bag Balm - The Do-It-All Skin Salve

As moisturizers (or ointments with moisturizing properties) go, this one has a name that's hardly appealing. Bag Balm. No, definitely not a product that I'd want to race out and buy, let alone apply on my lips or face. Especially once I found out that it was originally developed for use on dairy cows' udders. (Farmers didn't want 'em getting chapped so they developed this moisturizing formula in the late 1800s.) 

I'd heard about Bag Balm for years but I didn't know anyone who used it. And with that name, well, you get the idea. So when the company sent me the product to try out in its signature the little green tin, I set aside my prejudice and handed it to my friend to try out first. After all, he's always been complaining about foot calluses and dry hands from working in the kitchen and the garden. As a guy, he abhors moisturizers, especially girlie ones. Well, Bag Balm hardly seemed girlie, especially when I told him farmers used it on their cows. (He actually found that to be a vote of confidence.)

After a couple of weeks, I received an email while I was traveling in Hungary. He loved Bag Balm. His feet never felt softer. Same goes for his hands. Though he thought it would be greasy, it absorbed well into his skin. And he liked the scent too: He found it manly. (Leave it to those farmers.)

As soon as I returned, I decided to give Bag Balm a try. My lips were sunburned -- Budapest was hotter and sunnier than I expected for September. My cuticles were a mess from all the camping and cycling I did this past summer. And then there's my on-going battle with seborrheic dermatitis on my face. After just a couple of days using the product, my lips were no longer red and chapped, my cuticles felt supple, and Bag Balm even provided some much needed relief for several patches of itchy skin on my face.

The only problem is that my friend is monopolizing the Bag Balm. He uses it on his arms and legs after a shower, and regularly applies it on his hands and feet. He also recommended it to a friend who complained that his bull terrier suffers from irritated paws.

As a traveler who never checks luggage, I'm attracted to products that serve more than one or two functions. Bag Balm fits the bill. I'll be bringing it on my next long-distance bicycle trip because not only will it work as a lip balm and hand moisturizer, but I heard that it can stave off the thigh chafing and saddle sores that I've experienced on some trips. It's also said to be good for minor cuts and scrapes since it has some antiseptic properties. 

I do like the idea that the Vermont-based company hasn't changed its formula since 1899, unlike some companies that change their products, even those that are much loved, with the seasons, it seems. Leave it to those farmers.