TikTok Rediscovers an Old Rural Beauty Secret

It is the rare item that can be found on the shelves of Tractor Supply and in the pages of Vogue. And now Bag Balm, a moisturizer originally made to heal chapped cows’ udders, is a trending beauty product among the Gen Z “skinfluencers” of TikTok.

The social media personality Alix Earle swears by it as a cure for dry skin and dry lips. Others recommended Bag Balm as an alternative to Vaseline for the trend of “slugging,” or covering the entire face before going to bed to seal in moisture.

“I have turned so many friends on to it,” said Madison Bailey, 28, a social media strategist for the beauty industry who has posted about the wonders of Bag Balm.

Having learned about Bag Balm from her mother, Ms. Bailey keeps an 8-ounce tin in her bathroom and a 1-ounce mini tin in her purse. “You don’t need a lot when you slug it on your face,” she said, adding that the cost (around $11 for the 8-ounce size) makes it economical.

Bag Balm, a concoction comprising petroleum jelly and lanolin, has been made in a small town in Vermont for 125 years. Early on, the instructions on the square green tin made plain its intended use: “For sore teats and hard milkers, apply the Balm one hour before the night milking and immediately after the morning milking.” The label cautioned, “For veterinary use only.”

In time, farm families found other applications for the salve, using it to treat everything from cuts and burns to chapped lips, saddle sores and the needle pricks on quilters’ fingers. Little by little, its ability to soften skin made it into a rural beauty secret, one that was eventually adopted by people who had never seen the inside of a barn.

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