Monday, December 27, 2010

Product Comparison: Smith's Rosebud Salve v. C.O. Bigelow Rose Salve

[Edited Note Part 1 - July 2014: 

3.5 years after this post was written, thanks to the power of Pinterest, it seemed to have gone viral to a small degree. Since then, I have been given more information on Smith's Rosebud Salve directly by the company itself and can share with you this knowledge. I am not altering the content of the original post in any way but merely adding confirmed information to previous speculations. Please read the "Edited Note Part 2" section at the end of the original post for specifics!]

I'm so glad to have received the C.O. Bigelow Rose Salve as a Christmas gift because now I can finally make that direct first-hand comparison to Smith's Rosebud Salve that I've been dying to make for years and years.

You're probably wondering why I didn't just buy the COB Salve and spare myself the agony?  Well, even if it's only $5-6, the reductionista in me forbade buying of new lip balms until I had finished the Rosebud Salve along with the multitude of chapsticks stashed away in various bags and pockets all over the place.  It seemed excessive, especially since it takes forever for me to finish the Rosebud tin in the first place.  So I held off, but here they are, side by side.  Take a look.

They look the same, on the outside and on the inside.  They sure smell differently, though.  Rosebud definitely smells like a classic rose perfume while the COB Salve smells very sweet and less rosey.  The texture feels similar as well, though I think the Rosebud feels more emollient and the COB Salve feels thinner.  I've been suffering intensely dry lips due to the winter cold and have been slathering on the salves day and night.  Despite the dryness, I usually have to apply Rosebud rather sparingly because it tends to feel heavy if I overapply.  COB Salve, in the meanwhile, felt lighter and I had to double dip to get the proper amount needed.  I'm still trying to get used to it and pinpoint differences.

Let's take a look at the packaging and advertising.

Note the 0.9% Rose Extract

Note that there are some oils but the ingredients are mainly a "secret."

Both packaged in exactly the same size vintage tins containing 0.8oz of product, the sense of their history being very important to the advertising of both products.  The funny thing is they're both sold at C.O. Bigelow while only the Rosebud is sold at Sephora.  Rosebud is USD$6 and COB Salve is $5.50.  I wonder what accounts for the difference of 50 cents.  The information on the packaging is of very little help.

They both claim to have a long history of soothing dryness and encourage us to pat this anywhere as needed.  It looks like the Rosebud Perfume Co. was first (added to the C.O. Bigelow catalogue in 2002), then C.O. Bigelow came up with their own version in 2007.  What exactly does C.O. Bigelow say about these products?

Smith's Rosebud Salve

An Old Family Standby Since 1895, this world-famous salve has been re-discovered by Hollywood stars and makeup artists. Rosebud Salve is still a favorite to aid in the relief of chapped and dry skin, blemishes, diaper rash, and detergent burns. Rosebud Salve is also a wonderful lip moisturizer and natural looking lip gloss.

Contains cotton seed oil, aromol, with essential oils blended in a special petrolatum base.


Bigelow Rose Salve # 012

No 012 Rose Salve Rose Extract 0 .9% C.O. Bigelow's famous Rose Salve has been a favorite since the early days, due to its ability to care for lips and beautify skin. Emulsified with extra-soothing rose extract, which helps ease irritation and condition the skin. Made in USA.

Ingredients: Petrolatum, Lanolin Oil, Squalene, Flavor (Aroma), Octyldodecanol, Gossypium Herbaceum (Cotton) Seed Oil, Rosa Canina Fruit Extract, Bisabolol, Jojoba Esters, Red 30 Lake (CI73360).

Directions for use: Pat on as needed to care for lips or anything that needs a fix.  For external use only.

I don't pretend to know anything about the chemical composition of these products, but it's difficult to say anything when the Rosebud insists on secrecy of its blend, not unlike KFC and their "secret" batter.  What do you say?  Are they both basically perfumed and pink-tinted Vaseline in cute little tins?  Are we being suckered to fork over $5-6 for pretty packaging?  ($7-9 Canadian, mind you.)  I usually apply it on only my lips as it feels too greasy to be used anywhere else, including my cuticles. So it's of limited use to me.  But it definitely helps my dry lips issue in a way that chapsticks can't, and I like the feminine and pampered feeling that these rose salves create.  Pulling out a jar of Vaseline just isn't the same.

My conclusion:  I remain a fan of Smith's Rosebud Salve so long as the price does not rise to CDN$10.  I beg of you, retailers (Sephora, Anthropologie, Bath & Body Works, et al):  don't make me go back to using Vaseline.

[Edited Note Part 2 - July 2014:

The ingredient list of Smith's Rosebud Salve is now a little more transparent, although the blend of essential oils still remains a trade secret, due to its origin from a perfume house in France and long history associated with it. (I'm not sure how this can legally work, but it is what I've been told from an official source at Rosebud Perfume Co.) 

The current list of ingredients disclosed, according to Sephora, is:

Pure White Petrolatum (Surgical Grade), Cotton Seed Oil, Trade Secret Blend of Essential Oils, Botanicals.

If anyone has concerns about the use of these ingredients, please conduct a thorough independent research and use the products at your own discretion. Personally, although I have moved on to other brands, I still really like Smith's Rosebud as a lip balm and have repurchased many tins and tubes to give out as gifts. By comparison, the C.O. Bigelow version was a complete fail by the time I made a dent in the tin, evidenced by this review I conducted many months after this post. Also according to my source at Rosebud Perfume Co., the oils and tins relied upon by Smith's are high grade and expensive by industry standards, which accounts for the slightly higher price of the Smith's products.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact Rosebud Perfume Co. directly at]


  1. Great post! I really want to go get one of these now :)

  2. I would recommend that you get it based on which one smells more appealing to you. They're basically the same except for that and the Rosebud is possibly tiny bit heavier and longer-lasting on the lips.

  3. I've been using the COB for a few years now, mainly because I can't find the Smith's anywhere I shop (I'm a drug store kinda girl). I like it tho, it smells nice and is smooth on the lips, and the tin lasts forever. I have also noticed that you CAN use it on your cuticles: massage it in for a few seconds, then wash your hands with a gentle soap after to combat the excess grease. Slap on some hand cream and your nails are fresh as a daisy. I do it all the time.

    1. Sorry for the late reply. I have no idea how I missed your comment! @_@

      I'm using the full tin of COB now and find that it is a good balm. I still prefer the slight difference that Smith's provides but most people probably won't even feel it.

      Good tip re: the cuticles!

  4. last i checked... smith's is actually part of COB. don't know why they decided to come out with 2 version of similar product.

    1. Smith's and COB are separate companies and not owned by one or the other. (I checked with COB who confirm this.) They might be sold at some of the same stores, although I have no idea why anyone would choose to stock both. Smith's ingredients remain a secret and there is a slight difference between the two, so it's totally up to your preference as to which is "better." :)

  5. Am I the only one that largely prefers C.O. Bigelow? It smells much less vaseline-y

    1. Vaseline doesn't have a smell to me. Rosebud is pretty much glorified Vaseline though. :)

  6. I've used Smith's for quite a while, and then received the Bigelow's as a gift. While I initially liked the different, rose-vanilla fragrance of the Bigelow's, I get a strong chemical flavor from it ... like the petrolatum isn't refined enough or something. It's pretty off-putting to me, compared to the Smith's. When I read the ingredients for the Smith's Rosebud Salve on the Sephora website, they mention that they use surgical-grade petrolatum. Maybe Bigelow's is using a lower grade. In any case, I'd choose the Smith's every time.


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