Has The Bag Balm Formula Changed? Does Bag Balm Smell Different Now?

(This carefully researched, thoughtful advice is from a real person. Posts may contain affiliate links.)

Bag Balm packaging and labeling aren’t exactly the same as they were a few years ago, so you may be wondering if the formula has changed and if it smells different now. There’s the official story from the company, and then there’s what people think. Keep reading to learn more about Bag Balm today.

Has the Bag Balm formula changed?

Bag Balm has been on the market since 1899 and was first intended to soothe the utters of cows after milking. For decades, it has been used on all sorts of animals and by humans too. There’s nothing better for minor skin irritations or dryness. But is it the same as it’s always been?

According to the Bag Balm maker, Vermont’s Original, the Bag Balm formula has been the same since 1988. It’s made of petroleum jelly (the same thing Vaseline is made of) plus lanolin and the antiseptic 8-hydroxyquinoline sulfate at a 0.3% concentration. Prior to 1988, it also contained 0.005% ethylmercury, which has been shown in some research to be toxic.

The people running the company aren’t the same ones they’ve always been, however. For more than 100 years, Bag Balm was made by a family-owned business, Dairy Association Company. In 2014, a group of investors took over from the original family and changed the name to Vermont’s Original.

Can’t figure out where to find Bag Balm? This salve for minor skin irritation is available online and at some in-person retailers. Get Bag Balm through this Amazon affiliate link.

Does Bag Balm smell different now?

According to every source I could find, including the company itself, the Bag Balm formula hasn’t changed in decades. That means it should smell the same as it has for years. One of its primary ingredients, lanolin, smells like a sheep because it’s extracted from wool, plus the antiseptic has a distinctively unpleasant smell also. But based on my own experience and asking around online, the smell seems to be less harsh than it was in the past.

There are two reasons you may find that it smells differently or less intensely than it did in the past.

The first is that it may be different. That’s what many people think, but I can’t find anything to confirmation about this. (I’ll update this post if I do.)

The second is the phenomenon called nose blindness – a concept that some air freshener companies use to promote their products. The idea is real, and it means that you temporarily adapt to smells in the environment around you so you don’t smell them anymore. That means if you use Bag Balm regularly, especially on your nose, lips or face, you may have adjusted to the smell and don’t notice it anymore. Others, however, will still find it just as strong.

The phenomenon of nose blindness, incidentally, is how perfume sellers can stand to be around so many different scents all day long. It’s how hair stylists can be around that weird burning-hair smell of a perm and not be bothered by it. It’s also how cat owners easily tolerate the natural smell of cats while visitors to their homes find it overwhelming.

It still works just as well

I’m not convinced that the formula of Bag Balm is the same as it was a few years ago, because I don’t notice the smell anymore. But I use it around my nose and on my lips, and I might have gone nose-blind to the unusual grassy, earthy smell.

Whatever the case, this much is certain: I find that Bag Balm still works just as well as it always has. And that’s what matters. If you have scaly skin, cracked eyelids, dryness around your nose or lips or a minor abrasion or burn, there’s no better choice than Bag Balm.

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