The Carmex® History

It all started with a great idea and a greater work ethic. The Carmex® history is one we’re proud of, and a tradition each of us strives to carry on. Explore our story.

The Beginning

Alfred, like many people, suffered from cold sores. Unlike many people, he had an entrepreneurial spirit and a knack for kitchen chemistry.

Alfred decided to solve his painful condition for himself, and concocted a remedy for his cold sores. In 1937, he began making Carmex® by hand, pouring the medicated lip balm into the familiar jars in his kitchen.

His sales method: visiting pharmacies one by one. If they weren’t interested, he gave them a dozen jars for free—along with a postcard to reorder. In no time, the pharmacies sold the free samples and the reorder forms started coming in.


Alfred Woelbing lost his job as a buyer for a Milwaukee department store and began producing Lyptone, a lip protection product that he eventually sold the rights to for $2,500—a lot of money in those days. In 1937, Alfred Woelbing invented Carmex® and incorporated Carma Laboratories, Inc. Since then, lip care has never been the same.


Alfred sold Carmex® Classic Lip Balm from the trunk of his car, with popularity growing through word of mouth.

During WWII, Uncle Sam needed all the lanolin for the Army to grease equipment and prevent rust. This limited the production possibilities for Carmex® Classic Lip Balm, since lanolin is a key ingredient.

After the war, Alfred continued to produce Carmex® Classic Lip Balm from his home, using only a kettle and a hot plate, pouring the mixture by hand into glass jars.


Positive word of mouth helped Carmex® Classic Lip Balm grow in popularity, and production demands quickly became too much for the Woelbing home. In 1957, Carmex® moved from the Woelbing home to Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, a suburb west of Milwaukee.


Carmex® continued to grow and added a budget for advertising: $10 a year for the “CARMEX” vanity plate on the family car.


Alfred, now in his 70s, retired from making sales calls, but continued to play an important role at Carma Laboratories, Inc.

In 1973, his son Don joined the business and established assembly-line production. Three years later, Carma Laboratories, Inc. outgrew the Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, facility and relocated to Franklin, another Milwaukee suburb. The factory is still located there today.


In 1988, Carmex® Classic Lip Balm became available in a squeezable tube, marking the company’s first significant packaging change.


Since 1999, pharmacists have ranked Carmex® the #1 recommended over-the-counter lip balm brand year after year, according to a survey done by Pharmacy Times magazine.

Our Click Stick applicator with SPF 15 was introduced to the public in 1999.


In 2001, an era ended when Alfred passed away. He worked eight-hour days well into his 90s, driving over 40 miles to get to the factory.

A year later, our products became available in all 50 states, as well as throughout North America, Australia, Europe and Asia. 

New products this decade included Cherry and Strawberry lip balm flavors (selected via Internet voting).

A new distribution center opened in 2004, ensuring that our lines of lip-saving balms were always arriving in the right place at the right time.

In 2006, Carma Laboratories, Inc. hired its first executive team, bringing new life to a 70-year-old company and ushering in an era of increased distribution and expanded product offerings.

A 2008 appearance on Oprah put the Woelbings and the whole Carmex® family in the spotlight, proudly spreading the news that Carmex® had sold more than a billion jars.

In 2009, company chairman Don Woelbing passed away. Carma Laboratories, Inc. continued its family-owned and operated legacy, led by Alfred’s grandsons, Paul and Eric Woelbing.


In 2012, the governor of Wisconsin marked our milestone year by declaring a 75th anniversary day across our home state.

In 2014, it felt like the company came full circle when we introduced a product that revisited the original problem Alfred created the company to solve—cold sores. Carmex® Cold Sore Treatment quickly became one of the fastest-growing products in its category, even going on to be voted 2015 Product of the Year.*

Most recently, Carmex® unveiled two new product lines: Carmex Comfort Care™ Lip Balm, made with natural ingredients, and Carmex Daily Care™ Lip Balm, made in a variety of delicious flavors.

These launches also introduced a new look for Carmex®. We put a modern design twist on our iconic logo and packaging, without straying from our roots. So you’ll still recognize the Carmex® you’ve come to know and love.

*(Specialty Skin Treatment Category) in a survey of 40,000 people by TNS.