Is Lip Balm Addiction a Real Thing? We Asked Dermatologists
Is applying ChapStick 100 times a day really a problem?
Raise your hand if you kinda-maybe think you have an addiction to lip balm. Well, you're not alone. If you apply ChapStick multiple times a day, or freak out whenever you don't have your favorite Burt's Bees tube in your purse or on your person, you might have thought at some point, Is this healthy for me?
Lip balm addiction has taken the Internet by storm, and countless forums are dedicated to the topic. There's even an entire community called Lip Balm Anonymous. The debate has gotten so heated, in fact, that Blistex weighed in to assure consumers that you most certainly do not have an addiction to your lip products.
We asked experts what they really think about whether we can be (or are) addicted to lip balm, and discovered ingredients that you might want to avoid—as well as dermatologist-approved products we're adding to our shopping carts.
Tell me the truth, am I addicted to my lip balm?
In short, no. Lip balm addiction is not a real thing, but there are some lip balm habits that might not great for your pout, experts say.
One is chronically applying heavy, occlusive ointments over your lips, which can interfere with skin's ability to adjust to the environment to maintain a healthy hydration level, says Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
Another concern? Your saliva contains enzymes that make it effective for digesting food when you eat. But if you're someone who licks their lips a lot, you're applying those same digestive enzymes to your skin, which can make lips dry and chapped, says Rachel Nazarian, MD, a New York-based dermatologist and fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology (FAAD). People will then apply Chapstick or other topical balms to remedy this, but the real issue is their lip-licking habit, she points out.
Washing your face with hot water could also leave your lips dehydrated. The reason: Hot water removes natural oils from skin more aggressively than cool or lukewarm water. "The lips have less oil glands than other areas of the body, so washing your skin with hot water will dry this area out quickly," Dr. Nazarian explains.
Also important: New York City-based dermatologist Debra Jaliman, MD, says you should make sure to drink plenty of water thoughtout the day, since dehydration can lead to chapped lips.
Lip balm ingredients to avoid
Lip balms that only contain ingredients that draw out moisture (called humectants) but don’t contain nourishing ingredients that prevent evaporation of moisture can add more fuel to the fire, says Dr. Nazarian. This makes you more dependent on lip balm to replace hydration.
Be sure to read the ingredient list on your lip balm before making a purchase. If you have sensitive skin, our experts recommend staying away from products that contain alcohol or fragrance, since they can irritate skin.
Also on the skip list? Menthol, cinnamic aldehyde, and peppermint. "They're much more likely to irritate sensitive skin and should be avoided," says Dr. Nazarian. Camphor and phenol can also dry lips out, Dr. Jaliman says.
How to choose lip balm wisely
If your current lip balm isn't irritating your skin, you shouldn't feel like you have to toss it. But if you find that yout lips never seem to stay hydrated, you might want to look for a balm that contains nourishing ingredients like lanolin or simple beeswax without perfumes or dyes, says Dr. Nazarian. "These ingredients are effective at preventing the evaporation of moisture from your lips," she explains, adding that she's also a fan of classic Vaseline.
At night, Dr. Nazarian recommends coating lips with Aquaphor Lip Repair ($4; amazon.com) and plugging in a humidifier to increase moisture in the air and prevent chapped lips while you snooze. Other balms she loves: Jack Black Intense Therapy Lip Balm ($8; amazon.com), a conditioning treatment packed with vitamin E, green tea, SPF, and natural emollients; and Kiehls Lip Balm #1 ($10; sephora.com), a top-rated balm boasting squalane, aloe vera, and vitamin E to soften, soothe, and protect against skin-damaging free radicals.
Wheatgerm oil, almond oil, jojoba oil, coconut oil, sunflower oil, cottonseed oil, aloe vera, and shea butter are all ingredients that Dr. Jaliman loves. One of her favorite treatments is Dr. Hauschka Lip Balm ($17; amazon.com) because it contains nourishing oils (like calendula oil) and cocoa butter to revive a cracked pout. "It also has calming and anti-inflammatory properties which can help soothe very dry, chapped lips," she says.
When in doubt, bland, hydrating lip balms are your best bet, Dr. Zeichner tells us. "Use them only when you need, not just by force of habit," he advises. His picks? Neutrogena Hydroboost Lip Treatment ($6; amazon.com) and Clarins Hydra-Essentiel Moisture Replenishing Lip Balm ($24; ulta.com), which has cocoa extract to help soften and hydrate rough cells on the surface of skin.
The bottom line? No, you're not addicted to your lip balm, but you might be overusing it due to compulsive lip-licking. Hey, it happens. If you can't whittle down your balm usage, invest in one of our dermatologist-approved, good-for-your-lips options instead.