Can you be addicted to lip balm? Many of us turn to lip balms to help soothe and moisturize our lips in dry air or cold temperatures. Lip balms work to seal in moisture and protect your lips from harsh environmental conditions. Most lip balms contain a petroleum base- petroleum jelly, white wax, paraffin wax, petrolatum or mineral oil- which acts to seal moisture in. Also common are emollients to soften skin and a waxy base for waterproofing. Some products also contain sunscreens which help prevent sun damage.
The ingredients above help you feel relief as the small fissures and cracks in your lips are filled and “sealed”. This feeling or relief can be addicting. So, what’s the problem?
Added ingredients in lip balms such as menthol, phenol, camphor and alcohols that are used to give lips a cool, soothing sensation tend to dry out
the lips over time. As quickly as a few minutes after use, the alcohol or camphor begins to evaporate and the wax is absorbed into the skin, leading to dryness around the lips, peeling and the urge to re-apply the lip balm.
This constant re-application of lip balm may be seen as an addiction and can become a very difficult habit to break if not corrected.
The ingredients in your lip balm are the key to lasting relief and breaking the lip balm cycle. Check for products that contain:
- Vaseline, Beeswax (cera alba) and/or Ceramides (fats that help retain water)
- Humectants like Urea or Glycerin which increase moisture content, reduce irritation and help prevent skin cracking.
- Dimethicone, which helps prevent drying and lengthens product life.
- Lanolin and Cocoa Butter to soften, moisturize and protects lips.
- Sunscreen for UV protection.
Avoid these ingredients if you are prone to irritation or allergies:
Fragrances and Artificial Colors
- Menthol, Camphor and Phenol which can dry your lips and cause redness & swelling.
- Alcohol which can dry your lips.
- Vitamin E which can lead to an allergic reaction.
You may be addicted to your lip balm if you are applying it more often than 4-6 times a day. It’s likely that your lip balm contains agents that are drying or irritating if this is the case. Additionally, if the skin around your lips themselves becomes red, scaly and itchy, you might be developing a true allergic dermatitis to one of the ingredients in the lip balm. The most likely culprit is the perfume or flavoring in the lip balm. See your Dermatologist for recommendations on the appropriate lip balm for your symptoms.
To your skin health,
Dr. Richard Asarch, M.D.