We all know people who always
have a tube of lip balm on them. They might put it on without even realizing
it, after every sip from their cup of coffee or a dozen times during an
hour-long meeting. For some, it’s more than just convenient relief from the
uncomfortable symptoms of chapped lips. It’s an outright addiction, and it can
lead to a dependency that’s incredibly hard to break. For others who aren’t so
dependent, using lip balm might be doing more damage to your lips than good.
There’s no denying the winter months can be hard on your lips, though, so why
should you really stop buying these commercial brands and what do you do
ingredients do more damage than good

There’s an insane number of
options out there when it comes to choosing a lip balm, and it’s hard to resist
ones that have a scent that’s not the least bit medicinal. (Strawberry
ChapStick, anyone?) But according to a dermatologist from the American Academy
of Dermatology, some of them have ingredients that could be doing more harm
than good… especially some of your tried-and-true favorites.
Diane Madfes, MD, says added
fragrances present some of the biggest problems to regular users. Some,
particularly cinnamon-based additives, can irritate already dry and sore lips.
You know how much it burns when you eat something spicy or tangy when your lips
are dry and cracked, and these additives can be just as painful. Surprisingly,
she also targets menthol as one of the other big problems. Even though we
associate the distinctive, cool feeling of menthol with healing, it can
actually make lips more sensitive to the elements you’re trying to protect them
from. Vitamin E can be another deceptive ingredient, too. Like menthol, we
associate vitamin E with health and healing. That’s true, but when it’s used
topically, some people have developed an allergic reaction to it. That’s not
something you want to have to deal with, either, and it’s easier just to go
bad stuff

When Motherboard compiled a
list of the most damaging ingredients found in various types of lip balm, they
looked at what a whole bunch of dermatologists recommended you stay away from.
In addition to the vitamin E, menthol and artificial flavors we talked about,
they also named camphor, wax, phenol, and alcohols as also potentially
Take a look at the ingredient
list on ChapStick, one of the most well-know brands of lip balm. What’s in a
tube of ChapStick? Camphor, carnauba wax, cetyl alcohol, and oleyl alcohol. The
skin that covers your lips is particularly thin and delicate. Those particular
chemicals have been linked with causing damage, dryness and peeling, and those
are the exact things you’re trying to prevent. Chap Stick isn’t alone in having
some less-than-stellar ingredients, and if you take a look at the ingredient
lists of other types of lip balm you’ll find some similar things.
Unfortunately, that means that your favorite lip balm isn’t as good for you as
you might think, and we’re not even finished yet.
addictive is it?

If you’re not one of these
people, you might know someone who is. They always have sticks of lip balm in a
purse or tucked into a pocket, there’s a couple on the desk, a few in the car,
and even more scattered around the house. Some might even joke about being
addicted. For others, it can be a serious matter. Urban legends might claim
there’s something addictive in lip balm that keeps you applying it over and
over again, so what’s the real deal? The truth is, it’s not actually,
physically addictive. Lip balms work by sealing moisture into your lips,
creating a protective barrier between your lips and the elements. The Guardian
found that the ingredients in lip balms don’t create a physical dependency, but
when they spoke to representatives from the national charity OCD Action, they
did find there’s something else at work here.
OCD Action director Joel Rose
says it’s the act of putting on lip balm that’s actually addictive. It can
become a mild form of OCD and most of the time, it’s pretty harmless. Like any
other kind of repetitive action that’s done over and over again, it can get to
the point where it gets in the way of daily life and in that case, you might
end up needing help breaking your addiction. Part of what makes it such a
widespread issue is that it’s a soothing mechanism, something easy that we can
do that we know makes us feel better and even look better. While he says that
“addiction” might be too strong a word to accurately describe what’s
going on when someone needs to apply lip balm dozens of times a day, he still
says there’s definitely times when people should seek help.
it interferes with everyday life

According to Dr. Daniel E.
Mattila, M. Div., LCSW-R, the problem can definitely get to the point where it
interferes with daily functioning. He agrees it’s not so much an addiction as
it is a compulsion, but he also notes there are a lot of the same things going
on. It’s not just about the feeling that using it creates, but it’s also about
what happens when you don’t have it. Some people find themselves distressed,
uncomfortable and even panicked if they don’t have their lip balm, and that’s
when you know it’s becoming a problem. He’s seen some try to hide or justify
their need, and all those things are painfully similar to addiction.
Refinery 29 took a look at one
woman’s lip balm addiction. Kerri Miller reported hiding her repeated lip balm
applications from her coworkers, and that she felt she needed to keep finding
more and more ways to discreetly apply it. Not having it led to licking her
lips and chewing her mouth until it bled, sending her running to the store in
the middle of a workday to pick up another tube. Hers is an extreme case, but
Mattila says it can be an absolutely real problem.
incredibly easy to make your own

There are some things that
Motherboard’s pool of dermatologists suggested were actually good for your
lips, and that included things like beeswax and cocoa butter. But scouring any
drug store shelf for a pure, commercially produced product is a challenge and a
half. Fortunately, it’s so easy to make your own lip balm that there’s
absolutely no reason to keep buying it.
The Nourished Life has this
great recipe for making an incredibly flexible base for an all-natural,
beeswax-based lip balm. The basic recipe only calls for coconut oil (or shea
butter or olive oil) and beeswax, with absolutely none of the
impossible-to-pronounce ingredients that are listed on the side of most other
commercial lip balms. There’s plenty of room to experiment, too, adding natural
colors and flavors with dyes like beetroot and your favorite essential oils. If
you’re the crafty sort, there’s so many options for fun packaging (an Altoids
container, maybe?) and, if you’re going more for style than practicality, you
can also add things like edible glitter or bold colors. There’s literally no
end to the projects, and they’re easy enough to do at the spur of a movement on
a rainy afternoon. They’re also great to hand out as thoughtful little gifts
for anyone who needs a smile and a pick-me-up, because who wouldn’t love that?
give that store-bought lip balm a miss!

Now, you know. The uncomfortable
feeling of dry, chapped lips is an inconvenience that can last months,
especially if you live in drier, colder areas. Pick up the wrong thing at the
grocery store and you might be causing more problems than you’re solving… and
that’s the big reason why you need to stop buying lip balms, and just start
making your own. There are a few other little tips and tricks you might want to
try, too. Dr. Jessica Wu from the University of Southern California’s School of
Medicine gives some great advice on how to help prevent dry, chapped lips from
becoming a problem in the first place. She says that one thing that’s
incredibly important to remember is to stay hydrated, and that drinking enough
water will make a world of difference not just for your lips, but your skin in
She also suggests making sure
your diet is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which helps keep the oil levels of
your skin and lips naturally balanced. Using a humidifier will also help your
skin stay soft, especially during the winter months. Having the heat on all the
time can dry out the air and that, in turn, takes a toll on your lips and skin.
Run that at night and put on some of your homemade lip balm before you go to
sleep, and you’ll be surprised at the difference it makes by morning.
Kayode Ojo
Kayode Emmanuel Ojo is the Co-Founder and Managing Director at SHEFFA Limited. He is presently studying Computer Science at the National Open University, Victoria Island, Lagos.