The Pros and Cons of Lip Balms

Cynthia Bailey, MD|July 2, 2015

  Lip Balm(1) Do you need lip balm? Can you get addicted to lip balm? The answers are yes and yes!  So, what should you use to prevent and to treat chapped lips? You need to keep your lips moist by applying a really good moisturizer if you don’t want dry-looking lips that are prone to chapping. This chapping occurs because, structurally, your lips don’t have the same tough dead skin cell layer that other parts of your skin have, nor do they have oil glands to keep them hydrated. Dry climates and wind will quickly sap moisture right out of your lips resulting in unpleasant chapped lips. By applying a lip moisturizer, you can help protect your lips from chapping. But, you can become “addicted” to lip balm if you use the wrong product.  The wrong lip balm is one that contains an allergen. Exposure to the allergen causes a lip rash that mimics chapping. The rash is really an allergic lip rash, but it looks and feels exactly the same as chapped lips. It forces you to keep reaching for your trusted lip product to find relief, which is a "beautiful world" for the lip balm maker who sells you endless tubes of product to treat your "chapped" lips. That's why I recommend only hypoallergenic lip moisturizers such as shea butter or even Vaseline, though the latter is not my favorite. I especially recommend you avoid products with notorious lip allergens including:

  • Citrus
  • Mint
  • Tea tree
  • Eucalyptus
  • Camphor
  • Lanolin
  • Artificial flavors and fragrances 

It is important to note that vitamin E and some chemical sunscreens ingredients can be allergens to sensitive skin. Preventing annoying and painful chapped lips is why I'm so particular about lip balms and carry only these trusted hypoallergenic products. These are the products I use for my sensitive skin patients, and the products that I carry in my purse and recommend and use for my family.   Before I was a dermatologist, I was "addicted to lip balm" because I used a popular lip product (which will go unnamed). Now that I'm a dermatologist, I know better. Over the years, I've bought lots of that product and my poor terminally chapped lips were most definitely "addicted" to it! I'm glad I finally figured it all out! Learn from me and prevent chapped lips!

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