Investigation: Are lip balms like ChapStick intentionally addictive?

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As far as conspiracy theories go, this one may presumably be dismissed as considerably tame no matter its potential impression on prospects every winter.

ChapStick, Carmex, Burt’s Bees and totally different lip balm merchandise present themselves as saviors for the chapped and dry lips launched on by chilly and windy local weather, nonetheless would possibly these little tubes and containers really operate provide strategies for a considerably specific addictive conduct?

From time to time, that age-old contemplation presents an issue to Big Lip Balm. It’s gotten to the aim that Blistex has dismissed “the number of urban legends and humorous web sites devoted to lip balms” on its website’s FAQ internet web page.

To some, though, the battle is painfully precise and worthy of exploration.

So, we launched this precept to native dermatologists, lip balm addicts, the founding father of a bunch generally known as Lip Balm Anonymous and others.

Their collective response? There’s one factor to it, however it doesn’t exactly rise to a public effectively being emergency.


To examine the science behind balms and validity of the theories, we turned to 2 native consultants: Dr. Nazanin Saedi, assistant professor and director of laser surgical process and wonder dermatology at Jefferson University Hospitals, and Dr. Bruce Brod, medical professor of dermatology inside the Perelman School of Medicine on the University of Pennsylvania.

Both downplayed the potential “addictive” nature of the merchandise, whereas sharing the idea that some balmers may be behaviorally inclined to utilize it higher than essential for a variety of causes.

“I don’t think using it makes you use it more,” acknowledged Saedi when launched with a slippery slope type of argument that using lip balm leads one to want to reapply it incessantly. “Some like the way it feels and that makes them use it more, to maintain that smoothness.”

For people inclined to lick their lips excessively, the balms current moisture, nonetheless the conduct makes the balm evaporate further quickly.

“When that moisture evaporates, they keep licking and that compromises the barrier, causing more irritation, making it easier for anything to cause irritations like rashes around their lips,” she acknowledged, noting that light topical steroids are prescribed in these circumstances.

More widespread inside the space is diagnosing victims with angular cheilitis, which could end in cracked lips.

“That drives people nuts because it’s painful,” she acknowledged of a scenario that could be attributable to saliva improve inside the nook of your mouth.

More normally, she well-known that “the balm industry has gone crazy,” offering so many different varieties and flavors that “people have to be careful, especially if they have sensitive skin to begin with.”

“When people ask me for the best moisturizers, I tell them Vaseline jelly. It’s the most pure. It doesn’t have a zillion ingredients that could irritate your skin. It’s a barrier that protects you against the cold air while trapping the moisture in,” Saedi acknowledged. “With the flavored ones, you run the risk of getting irritated. Cherry flavor is an additive. It’s not helping your lips.”

Her advice?

“There’s no ‘Elbow Stick.’ So, the question becomes what’s going on there with the lips that’s different?” – Dr. Bruce Brod, medical professor of dermatology at Penn

“In the winter months, it’s really important to moisturize,” she acknowledged. “Don’t forget your lips and don’t lick your lips!”

Brod agreed that lips get irritated further merely than totally different components of the physique, thus participating in into balm re-applications.

“There’s no ‘Elbow Stick.’ You don’t see those. So, the question becomes what’s going on there with the lips that’s different?” he acknowledged. “Our skin tends to be thinner there, so it’s prone to dryness, cracking and other irritation.”

Factor inside the publicity of lips to further irritants – to not level out meals with extreme and low PH, medicines that dry them out, routine lickers and moisture accumulation all through sleep hours – and it’s a recipe for stocking up on the balms.

Opposed to totally different areas, our lips neither protect the integrity of oil glands nor produce as lots moisture, which allows pores and pores and skin to carry out normally.

“They’re also an area of great cosmetic importance, the centerpiece of the face with an association with youth and beauty,” acknowledged Brod, who moreover actually helpful Vaseline. “When they’re dry and wrinkled, it sends a message of ‘less beauty.’ They’re very important little structures. That’s why think there’s a tendency for people to use cosmetics on lips.”

He well-known that some merchandise have parts that set off allergic reactions or irritation, which could fast the patron to make use of more and more extra with out realizing the set off.

“Licking your lips is a tough habit to break. There are a lot of behavior-modification strategies, but self-awareness is an important first step to combating it,” he acknowledged. “Avoiding irritants is really important, as is being more careful about eating acidic foods.”


That’s all successfully and good, nonetheless the reality stays that Lip Balm Anonymous exists and – per its members and founder – for good trigger.

The group describes itself as “a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength, and hope with each other so that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from their addiction.”

The solely requirement for membership? “A desire to stop using lip balm.”

Kevin Crossman primarily based the group some 20 years prior to now “under the guise of a support group” with tongue significantly in cheek.

“There are positively circumstances the place people had been hooked on this stuff.” – Kevin Crossman, founder, Lip Balm Anonymous

That tone might be seen on the FAQ a part of its website the place it addresses people who suppose “this can be a joke, proper?” along with those who mistakenly suppose they’re belittling totally different addictions whereas noting that people writing them off as “humor or parody” unintentionally help them unfold their message.

“We’ve never said drug addiction isn’t worse than balm addiction. But we’re no less harmful than caffeine addiction!” it reads. “And don’t be so sure about not needing detox. When you stop using lip balm, the withdrawal effects are very similar to other addictive substances.”

Crossman, who spoke to PhillyVoice from California closing week, well-known that that’s “a very serious problem in the world and in America, but obviously not the world’s most serious problem.”

He challenged Big Lip Balm to once more up assertions that their merchandise aren’t habit-forming.

“There is enough anecdotal evidence that people are using it habitually,” he acknowledged. “With medicated lip balms like Carmex, if you look at the packaging, it says it’s for cold sores. It has drying agents in it, and if your lips are dry, you want more and more of it.”

Lip balmCourtesy/ChapStick

Tis the season to utilize — and overuse — lip balms and associated merchandise.

Over the earlier 20 years, he acknowledged the group hasn’t confronted any lawsuits attributable to their message.

“Lip balm companies like to have this tongue-in-cheek response to the problem to drive sales,” acknowledged Crossman, noting that the group doesn’t have conferences. “There are positively circumstances the place people had been hooked on this stuff. They have lip balms everywhere, 5 areas of their dwelling, at work, inside the automotive. At some degree, it’s not a healthful obsession to have that lots lip balm spherical.

“If you search for the printed research on this, you’ll see there actually aren’t any. So, what do the ChapStick individuals have of their vaults to cover from us?”


This week, every ChapStick and Carmex had been kind ample to entertain the important questions arising from this investigation. As could possibly be anticipated, every producers acknowledged their merchandise do not go away prospects inside the throes of lip balm dependancy.

First up was ChapStick, which supplied this assertion:

“While ChapStick has many loyal followers who use our merchandise recurrently, ChapStick merchandise don’t include any addictive components.”

Rather, its “massive portfolio of merchandise (are) designed to fulfill totally different needs and wishes of customers and ship year-round skincare for lips.” They accomplish this intention by providing a barrier that forestalls moisture loss and, thus, protects lips from dryness.

Carmex (which countered Crossman’s cold-sore label claims) spoke to its historic previous, notably that of its Classic Lip Balm, which is “made with solely the purest, high-grade components, remaining devoted to Alfred Woelbing’s unique 1937 system.”

As for the dependancy precept, Carmex moreover issued a denial: “We’re glad to report that Carmex lip balms will not be addictive, however we will perceive why our followers at all times have their Carmex shut by.”

So, what’s the takeaway from all this? No, you aren’t addicted hooked on lip balm, nonetheless it’s possible you’ll be inclined to overuse it attributable to a lip-licking habits that’s highly effective to interrupt. Also, the consultants say that Vaseline jelly is the only therapy for chapped lips.

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