Think you’re addicted to lip balm? Experts weigh in
From nail-biting to procrastinating, there’s been a long list of bad habits we’ve had to (or have yet to) break. Our question for today is, is applying lip balm one of them? And is it really possible to be addicted to lip balm? Here’s what experts have to say.
Lip balm can be good for you
For most of us, lip balm application is simply a step in our beauty routines.
We put on lip balm before we go to sleep and before we apply lipstick. In fact, some people barely have to buy one tube of lip balm a year.
Lip balm can boost our lips’ health in several ways, including:
- Protecting our lips from direct sunlight. A number of lip balms come with SPF. And, as fans of the 10-step skincare routine know, sunscreen is essential to maintaining our youthful glow.
- Keeping chapped lips at bay. Winter winds can be unkind to the sensitive skin of our lips. Dry lips aren’t only unpleasant to look at, but they can also be painful. Using lip balm can prevent and remedy dry lips.
- Priming our lips for other products. Applying lip balm will make our lipstick last longer. But that’s not all they do. Lip balms also serve as a protective layer between lip products and bare skin.
- Helping heal lips after microblading. Lip balm is essential during the aftercare period of lip microblading. Hydrating lip balms will assist in the recovery of lips as microblading ink pigments settle in the skin.
Lip balm is extremely beneficial for many people. However, for others, their dependency on lip balm (and other moisturizers) can be debilitating.
There are cases of people feeling the need to apply lip balm up to 300 times a day. There are also cases where skipping lip balm application caused their lips to bleed.
While there’s no discounting the benefits of lip balm, we need to ask ourselves, “At what point is using it harmful?”
Is lip balm addiction real?
The short answer is no. Dermatologists unanimously agree that the ingredients in most lip balms aren’t addictive substances, such as alcohol or the nicotine in cigarettes.
Lip balm itself isn’t addictive. However, what “lip balm addicts” experience shouldn’t be scoffed at, either.
Here’s what one person confessed to support group site Lip Balm Anonymous:
I’ve been using Chapstick since I was 14. I’m now 20. This is not a once a day kind of thing. I use it maybe 2 or 3 times in a single hour.
If something happens, and I can’t find it, I search [frantically] for it until I find it. It’s never more than 3 feet away from me unless I’m at home. If I’m out doing a photo shoot, I’ll take 3 things: my camera, my keys, and my chapstick.
I hate it, I hate it, I hate it. This is the 2nd time I’ve tried to quit—which tells you [that] the first time, I failed. But this time, I’m quitting cold turkey, I can’t do the weaning off thing.
It’s been 30 hours, and my lips sting. They’re peeling, I’m bleeding, I’m crying, I can’t go out in public because I’m ashamed.
A few months ago, I thought using the new EOS brand would help, but it hasn’t. I want out [because] I hate being chained to something so stupid as Chapstick addiction. [And] I just want to be able to get out my car without making sure I have my Chapstick.
And this isn’t an isolated case. There are many instances of people reporting heavy dependence on lip balms, as well as disastrous consequences once they stop using.
The truth is, what most people believe to be lip balm addiction can be one (or both) of two things: moisturizer dependence or behavioral addiction.
Let’s talk about the difference.
Moisturizer dependence is often interpreted as lip balm addiction
Lip balms are soothing. They get rid of the dry, chapped feeling we often suffer through every winter.
Unfortunately, a number of lip balms carry irritants that cause more harm than good. In fact, most lip balm enthusiasts know that some ingredients actually dry your lips instead of moisturizing them.
As a result, people keep on applying lip balm, chasing after the soothing, “moisturizing” feeling. And once they get hooked, it’s an endless cycle.
Here’s another testimony:
I’m a 23-year-old female and for probably about, I don’t know, 8 years or so now, I have been using lip balm continuously. I apply it at least 20 times a day for sure. I switch brands just about every time I go buy another, so there isn’t really a certain brand I use. But if my lips aren’t very recently coated with balm, they are very dry and cracked and flaky. I can’t wear lipstick, ever. It looks terrible because of how dry my lips are. And I drink plenty of water. I can’t seem to find anything that truly hydrates my lips.
And for the first time probably in about 8 years, I went roughly 24-30 hours without using any lip balm (not by choice, I forgot it at home), and I woke up in the morning with them raw, blood red, and as dry as can be. I will attach a photo to show what they looked like, and they were much darker in person.
Of course, as soon as I got home, I drenched them in lip balm and have been continuously applying it all day. I just feel like I’m stuck in this cycle and can’t get out.
Companies opt to produce their lip balms this way to encourage consumers to keep using their products. It’s a twisted way to serve loyal customers, but it’s the truth.
Moisturizer dependence has nothing to do with how effective the lip balm is. In truth, it’s about putting stressed lips at ease.
Instead of relying on lip balms as a band-aid solution, consult a dermatologist about why your lips feel dry, chapped, or irritated. Often, it’s one or more of these reasons:
- Eating too much spicy food
- Cinnamon-flavored tooth products
- Irritants in toothpaste or teeth whiteners
In addition to consulting a dermatologist, make it a habit to check the label. Before putting any kind of lip balm in your shopping cart, look at the list of ingredients first. You’ll be surprised at which brands are out to dupe you.
Skip balms with these ingredients
Dermatologists recommend against lip balms with humectants in them. Humectants draw out moisture but don’t contain nourishing ingredients that prevent evaporation of moisture, according to Health.com.
Dr. Rachel Nazarian, New York-based dermatologist and American Academy of Dermatology fellow, also advises against the following:
- Cinnamic aldehyde
- Artificial fragrances
Why? “They’re much more likely to irritate sensitive skin and should be avoided,” Dr. Nazarian told Health.
Applying lip balm can be behavioral addiction
If people can get addicted to shopping, then why can’t they be addicted to lip balm?
Because, again, the lip balm itself isn’t the problem. Lip balms do not carry any addictive substances. Instead, it’s the act of applying a lip balm that’s addictive.
Dr. Daniel E. Mattila, M.Div., LCSW-R is a psychotherapist specializing in Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or OCD. According to him, lip balm usage exhibits many of addiction’s symptoms (although it doesn’t fit the addiction model itself).
These symptoms include:
- Overwhelming physical and mental discomfort
The deciding factor here is that compulsive lip balm application’s goal isn’t stimulation-seeking, like addiction’s. Its goal is self-soothing.
“It’s not like somebody says, ‘Oh my God, I’m going to go home and just use lip balm all night, and it’s going to be so great,'” Dr. Mattila said.
“It’s something that’s done automatically, to reduce anxiety,” he added. “It’s a ritual and a self-soothing mechanism, just like hand-washing.”
Here’s one of the worst-case scenarios from a self-proclaimed lip balm addict:
I’m a 53-year-old mom and grandmother that finally quit cold turkey from using Blistex Medicated Berry lip balm. I had used it for many years. I had two in my purse (in case one got lost), one in my nightstand, one in the bathroom drawer, one always in my pocket, one on a tray in the kitchen and even two in the living room. They were everywhere, like rabbits.
My lowest point was having to stop at Walgreen’s because I was on my way to a wedding and discovered I did not have any in my purse. We had to make a quick detour to buy some. I bought 10 of them and had to carry them in my purse all day, so they wouldn’t melt from the summer heat in the car.
I was aware that I was always whipping out my Blistex Medicated Berry balm after every meal and any time my lips felt dry. A year ago, my younger sister encouraged me to just quit, but I was not ready yet. Finally, after Christmas, I was fed up with needing lip balm about four times an hour. At that point, it was not relieving the dryness any more, no matter how much or how often I applied it.
The good news is that, like shopping, compulsive lip balm application can be viewed as simply a bad habit. And bad habits can be broken.
Are all lip balms harmful?
Now, the question is, should you avoid lip balms altogether?
Not necessarily. Like we mentioned earlier, lip balm has some serious benefits for your lips.
When choosing a commercially produced lip balm, here’s what you need to keep in mind:
- Don’t fix what isn’t broken. If your current lip balm is good for your lips, there’s no need to switch to a different brand—unless your current brand uses harmful ingredients.
- Check the label. Specifically, check the label for the following ingredients (which are good for your lips): lanolin, beeswax, vitamin E, green tea, wheat germ oil, almond oil, jojoba oil, coconut oil, sunflower oil, cottonseed oil, aloe vera, and shea butter.
- Go all-natural. There’s really no argument to be made against an all-natural skincare routine. For one, it’s healthier. Plus, you can use reusable containers and reduce your plastic consumption. Recipes like this one are fun and easy to make.
“Lip balm addiction” isn’t real, but it should be treated seriously
There’s no reason to dismiss the pain and discomfort most lip balm dependents face on a daily basis.
If you know a lip balm addict, make sure to offer support. Recovery is always a difficult journey, and they need all the help they can get.
If you yourself are recovering, then keep your head up! When it comes to overcoming addiction, there’s no way out but through. See through the recovery process, and you’ll be surprised at how much you’ve accomplished by then.
Organic Permanent Makeup believes that beauty and health go hand in hand. When you take care of yourself, then your best self can step forward.
Lip care is the first step towards achieving your ultimate dream of having gorgeous lips. Whether you want to keep them natural or enhance them with lip microblading, OPM is with you all the way.
For questions or more information on microblading, drop us a line or call us at 310-207-7797.