Lip balm may feel soothing on chapped lips. But it can also turn into a bad habit that’s hard to break. Could you be addicted?
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Not in the physiologic sense, says dermatologist Melissa Piliang, MD. But like anything else, lip balm can become a psychological crutch.
“It can definitely be habit-forming,” Dr. Piliang says. “Applying lip balm soothes your lips, feels good and can be very comforting. That can lead to an unconscious habit that helps with stress or anxiety — kind of like twirling your hair or biting your nails.”
She says some kinds of lip balm can also make your dry lips even drier, so it’s a good idea to check the ingredients in your favorite brand. Pay attention to how often you use it to see whether you’re doing it out of a real need to protect and moisturize, or for other reasons.
Signs of dependence on lip balm
Dr. Piliang offers several common-sense questions to ask yourself to see if you have a psychological dependence on lip balm:
- Do you apply it frequently?
- Do you have to carry it with you at all times?
- Do you have it stashed all over? (Your purse? Your car? Your bedroom? Your bathroom?)
- Do you spend a lot of money on it?
- Have your friends or family commented on your frequent use or spending on it?
- Do you go out of your way or make yourself late to get more?
- Do you have trouble concentrating or enjoying life because you can’t take your mind off the need to apply it?
The more questions you answer ‘yes’ to in the list, the more likely you may have a dependency on lip balm.
What lip balm is the best?
Here are some things Dr. Piliang advises when choosing the best balm for your lips:
- Avoid ingredients like phenol, menthol and salicylic acid. Some say applying lip balm causes the body to stop generating natural moisture around the lips. That’s just a myth, Dr. Piliang says. “Lip balms containing ingredients like phenol, menthol and salicylic acid actually make your lips drier. So you apply more, and it becomes a vicious cycle.” Some of these product also cause a tingling feeling when you apply them. This either causes irritation or removes outer layers of the skin, like an exfoliant. Then you have less protection, are more susceptible to environmental factors and have to apply more product. “Just avoid balms containing those ingredients,” she says.
- Limit lip balms containing scents or added flavoring. The chemicals in some scents and added flavorings can irritate your skin or cause allergies, Dr. Piliang says. “These dry out the skin and then it can feel more chapped, so for this kind less is better,” she adds.
- Look for simple, petroleum-based jelly products. These are recommended because they keep your lips moist and prevent future chapping instead of causing it, she says.
- Use lip balm that is at least SPF 30. Also try to find lip glosses or lipsticks that are at least SPF30. You should definitely use sunscreen on your lips when you’re outside for long periods of time, during sports or at the pool or beach.
“Stick to these tips to keep yourself in check with your lip balm use,” she adds. “Your dermatologist can help with any myths, too. For example, there’s a myth that the shine in a lip gloss allows the sun’s rays to penetrate more and increases skin cancer risk. We do see skin cancer on the lips, but nothing in lip balms causes cancer. If you have more questions like these, we’re here to help.”