Need that tube of lip balm everywhere you go? I have tubes of every brand and flavour in every room, bag and pocket. Can't be without it.
But some insist this could become an addiction and suggest conspiracy on the part of evil manufacturers. There's even a website (kevdo.com/lipbalm) that claims these companies are just like the corner drug dealer. How crazy is this?
Sure, in this cold climate, your smackers are going to get chapped and cracked just like the rest of your skin. But in fact, some products include ingredients that dry the skin, promoting the urge for constant reapplication. I've actually noticed this. I thought it was weird at first, but eventually I had to stop using medicated Blistex because it seemed to be making things worse.
Bottom line: protect your kisser by reading the label.
What the experts say
"We're most concerned about oxybenzone, a sunscreen present in about a quarter of balms. It's reactive in the sun and can cause mutations, cell death and other stuff. Anything you put on your lips you're going to ingest. So we're also concerned about micronized or nano-sized zinc. Some balms have fragrances that contain phthalates. These substances bring up a litany of concerns, from endocrine disruption to developmental issues. The bulk of lip balms are either petrolatum- or beeswax-based. Toxicity-?wise, petrolatum is not bad. There are impurity concerns, and it's unsustainable. There's debate about the sustainability of beeswax, but no contamination concerns. Avoid parabens, which are linked to endocrine disruption."
SEAN GRAY, senior analyst, Environmental Working Group, Washington, DC
"For vata people [thin and bony], chapped lips arise from internal dryness. Take a tablespoon of olive oil daily or increase omega 3 and 6 oils. Externally, apply a combination of pomegranate seed oil, meadowfoam seed oil, a bit of Brahmi (centella) and rose essential oil. Or put olive oil externally on the lips with half a drop of lavender oil. Shea butter is an incredible lip emollient. If your body type is pitta [well-?developed physique], cracked, dry lips can arise from too much acid in the stomach. Internally, it's good to take aloe vera juice and coconut water. Kapha body types [thick, broad frame] have the most moisture and get dry because of dehydration in the winter. Increase water intake."
ANDREA OLIVERA, director, Andrea Olivera Centre for Ayurveda, Toronto
"Lip balm can definitely be addictive. Some are marketed as cold sore remedies and actually dry out your lips. If people use more of the product, the company has no incentive to advise them how to use it. If you have a situation where your lips get really chapped, there's no reason not to use lip balm. The problem is that people end up using it all year round, whether they need it or not."
KEVIN C., founder, Lip Balm Anonymous, kevdo.com/lipbalm
"Some balms will make your lips drier. It depends on the preparation. There are a whole bunch of bases - wax esters, petroleum, propylene glycol. People react differently to different ingredients. In the winter, with the loss of humidity, trans-epidermal water loss increases. Many people like the wax esters because they have staying power."
LISA KELLETT, dermatologist, Toronto
"Even with natural products, a common problem is allergic reactions to essential oils like mint or cinnamon. I prefer that people use something with a minimum of ingredients. I recommend the beeswax products, but I have patients who are strict vegetarians who won't use them. An emollient that stays in place is really important. A lot of lip balms are mineral-oil-based, which is related to petrolatum. That family of products would not be my first choice, but for some people they work fine."
ALLAN DATTNER, holistic dermatology, founder, holisticdermatology.com, Manhattan