Aside from your phone, what’s the only other item you move daily from your bedside table, to your bag to your office desk and then your coat pocket? We’d be willing to bet it’s a tube of lip balm. Either that or you’ve got one for each one of those places, there’s certainly a cherry-flavoured Carmex that’s permanently stood beside my keyboard.
We’re all guilty of slapping on the soothing salve but many of us have wondered, does lip balm actually just make your lips worse? Sometimes we can’t help but think that each tube of the stuff has a smack of Pringles about it – once you pop you just can’t stop. It’s a vicious circle of chapped lips – balm – more chapped lips – more balm. We’ve often thought if we could just go off lip balm for a week or two our lips would become gloriously silky smooth. But we can’t because we’re self-confessed addicts.
The Cut decided to look into this tingling question and spoke to several dermatologists about debunking the chapped lips myths.
The first commonly held belief to be rejected is that lip balm (the mainstream ones anyway) dry out your lips even faster. In actual fact, the ingredients of most slaves are designed to do exactly what you would expect but still doubt – seal in moisture. Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi says that ingredients such as petroleum and mineral oil are actually two of the best for soothing and moisturising.
So if they’re not drying our lips out, why does it always feel like they are? The answer according to these experts is simple – you’re probably allergic to some of the ingredients. They cause your lips to become inflamed and fragile, forcing you to apply even more of the stuff. So exactly what ingredients are people likely to react to?
Quite a few actually. Beeswax, a frequent ingredient in lip balms, often contains propolis which is many people are allergic to, in fact it’s considered the second most common allergy after nickel. Menthol, which is the ingredient that makes your lips feel all tingly, is a common irritant that makes your lips more sensitive. So too is lanolin, a wool derivative that can create an allergic reaction not dissimilar to the one your skin might have in a wooly jumper.
So if the collar of an Aran sweater makes your neck look like you’ve been exfoliating with sand paper, then stay away from lip balms that contain lanolin and perhaps keep it simple and stick with vaseline instead.