May 25, 2024

How Lip Balm Can Make Lips Worse

Menthol, camphor, and the like are included in lip balms simply because they cause a cooling effect or tingle that’s popular with consumers, according to King. She says that menthol can cause hives, but that camphor is still the worse (or as she puts it, «less elegant») of the two.

That pleasant tingle, Gohara thinks, gives consumers the illusion that a balm is benefitting their lips more than usual when it’s actually doing the opposite.

Phenol, on the other hand, is sometimes used to create a lip-plumping effect and acts as a preservative for other ingredients, according to King. However, she says it is a toxin and is therefore far less common among formulas. The word «toxin» is a lot scarier than it sounds, so don’t fret if your current balm contains it — small amounts of phenol are also found in plastics and mouthwash.

There’s plenty of research left to be done on the long-term effects of this ingredient, but the FDA considers it OK to digest in small doses, and no links to cancer have been found by the EPA or the World Health Organization.

How do I know if a lip balm is actually contributing to my dryness?

If the good news is that it’s easy to spot and avoid potentially irritating lip balms, then the bad news is that determining whether your current lip balm should be tossed is a little harder. «The quest to figure out the source and contributors of cheilitis, or lip rash, can be a complex mystery worthy Sherlock Holmes–level contemplation,» says Kraffert, who advises treating your lip-care routine somewhat like a basic science experiment. «If lips start doing poorly, the first question to ask is, ‘what has changed? ’ The answers to this question drive the investigation into possible causes. »

Gohara’s approach is simply to change balms if you feel like you’re constantly having to apply the one you’re already using. «It’s like drinking a soda to quench thirst,» she says. «You drink something that appeals to senses with no nutritional value, and shortly thereafter you are still thirsty. Same thing goes for balms loaded with flavor, fragrance, and menthol. »

Kraffert also explains that sometimes, the lip balm isn’t the problem — you are. «It is believed that excessive occlusion caused by repeated application of lip balm, particularly if there is an irritant within the lip balm formula, may make severely chapped lips worse,» he says. So there’s actually some truth to the «lip balm addiction» rumors that are constantly being discussed online.

OK, so what should I be using?

Based on all this expert testimony, here’s our advice: If your lips are super chapped and your perpetual lip balm application isn’t helping, just use it less. If things improve, you know you either need to lessen your balm habit or switch to a different formula. Gohara recommends SkinCeuticals Antioxidant Lip Repair and plain Vaseline 100% Pure Petroleum Jelly; Kraffert likes Vanicream Lip Protectant, partly for its SPF 30. We at Allure would also recommend the Best of Beauty–winning Laniege Lip Sleeping Mask, which hydrates deeply with hyaluronic acid while its vitamin C gently exfoliates away dead skin cells.

If that still doesn’t solve the issue, the chapping or rash might be a reaction to foods, toothpaste, flosses, or the cold weather, both Kraffert and Gohara say. The best way to determine the cause and cure for an extreme lip condition, though, is always to visit your local dermatologist.

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