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Is Lip Balm Addictive?

Believe it or not, there are people all over the internet that report feeling a constant and uncontrollable urge to apply their lip moisturizers. This strikes somewhat of a cosmetic controversy: are companies, like Chapstick, designing their products to keep you hooked?

“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 […] On my own, I decided “Enough is enough!” I went cold turkey and stopped using the lip balm completely.”

Yes, you read that correctly. This quote is one of many testimonies from Lip Balm Anonymous, an online forum for self labelled ‘lip balm addicts’, who seriously believe that they are detrimentally addicted to their lip moisturizer. This might sound far-fetched, but people all over the internet, and even several of my friends, report feeling a constant and uncontrollable urge to use these products. For some up to 300 times a day, using multiple tubes in a week.

As one might expect, there is a load of controversy here. Like claims that Chapstick is designing products to keep keep people hooked. Last year a woman actually tried to sue EOS ("Evolution of Smooth" lip balm), the cosmetic company behind the colourful egg shaped lip balms, claiming their product caused her lips to become so dry they required medical attention. But you can breathe a sigh of relief through your carefully moisturized lips. Dermatologists unaffiliated with the billion-dollar lip balm industry have a clear consensus: you cannot be physically addicted to your lip balm.

There are no potentially addictive ingredients in cosmetics – as nicotine is in cigarettes. And there is no evidence (not even anecdotes from self proclaimed addicts) that these products create any kind of physical addiction. Some dermatologists point out that overuse of moisturizing products can lead to somewhat of a dependency on them. Others say that select people may be irritated by common ingredients like menthol, peppermint oil, and beeswax exacerbating the perceived need to use lip balm. However, unless you have an allergy to one of the ingredients, moderate but regular use of balm will not make your lips drier nor get you hooked on a destructive path to addiction.

And yet it’s useless to deny that even something as innocent as moisturizing can have very real and troubling consequences for people claiming to be addicted. Thus lip balm use, like shopping, pornography, or the internet, can be considered a behavioural addiction. Far less problematic than traditional substance abuse, behavioural addictions are habits, activities, and rituals THAT provide pleasure but can quickly become obsessive. Basically, compulsive lip balm use is just a bad habit, which for most, can be broken rather easily.

the ongoing cycle of dry lips and lip balm.


Perhaps you can blame this obsession on societal beauty standards, but it might be better to blame dry Canadian winters. Exposure to cold temperatures and dry weather conditions are the most common (and normal) way that skin loses its moisture. Lips are particularly vulnerable, being four times thinner and lacking protective sweat and oil glands like the rest of our skin. Your best bet is to protect your lips in moderation with a flavourless product – licking off your cherry flavoured lip-gloss is a great way to use the digestive enzymes in your saliva to dry out those precious lips. 

You’re best off protecting your lips with a plain flavourless product, as this will reduce the likelihood of you actually liking the taste and licking your lips to dry them out.


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