by CASSIDY SERGER '19
Common bad habits include biting one’s nails or eating unhealthy foods frequently, but applying lip balm frequently can be just as harmful. Many people incorporate applying lip balm into their daily routines so much so that applying it becomes a habit that is as central to their day as eating a meal. Many of these people believe that this is healthy, or at least not unhealthy, but they would be incorrect.
In the winter, when dry skin runs rampant, many people turn to lip balm. A harmless tube begins as the solution to a painful and annoying problem, but as it is applied frequently, people become dependent upon it. Like nail biting, applying lip balm can become an impulse even when the lips are no longer chapped. With this overexposure to moisture, the lips stop producing their own natural moisture because they no longer need to, leading to more consistently chapped lips. At this point, the person has become entirely dependent on lip balm. Not only does he or she continue to apply it out of habit, but out of need as well. The billion dollar lip balm industry has won. You are now a slave to lip balm companies and will continue to buy their products.
While addictions to lip balm cannot be clinically diagnosed there are recovery plans that help people quit lip balm, such as the Twelve Step Plan featured on Lip Balm Anonymous, the original site on lip balm addiction. Technically, repeated use is just a compulsion and is strictly mental, though not quite the same as a physiological addiction to drugs or alcohol. But, like these addictions, an impulse to use lip balm can interfere with life. The average person applies chapstick 5 times a day, and Americans spent 417 million dollars on lip care in 2013 (statistica.com).
Madison Boosveld ‘19 considers herself addicted to chapstick. “I love chapstick because it tastes good. It makes my lips feel moisturized and I like the repetition of applying it.” Kimi Dryden ‘19 feels strongly that lip gloss is not the same as a lip balm. “The best lip balm, in my opinion, is eos. I also like Burt’s Bees because it heals the mind, body, and soul. Lip gloss does not count!”
However, in order to trap the consumer, lip balm companies have put products into their balms that dry out the lips, creating a vicious cycle. This is a similar concept to the urge people naturally have to lick their lips when they are dry. Saliva temporarily provides moisture, but eventually causes the lips to dry out faster. The ingredients added provide relief to chapped lips for a short time, but cause them to dry out in the long run. These ingredients include wax, vitamin E, camphor, alcohol, and many dyes and flavorings. They cause the outermost layer of skin that traps moisture to fall off, causing the natural oils that prevent dryness to be lost. The majority of top-selling brands contain many of these ingredients.
In addition to the intentional harm caused by these products, many people are allergic to the dyes and vitamin E. These dry out their lips even more, and in order to combat this, these people apply more lip balm. The obvious solution to dry lips is chapstick, but often it can be the very cause of the problem.
Not all lip balms are bad, though. Safe ingredients include petroleum oil, beeswax, cocoa butter, and sunscreen. Pure Vaseline, organic beeswax lip balms, and homemade lip balms made without harmful ingredients are all safe options to protect your lips. Again, however, the overuse of these products can cause your lips to stop producing moisture, and you may become dependent on them.
If people never went outside or licked their lips, there would be no need for lip balm because there would be no chapped lips. Unfortunately, this is not possible and chapped lips are inevitable in life. There are many possible solutions to this problem, but your average lip balm may cause more problems that you are not even aware of. The best way to keep your lips healthy is by using Vaseline or another healthy alternative, but only in moderation. This will keep your smile healthy and pain free even in the winter.