For the past three years, I’ve been wondering if I have a lip balm addiction. I always keep one on me and usually keep a backup in all of my bags, and even keep count of how many tubes I have used up during the year. Though we’re only two thirds through February, I’m about to finish my sixth balm. In 2016, I managed to finish approximately 36 tubes (I say approximately because I don’t count lost and unfinished tubes and if I use the bigger metal pots, I count them as two or three tubes.) As for what I’m using right now, I’m using Dr. Lip Bang’s Lip Freak Buzzing Lip Balm in Atomic Cherry (what a mouthful!). It’s not my favorite brand since it creates a buzzing sensation on my lips, but I’m too dedicated to the cause of finishing each tube to stop.
When Saffron asked me to write for her blog, I was interested in finding out whether addiction to lip balm and other salves for your lip was a real issue or just a bunch of rumors. I was also wondering if it was true that companies put ingredients into their balms that make your lips dry so customers will buy more. Apparently, the answers are yes and no. According to a few articles from Refinery 29 and New York Magazine, the action of putting something on is often more of a psychological need than a physical need. As of right now, both dermatologists and psychologists are up in the air about whether to label over-use of lip balm as an addiction or not.
A lot of people who frequent Lip Balm Anonymous, an online forum for people who struggle with lip balm addiction, describe their use as a euphoric sensation, a crutch, or a necessity. These people will panic if they do not have something to cover their lips, which does sound like an addiction, but in reality, the body doesn’t physically demand it. I know in my situation, I immediately want to put on a new layer of balm as soon as I can tell my lips do not have any residue on them. Because of this, people constantly ask me if I eat the tube or pot that I am currently using. Of course, I laugh over it and say no and roll my eyes—I guess frequent users of lip balm always get this question.
Getting back to urban legends revolving around chapstick: point blank, companies do not use addictive additives or ingredients that make your lips dry. If you do find a product drying, chances are you are having an allergic reaction and that’s why your lips feel dry instead of more hydrated. Of course, when you first put on the balm, your lips feel better because there’s some moisture on it, but if you wake up in the morning and your lips are feeling crusty or chapped, it’s most likely because you’re having a small allergic reaction.
A lot of people are allergic to castor oil, vitamin E, lanolin, fragrances or flavor, and even beeswax Just because one product makes your lips feel weird, doesn’t mean that all brands will. Compare ingredients until you pinpoint what it is that makes you react. For instance, I’m a huge Burts Bees fan, but I know their hydrating (coconut and pear flavor) balm actually dries out my lips more than any other Burts Bees product, doing the opposite of what it’s intended to do. I didn’t stop using all of their products, just the one that causes irritation.
In general, when I buy balm, I try to buy from local sellers. I’ve noticed homemade balms work the best since most of their ingredients are natural and are usually less irritating. Also, they’re cheaper and have fewer ingredients to track down. If I’m talking corporate, I will buy Burts Bees (of course avoiding the aforementioned hydrating pear and coconut flavor).
I also adore the small Baltimore, Maryland company, Buttered Buns Studio. Some of their products are inspired by pop culture which can be a little cheesy; usually, I just stick to their lip balm. Their balms are incredibly soft and they smell great too. Their mix of a breathable feeling on my lips yet with a fun and not overpowering flavor and scent is something I really appreciate. Whenever I see them at events, I always stock up. I’m not picky though, I’ll use children’s cartoon merchandise balm if that’s what’s given to me, as long as it isn’t a flavor like chocolate or bubblegum. Even as a kid, I avoided Lipsmacker-type flavors like that.
No matter what, people are going to argue that some companies put ground up glass in their product, or that an brand will make their lips drier. As we’ve all just read, it’s about allergic reactions more than anything else. Trial and error is your friend in this situation and find what works best for you. Ignore these people, and remind yourself that you probably have the better lips than them because you know the facts. That’s what I do, and look where that brought me: writing an article on my overuse of lip balm.