They used to come as plain, borderline waxy-tasting sticks that we used only when our lips were cracked and we absolutely needed a fix. Then drugstores began selling lip balms in colors and flavors we could get excited about, and they became something we needed to pick up while we were waiting in line to check out. But there is such a thing as too much of a good thing, and as it turns out, some of us could be using lip balms far too much. Using them all day, every day can leave our lips even drier and more bereft of moisture than they were to begin with, and is one of the reasons you might want to stop using lip balm.
Overusing lip balms can kick off a vicious cycle
“There are two potential issues that arise when using lip balm. First, if it has a potentially irritating ingredient, it can cause inflammation and loss of hydration. This, in turn, causes your lips to need more moisture so you keep applying the product and it turns into a vicious cycle,” New York dermatologist Joshua Zeichner told Real Simple.
The second problem involves the use of lip balms with occlusive, a product which creates a barrier on the skin. “These formulas create an artificial barrier to lock in moisture, but when overused, can cause lips to become lazy because the skin doesn’t have to work to maintain its own hydration level,” Zeichner says. Your lips gets used to having balm slapped on so they stop producing oils, and you end up having to add more balm, kicking off a vicious cycle. If and when this happens, the trick is to leave your lips alone to let them return to normal. “You have to go through the dry spell to get lips back to normal and working on their own again before applying another balm,” he says. This doesn’t mean you can’t use these products; just do so in moderation.
Yes, lip balm addiction is a thing
There is another problem involving lip balms, in that they may not themselves be physiologically habit forming, but they can be a psychological crutch. “It can definitely be habit-forming,” dermatologist Melissa Piliang said. “Applying lip balm soothes the lips and feels good, and it is often comforting. That can lead to an unconscious habit that helps with stress or anxiety, kind of like twirling the hair or biting the nails,” she explained (via Cleveland Clinic).
To keep yourself from doing more harm than good, Piliang recommends you stay away from lip balms with added ingredients like phenol, menthol, salicylic acid, and try to keep your use of lip balms with flavors and scents to a minimum. Instead, go back to basics and look out for balms that are petroleum jelly-based. “These keep the lips moist and prevent future chapping, instead of causing it,” she said. Not being able to taste cool flavors may also keep may also keep you from licking your lips too much, which helps with healing in the long run.
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