Q: “I have heard that using lip balm can cause a dependency on it. Is that true?”
Now that fall is around the corner and with it, jackets, scarves and lip balm, I was curious about the facts behind this alleged myth. In my search for reliable information about the ingredients and use of lip balm, I came across an amazingly relevant book in our Delaware Libraries’ catalog: “Can you get hooked on lip balm: ten cosmetic scientists answer your questions about the lotions, potions and other beauty products you use every day” by Perry Romanowski (2011, by Brains Publishing). Topics include caring for your hair, nails, skin, makeup, products, fragrances and more. The authors of this fun compilation have also created the website, “thebeautybrains.com“.
On page 106, the authors describe the lip balm process. It somewhat appears to be a dependency issue in that, according to the authors, “When you apply lip balm, you’re creating a barrier layer that prevents, or at least retards, the evaporation of moisture from the inner layers of the skin.” This interrupts the body’s automatic signal to create new cells and when that happens, lips can feel dry. If the process of applying lip balm is continuously repeated, you can imagine that, “…yes, you can train your body to rely on lip balm.”
The authors also mention a site called “Lip Balm Anonymous“. It is an entire website devoted to everything lip balm related, from Carmex to Burt’s Bees. The site has a “self test” to help give users an idea of how ‘addicted’ they are to their Chapstick. (Note: I’m using “addicted” very loosely.) According to their posts, it can take up to a week of non-use to feel like a person’s lips are back to normal.
The Washington Post is one of a few journals that have carried articles about lip balm dependency. One big piece of advice they offer is to simply drink more water. Actually, this makes sense since, in the colder months, heaters dry up the air inside our cars, homes, schools and offices. The article, “How to get over your lip balm addiction” was published in 2008.
Finally, Snopes is a good source for getting to the bottom line about such urban myths. The authors address the lip balm addition issue on this “definitive Internet reference source for urban legends, folklore, myths, rumors, and misinformation” site. Their conclusion is that there is absolutely no evidence to support an addiction to lip balm (Carmex was their balm of choice) in their May 2011 posting, “Carmex Addiction“. Of course, the myth they bust includes the idea that Carmex was using some type of irritant in its product to somehow generate a need for use.
But if the need for use is self-generated, as the authors of the book, “Can you get hooked on lip balm?” offer as an interesting argument, the main things to do include keeping ourselves hydrated and using the balm sparingly.
If you ever want to find out the truth about such rumors and urban legends, ask a Delaware librarian anytime in person at your local library, or online through our live online Ask a Librarian Delaware library service at:
We like your questions and we’re glad to be of assistance!