Do lip balm products dry out your lips? - WAFB 9 News Baton Rouge, Louisiana News, Weather, Sports

Does lip balm dry out your lips?

If you hear the words "heavy user" or "addict," one of the last things you think about is lip balm.

Some people say they just can't stop applying lip balm products, and others claim they can't find a brand that works.

This might explain why the sale of lip balms has grown now to more than $370 million annually according to the A.C. Nielsen Company.

Dermatologists say you should read the ingredient label before you start buying into a bad habit.

Marketed as medicine for your mouth, tubes, sticks, and pots of lip balm are believed to be the saving gloss for a parched pucker.

"I don't want to be that girl with cracked, disgusting lips," says Alison Hill.

The active ingredients in some lip balm products actually dry out some people's lips, causing them to constantly re-apply.

"It's a vicious cycle of trying to keep up," says Gary Slaughter, a dermatologist with Charlotte Dermatology in Charlotte, N.C.

"So, it will be fine at first, but then after a little bit, you can feel the layer you put on will dry up, you can rub it off," Hill says.

Dermatologists say camphor, phenol and menthol are the culprit ingredients in balms that can leave your lips thirsty with chronic cracks. 

Experts say you should read the label. For example, "OL" on the ingredient list equals alcohol, which dries fast.

Salicylic acid is added to slough off dry skin, but for some, it only leaves their lips dry and peeling.

Manufacturers say these ingredients medicate, but doctors think they're often more for marketing to sell a tingling sensation.

"Some people have a feeling if it tingles, it works better," Slaughter says.

He says this is a myth many consumers believe is true.

"I pick. I'm a picker. Like when it dries and I have scabs, I pick. I'm one of those people," Hill adds.

If you're one of those people who has a tub of lip balm in every flavor or fragrance, you should know the ingredients that add taste can sometimes be irritating to the skin and are often a major menace to moisture.   

You can lick your lips, but saliva dries fast and leaves you with little, if any, temporary relief.

Lips naturally shed their top coat every 28 days, but they do need a buffer from UV rays and humidity.

So, you may be wondering, what actually works?

"All dermatologists say when all else fails, go to petrolatum," Slaughter says.

Another word for this is Vaseline, or petroleum jelly.

This thick goo often isn't a popular choice, but doctors say it's the least expensive, the least likely to irritate, and puts the most moisture lock on your lips.

If you just can't go without that cooling sensation, dermatologists say just take a sip of water.

Additional Information:

  • Use an oil-based lubricating cream or balm containing petrolatum or beeswax before you go outside, which contains sunscreen. (Source: Mayo Clinic)
  • Use a scarf to cover your lips when its cold and dry. (Source: Mayo Clinic)
  • Stay hydrated with water and use a humidifier. (Source: Mayo Clinic)
  • See a doctor if chapping is severe or doesn't improve. There could be an underlying problem. (Source: Mayo Clinic)
  • The outer skin of the lips has a protective coating called the stratum corneum, which is much thinner than it is anywhere else on your body. (Source: Discovery Health)
  • Lips do not have sebaceous glands which keep skin moisturized, which is why they can become easily chapped. (Source: Discovery Health).
  • Lips don't have melanin, the pigment that makes you tan and acts as protection against UV rays. Using balms with sunscreen can protect them. (Source: Discovery Health)
  • Click here for more information about chronic balm "therapy."

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