Is Lip Balm Addictive?

Status: Undetermined
There's an old urban legend that states that the makers of lip balm (Carmex, specifically), add ground-up fiberglass to their product. The glass irritates people's lips, causing them to feel like they need to apply the balm again and again. There's another urban legend that states that lip balm interferes with the moisture sensors in the lips, causing lips to become dry and requiring more lip balm to be applied. Neither of these urban legends is true. Carmex debunks the fiberglass myth on their website, and the moisture sensor one is false because there are no such thing as moisture sensors in the lips. (At least, not ones that regulate the moisture levels of the lips.)

However, an Associated Press article points out that many lip balms contain salicylic acid or other irritants, and that these additives could encourage repeated use, thereby lending some substance to the charge that lip balm is physically addictive:

Dr. Monte Meltzer is the chief of dermatology at Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore. He says lip balm often includes ingredients that cause a tingling, such as salicylic acid, phenol and menthol. Some of these are exfoliants that cause lips to peel. In turn, the lips become thinner and less able to protect against the elements. So people need to apply again, and the vicious cycle continues.

Carmex, in its defense, tries to make out as if salicylic acid is a mild, non-irritating chemical, pointing out that it's "closely related to aspirin." However, I don't see why its relationship to aspirin is relevant since salicylic acid obviously does dry out your skin (which is why it's used in acne medicine).

However, even if lip balm isn't physically addictive, I know that it's definitely psychologically addictive, because my wife is totally addicted to the stuff. (I try to tell her that if her lips feel dry, she should drink more water, but she doesn't listen.) For those who are hooked on the stuff, Lip Balm Anonymous can offer some help.

Health/Medicine Urban Legends

Posted on Tue Jan 24, 2006


Geez...this is a great article to put up after I just bought a lip balm...
Posted by Smerk  in  to mischief  on  Tue Jan 24, 2006  at  12:05 AM
um...your wife is not alone...i also have an addiction to lip balm but i prefer lip smackers....maybe she does should check
Posted by bellyacher  in  fresno  on  Tue Jan 24, 2006  at  12:10 AM
p.s. i would consider "lip balm anonymous" as a source of help if their website was not COMPLETELY annoying to look at!! just looking at it makes me need to apply more lip balm
Posted by bellyacher  on  Tue Jan 24, 2006  at  12:15 AM
I used to live out there in Southern California (28 years), and would use that Chap Stick. Seemed the more I used it, the more I needed it, and so, the more I used it... to the point that my lips would PEEL if I quit using it. I decided to rough it and get off the crap, and ain't touched it in fifteen years. My lips are better off without it. I gotta agree with the folks who advise against it's use, as in my opinion, it serves no useful purpose other than an addiction...
Posted by Christopher in Joplin, Missouri  in  Joplin, Mo  on  Tue Jan 24, 2006  at  04:49 AM
I had to use a very strong salicylic acid to get rid of warts on my feet. After a week straight, chunks of skin were falling off of my feet. How do you like them apples?
Posted by AqueousBoy  on  Tue Jan 24, 2006  at  07:21 AM
I'd say I'm addicted to chapstick. I like lip smackers best, tastes good!
Posted by Sakano  in  Ohio  on  Tue Jan 24, 2006  at  11:23 AM
I like the burt's bee's one. And, there's no salicylic acid in it. I live in arizona where it's really dry and I don't need it all the time. However, when I have days where I spend many hours in the sun, the next day I'll use the lip balm all day and voila, my lips are just fine again. It seems to work, I've never had a problem with it.
Posted by Razela  in  Chicago, IL  on  Tue Jan 24, 2006  at  11:35 AM
My G/F HAS to put it on every night or she can't
Posted by X  in  McKinney, TX  on  Tue Jan 24, 2006  at  12:13 PM
question I've heard rumors that there is gound glass in some "chew" or chewing tabacco. Does anyone know if this is true or a myth?
Posted by Rob  in  Hawaii  on  Tue Jan 24, 2006  at  07:41 PM
Rob, total myth.

Snopes covers that here.
Posted by AqueousBoy  on  Wed Jan 25, 2006  at  07:26 AM
I just use a small dab of skin moisturizer when my lips get dry. A single application does the job instantaneously 90+% of the time, and it never takes more than two applications. Works a lot better than lip balm.
Posted by intjudo  on  Wed Jan 25, 2006  at  07:28 PM
It's only addicting because it tastes so good that you lick your lips and the more you lick your lips, the more dry they get... smile
Save yourself the chapped lips and just eat the lip balm...
Posted by Ally  in  IL  on  Thu Jan 26, 2006  at  09:58 AM
Also, most lipsitcks and lip glosses will dry out your lips. So if you're wearing those, you will need a lot of chapstick, or lip balm. I know. Im addicted to both!
Posted by chyca  on  Sun Jan 29, 2006  at  07:00 PM
Free yourself from lip balm forever by using your own skin oil instead. It's free and all you need to do is use your finger to transfer oil from your forehead to you lips. After a short while your lips will be back to normal.
Posted by Greg M  on  Thu Jun 29, 2006  at  12:45 PM
What's all this talk about Lip Smackers tasting good? Sure, some of them smell tasty. I love the Dr. Pepper one, and special edition vanilla and chery cola scents too. But they certainly don't taste like soda! My brother used to eat the cocunut ones when he was a wee one. I used to wonder what was wrong with him too. All the sites I see about addiction focus on Carmex and Chapstick. I assume Lip Smackers has the same sort of affect, but maybe by different means? I am curious what exactly is in Lip Smackers that keeps me addicted. It doesnt have the menthol tingles like some other lip balms.
Posted by Shelley  in  Florida  on  Tue Aug 07, 2007  at  03:26 PM
i just want to know if Carmex really does have fiber glass in it cause i just started to use it and people have been telling me to stop using it
Posted by Tyler M  in  Bismarck, North Dakota  on  Fri Nov 09, 2007  at  10:53 PM
Actually the reason that salicylic acid is so good for acne is because it's an exfoliant, not because it is drying to the skin. It is oil soluble so it can go right down into your follicles and exfoliate the skin that lines the follicular walls. That way they don't get plugged with excess skin cells, and the bacteria that causes acne can't live in your pores anymore because oxygen is constantly around and it is an anaerobic bacteria. That's also why it took off your wart AqueousBoy. It breaks apart the bonds that hold your skin cells together and at a high enough concentration will give you that peeling effect.

At low concentrations however, it really is very mild.

Also drinking more water will only help your dry skin if it is dehydrated. There are two different kinds of dry skin, alipidic and dehydrated. Alipidic skin is caused by underproductive oil glands and dehydrated skin lacks hydration from the inside, ie not drinking enough water.

I don't like Carmex either, but don't give Salicylic a bad name. It's a very beneficial ingredient when used correctly.
Posted by Amy  on  Tue Dec 11, 2007  at  04:56 PM
I am so addicted to Carmex. No joke, I use it every 30 min. I don't care though. It makes my lips feel good.
Posted by Trisha  in  Kansas  on  Mon Nov 03, 2008  at  12:05 PM
Everyone who says that lip balm serves no purpose other than to fuel an addiction is a complete are probably the same people who say that sunscreen causes skin cancer, not the sun. If you knew anything, you'd know that the lips have very little pigments that can naturally protect against UV rays. So using a lip balm that offers SPF is a very smart thing to do, especially if you are fair-skinned.
Posted by John  in  Salt Lake city  on  Fri Mar 19, 2010  at  03:05 PM
I tried all the organic lip balms and then decided to shell out an extra 50 cents to try the Made from Earth lip balms - first I tried the citrus one. It has a cool, refreshing kick that cools your lips and moisturizes. I will never go back or even bother tying any other kinds of lip balm now. This is indeed the best!
Posted by katie  on  Thu May 06, 2010  at  08:17 PM
Yea, I'm addicted to lip balm, but what's wrong with that? Is it going to hurt me? I don't think so. Until the doctor tells me it's dangerous, I will balm away.
Posted by Michele  in  MO  on  Fri May 28, 2010  at  05:30 PM
Commenting is no longer available in this channel entry.