Beauty products and “addiction” often go hand in hand. We’ve been addicted to texturizing spray, our Clarisonic, dry shampoo, and even pore strips (despite their questionable reputations, finding even just one sebum stalagmite on a strip is incredibly satisfying). But these addictions don’t warrant any sort of intervention—except maybe one from your roommate who’s concerned your Oribe budget is compromising your ability to pay rent. Then there are the “real” beauty product addictions—at least real in the sense that if you google “Can armpits get addicted to deodorant?” you’ll get hundreds of thousands of results. Perhaps even more ubiquitous, there’s lip balm addiction. As sufferers of chronic dry lip, we’ve often wondered if our constant lip balm application is actually helping the cause or if our habit has ventured into dangerous territory. To find out if lip balm addiction is real or just a byproduct of Internet rumormongering, we called in Dr. Carl Thornfeldt, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Epionce Skin Care. Keep reading to find out if you’re addicted to lip balm!
First, a quick biology lesson. “Lip tissue differs from skin tissue on other parts of the body in that it not only has fewer cell layers of thickness but also has reduced total fats and oils (lipids) and especially a deficiency of cholesterol,” Dr. Thornfeldt says. “Thus its protective barrier properties are easily compromised.” Which explains why lips get dry and chapped, causing you to seek relief in the form of lip balm.
Dr. Thornfeldt says most products help initially, but over time they allow waxes, skin cells, bacteria, and yeast to build up—all of which the lip tissue tries to get rid of during the normal cell turnover process. And when it’s not able to slough off this buildup, the skin reacts negatively. So you end up feeling the need to apply more lip balm. “It’s not that the lip balm itself is ‘addictive,’” Dr. Thornfeldt says, “Rather, the lips are trying to get rid of the waxes, bacteria, yeast, and other buildup left on the skin; the person in turn is trying to stop the uncomfortable feeling, and thus applies more lip balm to get back to the state of smooth, soft lips. This is only temporary, of course, and the cycle continues.”
Do you ever find yourself applying lip balm without having registered a feeling of dry lips? That’s because while lip balm itself may not be addictive, the act of continually applying it, Dr. Thornfeldt says, can be habit-forming and have a psychological impact.