Chapped lips drying up your summer fun? Your lip balm could be the reason. Did you know that the lip balm you choose may actually be making your lips worse instead of better.
Lip health is important to your overall well-being and your lips need sun protection just like the rest of your skin. The balm you reach for may have toxic ingredients that irritate your mouth and cause problems. If you’ve got a history of lip-discomfort, it’s time to read more into the labels.
Lip Balm Individual Allergies
Irritation can happen without people understanding what it is or why. Chapped lips are common and can be a symptom of multiple things. Many don’t know allergies and skin irritation can exasperate those symptoms. If you’ve been having trouble calming your lips, it might be time to see a dermatologist. They can determine if it’s an allergic reaction, irritation or something worse.
They’ll most likely have you change the products you use on your lips. We’ve got a list of some of the potentially toxic ingredients they might ask you to look out for.
Fragrance On Your Lips
When I was little, we used to trade flavored lip balm like currency at school. Hygiene eventually caught up to us but scented and flavored lip balm is still common. Some of these flavors irritate more than others.
Keep an eye out for cinnamon flavors, sometimes listed as cinnamaldehyde on the label, used for taste and sun-blocking properties. It can irritate skin easily and is one of the biggest causes of inflamed and reddened lips.
Another is citronella or citronellol which has a citrus flavor and antibacterial properties. Peppermint oil, while delicious, can be irritating to the skin when used in topical balms. Other oils to look out for include eucalyptus, limonene and camphor. They all smell great and have wonderful essential oil benefits but rank high on the list of oils that may cause skin reactions.
Castor Oil For The Lips
This oil can be amazing for hair, skin and nails but for some Castor oil should be avoided. It’s made from the Ricinus communis plant and is composed of ricinoleic acid. This is one of the top skin irritants and can dry lips quickly, leading to chapping. For those with sensitive skin, or those sensitive specifically to this oil, it can cause a lot of problems like acne and even infection.
Not all lip balms use castor oil. Other oils, like coconut, olive or almond oil, are capable of similar drying effects depending on your sensitivity. They are far less likely to cause a reaction, however, so if you want to switch, try a brand that uses one of these instead.
Using Beeswax on the lips
Beeswax is a great natural sealant that traps moisture against your lips. The problems start with the propolis that gets mixed in with the wax. Propolis is a sort of plant resin bees use to make their hives. It has its own homeopathic reputation and health benefits but it could be spiking your allergies if used topically.
Around 5% of the general population is allergic to bee stings so there’s no surprise there would be sensitivity issues with bee products. While bee venom isn’t present in beeswax, you may still be sensitive to it. And even if you’re not allergic to bee venom, the wax and the propolis may still trigger a different allergy. Either way, if you’ve been using Burt’s Bees non-stop and haven’t defeated the chapped lips, you may want to try a different brand.
Watch Out For Menthol and Phenol
That cooling sensation may feel great on your lips but it could be drying them out too. Menthol and phenol – the ingredients that give you that refreshed feeling in cosmetics – are alcohols. Some people are more sensitive to their drying effects than others.
Dermatologist will probably recommend you steer clear of menthol-containing products, especially if you have sensitive skin.
Choosing the right Sunscreen for your lips
We went over how sunscreen works before. You may find yourself more prone to redness or breakouts using one sun-blocking ingredient than another. The same thought can be applied to your lip balm. We recommend finding a balm that uses the same sunscreen ingredient you use on the rest of your body to avoid any uncomfortable burning, itching or irritation.
Vitamin E on your lips?
This allergy is rare but it does exist and it’s on every list so we’ll give you the rundown. Vitamin E can have skin irritation properties when applied topically – like in lip balm – but the percentage of people with this allergy is low. It’s added to balms as an antioxidant and anti-aging agent. It may help reduce deep lines lips and repair cracked skin. While it’s not a common allergy to have, dermatology often recommend avoiding lip balms with added vitamin E just to be safe.
We hope this list of potentially toxic ingredients helps you choose the best lip balm to help you obtain the soft and healthy lips you deserve. It’s important to experiment and see which lip balms work best for your body. If you experience prolonged redness, lip inflammation, itching or a rash please see a Dermatologist immediately.
About The Author
Dr. Matt Marturano, ND is a licensed naturopathic physician in the United States and received his Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine and also has a dual Bachelor of Science in Biology and Philosophy from the University of Michigan. In addition, Dr. Marturano currently is a member of the Michigan Association of Naturopathic Physicians and is the Director of Recruitment – Integrative Medicine for Orchid Holistic Search. Dr. Marturano’s National Provider Identifier (NPI) record is 1306167606
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