We all know that lip balm is the first aid for dry, chapped lips. But similar to any other addiction, lip balm addiction is actually not good for our lips!
First things first, let’s take a look at what does actually lip balm do. Lip balm itself is a wax-like substance which contains beeswax or carnauba wax, camphor, cetyl alcohol, lanolin, paraffin, and petrolatum as its basic ingredients. In addition to that, certain lip balms also contain dyes, flavor, fragrance, menthol, phenol, salicylic acid, and sunscreens (SPF). Lip balm provides an extra layer (also known as buffer layer) between the lips and the environment so that your lips will not be directly exposed to the environment. Why is this so important? Because lips only have thin surface layers of skin, which means that they’re more likely to dry out compared to the skin of the face, for instance. Which means, we can lose up to 10 times more moisture through the lips compared to other parts of the face and body. Certain conditions in the environment such as dry air, cold temperature, and wind can easily drain moisture away from the skin, including the body and lips, therefore can lead to dryness. In conclusion, our lips are very prone to dryness and dehydration. When the lips become dry and lose its moisture, the skin covering them can become tight and start to split, which makes your lips look chapped! (uhmm…not good!!!) In addition, when you have dry lips, dirt, bacteria or fungi will enter the cracks in the skin of the lips, therefore can cause…infection and your lips will be sore and inflamed (medical terms: cheilitis)! Okay, we know that big lips mean sexy, just look at Angelina Jolie! But when your lips are big due to inflammation plus it is painful as well, that is not sexy at all!
Let’s take a look at these pictures:
Normal lips vs. Chapped lips
Okay, it is obvious that we do not want to have chapped lips, right? In order to prevent that, we need an extra layer to keep the lips moist and does not dry out or lose moisture that fast. Let’s take a look to the anatomy of the lips:
Comparison between regular skin layers and lip skin layers. Notice the thickness and the arrangement of the layers
Look at the picture above. Regular skin layers have thicker epidermis which comprise of thick stratum corneum as the outermost protective layer, while the epidermis of the lips has the thinnest stratum corneum compared to elsewhere in the body and overall, epidermis is also thinner compared to the regular skin layer. In addition, lips do not possess sweat glands as the natural moisturizer of the skin, which makes them more prone to dryness.
When we wear lip balm, there will be an extra layer above our lips so that the moisture will be locked in and we can get extra hydration with the contents of the lip balm itself such as beneficial oils. The extra layer will also help to seal deep cracks and splits from infection and irritation, usually due to extreme weather condition. In addition, many lip balms nowadays contain SPF, which is good for protection against free radicals from the sun.
Here are the important ingredients of lip balm and its benefits:
- Hyaluronic acid, sodium PCA, and glycerin: ensure your lips to stay moist
- Petroleum, castor seed oil, shea butter, sunflower seed oil, and squalane: nourish cracked lips
- SPF: protect your lips from the sun
From those explanations, we can see that lip balm is very beneficial right? However, after searching about lip balm on Google, I stumbled upon Dr Oz’s video about lip balm addiction (click to see the video) and why lip balm addiction (like any other addiction) is not good! We know that it has lots of benefits, right? But on the other hand, it has some drawbacks as well. So before I proceed, here are the signs of lip balm addiction:
- Apply lip balm more than 3x a day
- Have more than 1 lip balm
- Keep lip balm in multiple places (e.g. purse, drawer, car, desk, etc.)
Why is lip balm addiction bad? Let’s go back to the thin layers of skin in the lips. Since the skin layer is very thin, the skin on the lips is designed to shed very quickly so that the new skin will come out and grow quickly as the old one shed away. If there is excessive extra layer above the lip, the old skin which is supposed to shed very quickly cannot be shed and the regeneration of the new skin is slowed down, therefore blocking the natural regeneration process of the lips. In the video, Dr. Oz described that if we apply lip balm rigorously, we are treating our lips like a croissant! If we cut a croissant in half, we can see that the inner portion of the croissant, which is crossing against each other. This is what happens if we block the natural regeneration process of the lips, the regeneration process will stop and the skin layers will look like the inside of a croissant cut in half. In addition, same as croissant, the outer layer will also become crusty and more chapped. Therefore, instead of protecting the lips, it can make our lips more chapped if we use it excessively!
So what should we do? Should we let our lips go nude without any protection against the environment? Of course not! We still have to nourish our lips to keep them moist and support their natural regeneration process. There are several things that we can do to prevent our lips from drying while still keeping the regeneration process intact.
- Use lip balm which is rich in natural ingredients such as shea butter, lanolin, and coconut oil. Those are the best moisturizers for our lips and they are natural as well! Coconut oil also acts as a natural sunscreen and it is non-irritating as well. It is also available in natural or raw form and you can apply it directly on your lips using cotton buds just like in Dr. Oz’s video. In addition, try to limit using lip balms with preservative, flavor, and fragrance since they contain more chemical or artificial-made substances which can induce allergic reactions.
- Do not bite your lips! This is a big no-no! I know for some people it’s a habit which is very difficult to erase and sometimes we do it automatically, but biting your lips will only make your lips drier! This will only make the lips bleed and heal more slowly. Normally, lips possess thin oily film on their surface that provides natural protection against moisture loss. However, due to excessive lip biting or licking habits, the thin oily film can be removed and cause the lips to become chapped. I know it’s very tempting to lick the lips when it is dry, but the saliva can easily evaporate thus making it drier. In addition, when the lips bleed because of excessive biting, it will leave the surface open and bacteria, virus, or fungi can easily enter the skin and will cause infection.
- Do not apply lip balm excessively to preserve the natural regeneration process. Once or twice daily is enough and if you are at home, try to keep it natural by not wearing lip balm at all to support its natural regeneration process.
- Drink more water! Again, water is very essential and since lips are prone to hydration loss, better to keep it hydrated. Rather than licking or biting your lips when they are dry, it is better to just drink water to hydrate your body in a whole.
- Avoid using lip balm in a pot! Using lip balm in a pot is more infectious since repeatedly dipping your finger into the balm can introduce bacteria, unless you know how to keep it clean all the time. It is better to use lip balm in sticks or if you are too comfortable with your lip balm which is only available in pot form, use applicator or cotton bud to apply it on your lips instead of using your finger.
So, how about you? Do you have lip balm addiction? Now that we all know the function of a lip balm and what to look in a lip balm, don’t forget to choose your lip balm wisely and use it properly to get healthy and beautiful lips!