Winter can be brutal on our skin and especially our lips, the cold, dry air constantly zapping the hydration from our faces. It’s why many of us rarely leave home without a lip balm within easy reach. But lip balms aren’t quite the cure-all they appear to be. In fact, certain lip balm ingredients can actually contribute to flaking and cracking.
Have you ever used a lip balm for several days straight and noticed that your lips are still chapped? Or experienced a slight lip rash when you changed brands? It could be an irritant in the lip balm or something you’re allergic to.
What to look for
The good news is that avoiding common lip balm irritants is pretty easy once you know what to look for. First, avoid lip balms made with fragrances. They’re only going to irritate the skin barrier and cause more drying and redness.
Menthol, camphor, phenol, and even eucalyptus and peppermint oil are also very common causes of contact dermatitis in lip balms. Even though eucalyptus and peppermint oil are naturally derived, they can still cause slight irritation.
You may be starting to wonder, if these ingredients do the opposite of what they’re supposed to do, why are they even in there? The short answer: They all have a function. Menthol, camphor, and the like cause a cooling effect or tingle that’s popular with customers because it gives the illusion it’s working. And phenol acts as a preservative for other ingredients. It’s also sometimes used to create a lip-plumping effect.
It may not be just the lip balm
Spotting the irritating ingredients is the easy part. Determining whether your current lip balm is contributing to your dry lips can be more difficult. Whenever your lips start doing poorly or you develop a rash, you always want to ask yourself, “What’s changed?”
If you feel like you’re constantly reapplying your current lip balm and seeing little to no improvement, simply change lip balms. However, sometimes the lip balm isn’t the problem. It’s thought that by constantly reapplying lip balm, particularly one with an irritant, you may be making severely chapped lips even worse.
If you fall into that category, just try using it less. If your lips improve, you’ll know you’ll either need to use less or switch to a different formula.
If it doesn’t resolve the issue, the chapping or rash may be a reaction to foods, toothpaste, flosses, or the cold weather. The best way, then, to determine the cause and cure is to visit a board-certified dermatologist.