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Are you addicted to lip balm? Have you started looking for a 12-step program for lip balm addicts near you? Are you tempted to commit shoplifting when you pass the Burt's Bees display in the drugstore?

Why addiction to lip balm is a serious problem?

If that little tube of lip balm in your purse or pocket seems be constantly calling "Use me! Use me!" there is nothing in this article that is meant to keep you from joining Lip Balm Anonymous (which is a real organization), but you really can use alternative remedies and home lip balms instead.

Addiction to lip balm often covers up a serious underlying condition. Consider the story of a woman we will call Anna:

"It always seemed harmless, but I was addicted to lip balm for several years. My lips always seemed to need a little moistening, and they seemed constantly to be developing those tiny little lines that crack through your lipstick. I didn't think anything of it, but I used Chapstix and lipstick maybe ten times a day."

"The a few weeks ago my doctor noticed an unusual growth on my upper lip. She ordered a biopsy, and it turned out to be basal cell carcinoma. My doctor told me that the dryness I kept feeling on my lips was probably actually a condition called actinic keratosis, and that by covering up the symptoms of the pre-cancer for over three years, it had become a slow-growing cancerous tumor that had to be frozen out of my upper lip."

"The scar from the removal of the basal cell carcinoma is not especially noticeable now, but I had to wear a bandage right under my nose for two weeks. If I had only known I might be coming down with cancer, I would have never used the Chapstix!"

Lip balm and lip cancer

Let's be very clear: Chapstix does not cause cancer. However, any kind of lip balm can cover up one of the most important early warning signals of pre-cancer of the lips, chronic dryness. Here's how you can recognize "dryness" of the lips that might signal a really serious skin condition:

  1. An actinic keratosis is usually felt before it is visible. The skin affected by actinic keratosis may feel gritty or like sandpaper. Changes in the texture of the skin may precede changes in the color of the skin by up to five years.
  2. After several years, the actinic keratosis becomes very slightly elevated patch of skin. At first it may be the area on your lip that cracks the most, but later it will be the area of your lip that doesn't crack at all.
  3. In people over 70, an actinic keratosis can actually grow a little "horn." In people under 70, an actinic keratosis may look a little grayer or a little lighter than surrounding skin, but in many cases it has exactly the same tones as the surrounding skin.

Left untreated, actinic keratosis can transform into basal cell carcinoma that can leave a lasting, literal hole in your lips. It is essential that you get the pre-cancer or actual cancer treated at the earliest possible stage to preserve your good looks. Nobody really needs to use lip balm 20 times a day, although many of us like to.

Understanding why you are addicted to lip balm

If you are addicted to lip balm, the first thing you need to do is to understand why. The reasons vary from person to person, but here are some of the most common.

  1. Lip balm feels good and tastes good—and it has no calories. Lip balm is designed to leave a pleasurable sensation. Otherwise, American lip balm makers wouldn't sell 200,000,000 tubes a year.
  2. Lip balm addicts often associate lip balm with happy events. Report Amy Robach of NBC's Today Show, for example, reports that her addiction to lip balm when she received a tube of Dr. Pepper-flavored ChapStix for Christmas as a child. Many compulsive users of lip balm associate the product with love, care, and safety.
  3. Some people use lip balm as a treatment for cold sores—although what they really need is a lip treatment containing lemon balm.
  4. Some people—mostly women but even a few men—use lip gloss in their cosmetic care. Lip balm becomes a less expensive substitute for lip balm. But most importantly,
  5. The fragrances and flavors added to lip balm to make it taste good dry out your lips, so you have to keep using it!

Lip balm is manufactured to keep you addicted to it. The same product that moistens your lips dries them out! And many people have just enough of an allergic reaction the pollens in the wax (extracted from honeycombs) to make lip balm to get a constant sense of irritation on their lips - caused by the lip balm itself.

Read More: Why Vaseline Is Good for Your Lips

Just say no to lip balm - use home remedies instead

Using lip balm really isn't a harmless habit. It keeps your lips dry, and it can cover up the early symptoms of cancer. Because the additives to lip balm keep you needing it, you can break your physical need for the product just by not using it for a day or two.

If you can just say no lip balm, you will have some discomfort for 12 to 36 hours, and then you can live lip balm-free. But what about some home remedies for treating cheilitis, inflammation of the lips, when it isn't caused by the very products used to treat it? Here are home remedies.

  1. Be sure to drink 6 to 8 glasses of water every day. Simply keeping your body hydrated can help prevent cracked lips.
  2. Avoid flavored toothpastes. Flavoring in toothpaste, like flavoring in lip balm, can irritate the lips.
  3. Use a room or home humidifier to keep the air in your home or office moist, especially if you heat your home with radiant heat or a fireplace or you live in a dry climate.
  4. Aloe vera gel, preferably straight from the plant, heals chapped lips. If you use commercial aloe vera gel, be sure that the product doesn't have any additional fragrances.
  5. Neem oil applied to the lip relieves the allergies or contact dermatitis that can crack lips and keep them dry.

And if you simply must use lip balm, opt for a brand that's pure wax. The flavorings and scents are what keep you addicted.

  • Jacob SE, Chimento S, Castanedo-Tardan MP. Allergic contact dermatitis to propolis and carnauba wax from lip balm and chewable vitamins in a child. Contact Dermatitis. 2008 Apr.58(4):242-3. No abstract available.
  • Schram SE, Glesne LA, Warshaw EM. Allergic contact cheilitis from benzophenone-3 in lip balm and fragrance/flavorings. Dermatitis. 2007 Dec.18(4):221-4.
  • Shaw DW. Allergic contact dermatitis from 12-hydroxystearic Acid and hydrogenated castor oil. Dermatitis. 2009 Dec.20(6):E16-20.