One look at my blog, and the reader thinks that I am a lip balm addict! And why not? These are my most reviewed products. I have bought lip balms for the last 10 years (or more, if you consider those prehistoric Rs 20 tubes of Vaseline as lip balm). I carry around at least 5 types of lip balms with me in my bag, with 3-4 decorating my bedside table, a couple more lying on the dresser! But I consider myself a hoarder, not an addict. Because, to be an addict, I have to USE the product as well! And there lies my problem. While I do love to buy (and decorate my surroundings with) a variety of lip balms, I don’t use them as often. I’m too lazy and occupied most of the times. BUT, is there really something called as lip balm addiction? Do people (I should rather say women) really suffer from an addiction to these tubes of colourful waxy moisturizers, in the same way as people get addicted to sleeping pills, or even alcohol? Let’s find out.
First question, why do we need a lip balm?
Lips don’t have the sebum producing glands, nor do they have sweat glands. Because of this, they dry out, unlike the skin on your cheeks for example. The icing on the cake is: the skin of the lips is thinner than anywhere else on the body. Dry lips need some form of fat/waxy coating to prevent them from drying further. So, a lip balm essentially prevents lips from losing moisture, by locking the moisture into them. They might contain added ingredients, such as color, flavour, SPF, vitamins etc.
What might be causing the addiction? And why do some women keep using lip balm?
Personally speaking, I love the feeling of a well formulated lip balm. It makes lips softer, and enveloped in something comfortable. It actually feels what clothes feel like on the skin: comfortable.
Let’s explore some basic science. There are two types of addiction: physical and psychological. Physical dependence is one in which the body becomes dependent on a chemical because of the real difference it produces in the body (such as sleeping pills, which actually work on your brain to make you drowsy). Psychological dependence is one in which you get emotional satisfaction out of doing something or using some product, or a drug. Both these are deeply interconnected.
Coming back to lip balms, let’s see how the addiction for lip balms can be defined as: physical or psychological. This is what I found.
Some ingredients in the lip balm may be causing you to become physically dependent on them. If you read the ingredients list carefully, in some lip balms, there is phenol, menthol, camphor, or salicylic acid. While phenol acts as an anti-bacterial agent and soothes cold sores, menthol and camphor produce a cooling sensation on the lips. Salicylic acid helps in getting rid of the dead cell layer on the lips. Lip balms with these ingredients, while not harmful when used occasionally, but once you get into the habit of using them, makes the lips drier than they were in the beginning. So, you have the tendency to use the lip balm more. This is what I feel can lead to physical addiction.
Psychological addiction for a lip balm is when you crave for the soothing, comfortable feeling that it gives you. Some women, while thinking deeply, absent-mindedly reach for the tube kept in the bag, apply it, and find it comforting. The mind begins to associate the comfort provided by the lip balm with solutions, and there begins the addiction. Applying lip balm becomes a habit, and sometimes, it becomes a compulsive one.
In no way this compulsion to apply lip balm come near the very real substance addiction that people suffer from: such as addiction to cocaine and other abused drugs. But if this habit of yours begins to hinder your daily life, normal routine, and thought process, then is the time to become cautious.
Are YOU a lip balm addict?
If you are using a lip balm normally (a few times a day, at bedtime, you get the gist), and you are not severely affected by its absence, then you are perfectly normal. However, if you are applying lip balm all the time: while walking on the road, talking to people, making client presentations, in the washroom, while driving, in fact every chore that you do requires you to keep a lip balm within close proximity, then you might be taking this a notch higher, and you need to control this habit.
What’s the solution, if you are an addict?
First thing, check your lip balm for ingredients. If it does contain the irritants I mentioned above, then chuck that product. Instead, use plain Vaseline. Most sources that I referred say that it works as well as any other lip balm, and to top it all, it is free of other additives that may be causing you to become dependent.
If you are habitually becoming dependent on the product, then you need to control the urge. Try going bare-lipped for a week (I do this a lot of times. Well, I told you I’m such a lazy fellow, I hardly use them!). You could also try to chew some gum instead of applying lip balm. However, if you are close to obsessed with lip balms: you cannot work in the office without it, you run back home if you have forgotten the tube, you cannot hold a conversation without applying lip balm every few minutes, then it might be a good idea to take some professional help to sort you through.