So THIS is why some of us can’t live without our lip balm

If you aren’t the type of person who carries lip balm around everywhere you go, then chances are you probably know someone who does. Because lip balm addiction is real. Like actually, scientifically real.

When The Cut went on a mission to learn more about Carmex, they spoke to several dermatologists and learned some crazy facts along the way. Facts that apply to lip balm lovers everywhere, whether they use the signature, red-and-yellow-encased balm (aka, Carmex —which some people claim contains shards of glass to get people “hooked”) or not. Here’s what was discovered.


It turns out, Carmex doesn’t purposely use ingredients that will dry out your lips (and thus force you to buy more and more of their products). The problem is that you might be allergic to your lip balm without even knowing it. Lip balms like Carmex contain several ingredients that could potentially inflame sensitive lips. When this happens, wearers may feel as though they need to apply more product and this leads to a never-ending, allergy-causing lip balm cycle.


Before you peek at the ingredients list, take a moment to reflect on how your lip balm makes you feel (feel free to lay down for this one). Do you frequently have to apply lip balm? Does your lip balm occasionally irritate your lips, making them chapped and sensitive? If you answered yes to either of these questions – or if you have lip balm-related trust issues – then here are four ingredients you should look out for on the back of your balm:

1. Lanolin, which is a fatty substance that’s naturally found on sheep’s wool. So, if wool sweaters make you itch and scratch, then chances are that you’re allergic to lanolin. Specifically, in Carmex, this ingredient cross-reacts with another component called cetyl alcohol. You could also be allergic to this if you commonly experience skincare allergic reactions.


2. Beeswax contains a sticky substance called propolis, which assists bees when they build they’re hives. While that’s great and all, Dr. Shereene Idriss states that it’s becoming a prevalent allergy.

3. Salicyclic acid, which is a term you probably recognize if you’ve ever coped with acne (since it’s in a ton of acne medications). Dr. Idriss explains that it’s not the mildest ingredient and that it can dry out your lips, but it’s most likely used in lip balms to remove dead skin cells.


4. Benzocaine may be used to treat pain and itching, but some may experience an alternative reaction: redness and dryness, if they’re allergic to this anesthetic.

The overall verdict: lip balms like Carmex are safe to use, but according to Dr. Idriss, “people might want to try something more pure, like vaseline.”

After all, happy lips = happy life!

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