The Truth About Lip Balm Addiction, According to Experts

lip balm addiction

To those who say there’s no such thing as lip balm addiction, we raise you the six tubes of it we keep in various coat pockets, purses, and gym bags, lest we ever be caught without. In fact, the more regularly we apply lip balm, the more often we feel the need — in the form of uncomfortably dry lips — to do so. 

But what may feel like a lip balm addiction by definition simply . . . isn’t. “Lip balm is not addictive in the way that something like nicotine is,” says Perry Romanowski, an independent cosmetic chemist and one of the podcasters behind The Beauty BrainsTM. “There are no chemical receptors [in the brain] for lip balm.” 

However, there is a reason that you and your pucker start lusting after lip balm — it actually changes your lips. “Because they are always protected, the regenerated cellular layer of your lips might [be interrupted],” explains Annie Chiu, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at The Derm Institute℠ in North Redondo Beach, California. “Your lips therefore dry out more quickly.” This makes you want to apply more balm — and feel as if you’re addicted to it.

To add insult to injury, if your balm of choice contains artificial fragrance or flavoring, it may be causing irritation that makes your lips even more susceptible to drying out, says Dr. Chiu. She cites additives like cinnamon and menthol as common offenders. Beauty formulation fanatics might recognize that these ingredients are mainstays in lip plumping formulas. So, if you’re a fan of a temporarily plusher pout, keep in mind that you may have to go the extra mile to keep your smacker soft once the plumping effects have worn off.

All that said, our pros agree there’s nothing inherently wrong with applying lip balm frequently. But, if your lip balm addiction gets to the point that it’s too time-consuming or becomes frustrating, you can retrain your lips by slowly dialing back application (and avoiding balms with the aforementioned irritating ingredients). While there’s no hard and fast rule for how often lip balm should be applied, Dr. Chiu says a swipe when you wake up, after eating or drinking, and then right before bed usually does the trick for the average person. Here, five artificial fragrance- and flavor-free balms to ease the transition.

Weleda Skin Food® Lip Butter 

Weleda Skin Food® Lip Butter 

Perhaps you’re familiar with some of the products within Weleda’s® award-winning, ultra-nourishing Skin FoodTM line. We predict this sunflower seed oil-spiked lip balm is the next cult-favorite.

Lanolips® Lanostick® The Original Lip Balm 

Lanolips® Lanostick® The Original Lip Balm 

This lanolin-based balm is boosted by the addition of ultra-hydrating ingredients like avocado and castor seed oils. The chic retro packaging is a bonus.

Follain® Lip Balm

Follain® Lip Balm

The ingredient list for this balm reads like a greatest hits collection of oils — think coconut, jojoba, and argan, as well as chamomile flower.

Burt's Bees® Ultra Conditioning Moisturizing Lip Balm

Burt's Bees® Ultra Conditioning Moisturizing Lip Balm

This balm boasts a trio of butters — shea, kokum, and cocoa — that simultaneously soften and hydrate lips.

Elta MD® UV Lip Balm Broad-Spectrum SPF 31

Elta MD® UV Lip Balm Broad-Spectrum SPF 31

From a brand best-known for its dermatologist-beloved sunscreens comes a vitamin-enriched lip balm that also contains — what else? — SPF 31.

Dr. Annie Chiu is a paid Allergan® consultant.

Some complimentary products were provided to the author for the purpose of writing this article.

Product prices may vary from the time this article was written.

Allergan® may receive commissions for purchases made through links in this article.