Can’t live without your lip balm? Turns out there is a scientific reason for that. And what exactly is lip balm made of that makes it do what it does? This post will attempt to answer those questions.
Lip Balm Basics
First created at the turn of the 20th century by Dr. Charles Fleet, all lip balms share the same purpose – to moisturize and protect the lips. Lip balms vary in formulation but typical ingredients include petroleum, shea butter, lanolin, and natural oils in order to prevent water loss from the lips. Some lip balms contain ingredients like menthol and camphor which feel tingly when applied; these ingredients are actually mildly antiseptic and help soothe chapped and irritated lips.
One little tip – according to Dr. Amy Wechsler in her book The Mind-Beauty Connection (page 116) you should avoid lip balms with the ingredient phenol (Blistex, for example, has that ingredient) since phenol strips the top layer off your lips which then just dries your lips out instead of protecting them.
Lastly, during the day you want to make sure that your lip balm has spf in it. Our lips do not naturally have any sun protection in them so you always need to protect your lips from the sun with spf protection.
Is Lip Balm Really Addictive?
Ever feel like you can’t live without your lip product? Do you feel the overwhelming need to reapply your lip balm continually throughout the day? It turns out that there is a scientific reason behind this feeling. The website The Beauty Brains does a great job at explaining this issue:
Skin signals for new cells
Skin is a very complicated organ with multiple layers. The top layer, the stratum corneum, consists mainly of dead, dried up cells. As those cells die and flake off, they send a signal to a deeper layer skin (called the basal layer) to produce fresh skin cells. This is a very simplified description of the process called cellular turnover. (Contrary to what you might have thought, “cellular turnover” does NOT refer to switching your mobile phone plan.)
Lip balm slows down the signal
When you apply lip balm, you’re creating a barrier layer that prevents, or at least retards, the evaporation of moisture from the inner layers of skin. Since the top layer isn’t drying and flaking off as much, the basal layer never gets the signal to produce new cells.
Your skin has to catch up
But when you stop using the lip balm, all of a sudden your lips dry out and your basal layer has to hurry up and start producing new cells. But since your lips already feel dry again, you add more lip balm which once again tells the basal layer “hey, everything’s fine up here on the surface – we don’t need any more new skin cells.”
The cycle repeats
But of course, once that application of lip balm has worn off and there are no new plump, moist skin cells to replace the ones that are drying out, your lips feel dry again and you have to add more lip balm. Etc. etc. etc. Get the picture? That’s why you feel addicted to lip balm – you’ve “trained” you body to rely on it!
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