Never Put These Ingredients on Your Lips

Dr. Janet Zand

September 23, 2022

Did you know that some lip moisturizers have ingredients that actually dry out your lips?

It’s crazy, but true. These products claim to moisturize your lips, yet they contain ingredients that exacerbate dryness and make chapped lips worse. Then you apply more lip balm, and it becomes a vicious cycle.

So how can you tell if your lip balm is one of them?

Here’s what to check for on the label...

“Cooling” ingredients

The first ingredients to check for are phenol and menthol. Phenol and menthol give your lips that tingling or cooling feeling, and they were initially added into lip balms for exfoliation.

The problem is that they actually irritate the skin on your lips, making them more sensitive. And the exfoliation exposes your delicate lips to environmental factors, like dry air.

So you really don’t want phenol and menthol on your lips.

Salicylic acid

The next ingredient to avoid is salicylic acid. Yes, the same stuff used to dry out pimples or remove warts!  

So what is it doing in lip balm? Well, similar to menthol and phenol, it’s added to help remove dead skin cells, so that lips look soft and supple.

Unfortunately, what actually happens is that it irritates your lips, and dries them out even more.

The numbing ingredient

Benzocaine is a topical anesthetic that’s supposed to relieve pain and itching. So some companies put it in their lip balm, promising it’ll soothe your chapped lips.

The problem is that many people are allergic to it. And using it even a few times can lead to noticeably more redness and chapping, making your problem even worse.

Aromatic spice

Spices sound natural, but just because an ingredient is natural doesn’t mean it belongs on your lips.

For example, there are the cinnamon-related compounds called cinnamates. Companies add it to lip balms to make them smell and taste better, but it can really irritate your lips and dry them out even more.

And you just don’t need it in lip balm -- plenty of brands make lip balms without cinnamates, and they still smell and taste fine.

So now that we’ve covered what you don’t want to see in your lip balm, let’s talk about what you DO want to see...

The most important thing is that a lip balm has a combination of 1. moisturizers, and 2. Sealers, to seal the moisture in.

Ideally, you should look for natural moisturizers like sunflower oil, macadamia oil, or evening primrose oil … and natural sealers like beeswax.  Here’s the lip balm I use.

And if you need to exfoliate your lips, just use a simple combination of coconut oil and sugar, and gently massage it on your lips. Then follow with a thin layer of lip balm to form a protective barrier. Just do this once a week, so you don’t irritate your lips. The skin is so delicate!

Try these tips out, and let me know how it goes!

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