Smiling African woman applying lip balm in front of a mirror.
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Why Is Lip Balm Being Canceled?

Dermatologists weigh in on #ChapstickGate

For many, lip balm is a no-brainer. It might be the first beauty product you remember using. You put it on, throw it in your purse, keep one in your car, lose one (or three), all without second a thought. This week, prompted by Caroline Dooner, author of The F*ck It Diet: Eating Should Be Easy, the internet asked: should we be using lip balm at all?

Following on from what Dooner calls “moisterizergate”, where she outlined to her nearly 250 thousand Instagram followers how she stopped using face wash and moisturizer and experienced skin benefits. She says she’s stopped using all beauty products for 13-years, instead only using washcloths, water, and oils.

“I don’t get why we need all of his stuff,” Dooner addressed her followers on her Instagram story. She believes that the more products people use, the more products they need to use.

The thought of throwing away lip balm and leaving our lips product-less sparked a DM debate. On one end, followers were claiming that some lip products “ruined” their lips and made them reliant. On the other, people said lip balm has saved their lips from harsh elements (and can contain sunscreen).

When consulting dermatologists, it seems the science is less divisive. “Lip products that contain humectant ingredients [like glycerin and hyaluronic acid] can attract moisture,” Ranella Hirsch, board certified dermatologist, tells NYLON. “Counterintuitively, particularly as the water evaporates in a dry environment, they can leave lips feeling dry,”

A simple way to address this, she says, is to balance humectant ingredients that attract moisture with occlusive ones which create a barrier to prevent that water loss and hold in the hydration. Common occlusive ingredients include petrolatum (found in Vaseline) and silicones.

There’s no need to run to throw out your lip products just yet. In fact, Joshua Zeichner, Associate Professor of Dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital, agrees petrolatum is an excellent skin protectant for dry, cracked lips. However, “Ingredients like salicylic acid, camphor, or menthol can lead to skin irritation and fragrances and flavors can cause allergic reactions in some people as well,” he explains. Regardless of what lip product you are using, he recommends only using it only when you need it. “Continuous use of any product around the clock for extended periods of time may interfere with the proper functioning of your lips.” So, perhaps the internet is onto something.

One thing the online debate has nailed, however, is that it’s good to stay hydrated, says Dr. Robert Finney, board-certified cosmetic dermatologist at Entière Dermatology. It’s important for general health, as well as the health of your lips.

However, when suggesting we back away from all products it’s important to remember that not everyone's skin barrier is able to repair itself effectively. As no skincare recommendation is one-size-fits-all, it’s important to use what works best for you. “With conditions like eczema, sometimes there are known DNA mutations where key components of our skin's barrier do not form appropriately,” Dr. Finney says, adding that using Vaseline or a similar product lowers the risk of infections for his eczema patients.

“Another caveat is that skin cancer can absolutely occur on your lips and a major cause is unprotected sun exposure.” For this reason alone, everyone should be using sunscreen on their lips when they are out and about. One of Dr. Finney’s favorites is EltaMD UV Lip Balm.

There you have it, the internet may have canceled lip balm this week but there’s no reason for you to, as well. Just be sure to check out the ingredient list, choose one with SPF, and don’t overdo it.