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Your Lip Balm Could Be Making Your Chapped Lips Worse, Experts Say

Here are the key ingredients you should be aware of.

By now, you’re well aware that the key to beautiful lipstick is keeping your lips healthy and hydrated underneath. That’s far easier said than done in the winter, though, when cold and bitter weather whisks in and zaps the hydration from our faces. For that reason, there’s probably a lip balm in your pocket or bag at this very moment. You might consider it your lord and savior when a pesky flake or crack rears its ugly head, but I have some bad news: Certain lip balm ingredients can actually contribute to chapping.

What ingredients should I look out for?

The good news is that avoiding common lip balm irritants is rather easy, but first, you need to know what those are. Board-certified dermatologist Mona Gohara advises first and foremost to avoid balms made with fragrances due to their drying properties. “They just add cosmetic appeal to the product but are irritating to the skin barrier, causing more dryness and irritation,” she explains.

Gohara also lists camphor, phenol, and menthol as “very, super, ultra-common” causes of contact dermatitis in lip balms. Fellow board-certified dermatologist Craig Kraffert agrees and adds that even though eucalyptus and peppermint oil are naturally derived, they have similar tingling effects and can still cause slight irritation.

OK, so what should I be using?

Based on all this expert testimony, here’s our advice: If your lips are super chapped and your perpetual lip balm application isn’t helping, just use it less. If things improve, you know you either need to lessen your balm habit or switch to a different formula. 

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