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Are you addicted to lip balm?


Chris is Curious: Is it really possible to be addicted to lip balm?

The Left Beauty Brain’s Lips Respond:

Fascinating question, Chris. And you can find an equally fascinating, but a little over-analyzed, discussion on the addictive properties of lip balm at Lip Balm Anonymous. The post is a bit outdated but we found it to be an interesting reference, nonetheless.

But the one argument that we did NOT see discussed was, in our opinion, the most scientifically valid one. It goes something like this:

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!

This theory provides a more scientific explanation for the mysterious Lip Balm Addiction; does it make sense for you lip balm users?

{ 2 comments… add one }

  • Miranda August 2, 2015, 1:44 pm

    What would you suggest to do for dry lips, if lip balm worsens the problem?

  • Aj October 29, 2017, 10:23 am

    Do you have any suggestions on how to deal with this problem?

    I work outside for 5 or so hours a day. In the summer it gets over 100 and winter can be -20 or more. (F)
    In the winter I try to keep a protectant on my lips to help with moisture and wind burn, as well as face mask etc when warranted. I do not lick my lips at all. It hurts and makes things worse. The outer skin gets tough and stiff and looses sensitivity and elasticity so it *almost* feels like a very thin scab. If I am not very careful my lips will split (and sometimes do anyway). They do not flake or peal. Underneath the outer layer feels undeveloped so that simply exfoliating the dead skin doesn’t seem to work. I stay hydrated. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

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