Health blogger Nicole Akers returns as a guest to the Faith & Sweat blog, this time to educate us about a common personal-care product that may need a second glance. Thank you, Nicole, for your research and insight. Follow more of her work at nicoleakers.com
What’s in your lip balm?
Have you ever asked the above question?
I slather it on under lipstick, and anyone who knows me knows there is usually a tube of lip balm in my pocket. I apply it subconsciously, multiple times throughout the day. I never give it a second thought.
I more than gave it a second thought when I picked up my daughter’s “lip gloss” and read the label:
Avoid eye contact. If irritation occurs discontinue use and consult a doctor. Do not ingest. Use under adult supervision.
What’s in there to warrant a warning?
This lip balm is marketed to young children. If you know a toddler in the princess faze there is a strong possibility she has this product. Moreover, she probably isn’t supervised by an adult during use.
Do you apply lip balm before an outdoor outing to prevent burned, chapped lips? Keep reading before getting all kissy-face with a tube of chapstick.
The danger is to kids because of color, scent, or choking hazard; right? Nope. The hazard is also your own.
Let’s discover what’s in there, and what to avoid.
Here are some things to look for, and to lookout for, regardless of what brand you purchase.
Look for these ingredients:
- Moisturizers like Vaseline, beeswax (cera alba), ceramides (fats that help retain water)
- Up to 5% of humectants – which increase water content, help prevent cracked skin and reduce skin irritation – like urea or glycerine
- Dimethicone, which helps prevent drying and makes the product last longer
- Lanolin and cocoa butter soften, moisturize and protect lips
- Mineral sunscreen
Look out for these:
- Synthetic colors and dyes
- BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene)
- Fragrance and flavor
- Chemical sunscreens (Oxybenzone, Octinoxate, Octisalate, Octocrylene, Avobenzone, Padimate O)
- Petrolatum (petroleum jelly, mineral oil)
Thanks, Swedish Hospital for the former list, and Live Clear for the latter, but why or why not? Check out this graph to see how your lip balm smooths and soothes.
That’s nice, but we can do better than give it lip service.
Good, bad, or somewhere in between:
Parabens are widely used in personal care products, makeup and the like. We will look at what’s in makeup in another article. Let’s KISS it, that is, keep it super simple. Parabens are preservatives to stop microbes and bacteria from growing in your lip balm. Their names are difficult to pronounce and spell; they are a mouthful. That’s plenty of reason to stay away from them.
Vaseline is both good and bad for your lips, depending on where you look. It’s confusing, so make your own judgment call here. It provides a water barrier to keep moisture in, and it is petroleum jelly. It is not “green,” if that is important to you. It is probably not pushing the world toward an oil shortage, gasoline and plastic are bigger culprits. Again, that’s another article.
Humectants are simply moisture compounds. That’s good news for lips.
Dimethicone is also good and bad, depending on the source. The FDA approved it for use in ointment as a skin protectant. it can prevent skin infections, reduce redness, and act as an anti-inflammatory. It sounds like lip medicine, but over time it produces dryness.
Lanolin and cocoa butter are natural moisturizers. They are good guys for lips.
Sunscreen is common sense. It’s protection from the sun to dry out and chap your lips. It’s good, as long as the sunscreen does not contain chemicals. Chemicals make it one of the bad guys for lips.
Speaking of the bad guys, here they are. Some crossed barriers and they are on both lists. Faithful users may not sweat the small stuff, but want to avoid long-term harm.
Ingredients with dire consequences
Color me pretty, but don’t color me dead. Blue #1, Brilliant Blue, causes chromosomal damage, and is banned in France and Finland. Green #3, Fast Green, causes bladder tumors cited by its European ban. Red # 40, Allura Red, causes chromosomal damage and hyperactivity. Yellow #6, Sunset Yellow, is banned in Norway and Sweden for causing thyroid tumors, chromosomal damage, hyperactivity, asthma and allergies.
BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene) are fat soluble antioxidants and food preservatives also found in lip balm. Beauty experts classify it as harmful and toxic. It promotes tumors, mimics estrogen, and shows limited evidence of being a carcinogen.
When fragrance is listed as an ingredient you can assume it’s not a natural blend of herbs and flowers. The Natural Academy of Science reports 95% of fragrances ingredients as petroleum, toxins, and sensitizers. Hundreds of chemicals can be in a single fragrance.
If it smells like eau de toilette, don’t taste it, especially if it tastes good. The best tasting fruit and candy flavors aren’t made from fruit or sugar at all. They are chemically made toxins and carcinogens instead.
Chemical sunscreens containing oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate cause big problems if ingested in high quantities over time. They disrupt the hormone system, affect thyroid systems, and permanently alter reproductive development.
Petroleum is touched on above, and it’s in gasoline. No need to comment further.
If it contains the waxy substance camphor, don’t give it to a child. Even in small doses it can be fatal.
Call to action
I pull my lip balm out of my pocket and lift the label to reveal the ingredients. Camphor is the second ingredient. Red dye, flavors, and other ingredients I can’t pronounce made the list. It’s a game of hide and seek with dire consequences. Time for a replacement.
What’s in your lip balm? Check it out and comment if the ingredients prompt you to make a switch for healthier lips.
This article is part of a series. What’s in your (fill in the blank)? Comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org a topic that piques your curiosity about what’s inside. Your topic may become a featured article.
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