Is Chapstick A Scam?

By Simone Sydel
·  7 min read
shutterstock 1775184248 (1)

Is my chapstick making my lips more dry?

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If you're dealing with chronically dry lips, you have probably asked yourself why your chapstick isn't working, even though you’re diligent about reapplying it throughout the day.

The truth is, like many other skincare products, chapstick can either be a hero or a villain in your skincare routine – it all depends on what type of chapstick you're using and how you're using it. Therefore, in this article, we will talk about what's in your chapstick, why it sometimes seems like it is making things worse, and how you can use it to help keep your lips hydrated and smooth.

So, is chapstick a hero or just another industry scam? Let's find out!

What's in Your Chapstick?

Although ChapStick is the brand name of a lip balm manufactured by Haleon under the parent company Pfizer, the term is generally used to refer to any lip balm on the market.

And while ChapStick has only been around since the late 19th century, lip balm dates back much further. In fact, ancient Egyptians used a combination of beeswax, olive oil, and animal fat on their lips to protect them from the harsh desert sun and prevent their lips from becoming dry, chapped, and bleeding.

Today, ChapStick still contains a combination of beeswax and other naturally-derived ingredients, as well as some synthetic ones. For example, ChapStick, and most lip balms, are typically made with occlusives or waxes that create a seal on the skin's surface and slow down moisture from evaporating. Other ingredients include emollients or oils to lubricate and condition lips, as well as fragrances and flavorings for an enjoyable experience.

Ancient Egyptians used a combination of beeswax, olive oil, and animal fat to protect their lips from the sun.

In addition, ChapStick contains some antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents to protect lips from free radical damage and help soothe inflammation. Now, while some of these ingredients are beneficial for the sensitive skin on the lips, others can be drying and irritating.

Can Chapstick Make Your Chapped Lips Even Worse?

Yes, chapstick can worsen your chapped lips, which can happen due to two common reasons. Number one is that some ingredients found in chapstick can be drying or irritating. This is especially the case when it comes to ingredients like menthol, eucalyptus, camphor, lavender, or other fragrant ingredients that can trigger an inflammatory reaction.

However, the second, and more common reason, is the product being used incorrectly. As it turns out, many people who are religiously reapplying their chapstick don't actually use the product in a way that would allow it to do its job properly.

So how does lip balm work, exactly? Let's break it down.

When you swipe on a layer of your favorite chapstick, you might think you're adding moisture to your dry, cracked lips. However, your lip balm actually contains ingredients that create a watertight barrier, preventing your internal skin moisture from evaporating or escaping from the surface of your lips. This, in turn, keeps the lips soft and moisturized.

But chapstick would keep your lips moisturized and plump if there was moisture there, to begin with. If you apply your lip balm on already dry lips, chapstick won't prevent moisture from evaporating because the moisture isn't there in the first place.

So, this is where the part of chapstick being somewhat shady or even a scam, as some people may call it, comes in because for your lips to have moisture, you would need to use a product that contains humectants, which are ingredients that draw water from the environment or the deeper layers of your skin into the superficial layers. Humectants such as glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and urea are just a few ingredients you should be looking for when buying a lip balm. 

Some ingredients found in chapstick can be drying or irritating. 

And this is why many lip balms that aren't a $5 ChapStick or Burt's Bees cost much more, as they contain active ingredients to ensure your lips stay hydrated and moisturized. Many pricey lip balms also have mild exfoliating properties, which remove the buildup of dead skin cells and other irritants, leaving the lips feeling softer and smoother. These lip balms also tend to use higher quality ingredients in general, so they're less likely to cause any sensitivities or irritations.

So, if you're using chapstick incorrectly or are using one that doesn't contain humectants, this can lead to your lips becoming even drier, more chapped, and cracked because you haven't added any moisture back in and are applying a layer of wax on already dry lips.

Is Chapstick Addictive?

We all know someone who's addicted to their chapstick. They always have it with them, apply it multiple times during the day, and freak out when they can't find it. This has led to the onslaught of memes and jokes surrounding chapstick addiction, but behind the humor lies a serious underlying query: Is chapstick actually addictive?

ChapStick and over-the-counter lip balms don't have any addictive ingredients, so it's not an addictive product in itself. However, you may very well become "addicted" to chapstick due to the habit of using it being formed and the psychological element this habit carries.

Another reason why you might become "addicted" to chapstick is that some medicated chapsticks specifically made to cater to those with eczema and psoriasis may include small concentrations of steroids, which are components that ease inflammation and redness but can also, with enough use, cause the skin to become dependent on them and every time you stop using them, your lips may become dry and irritated. This can lead to a psychological fear of not being able to distance yourself from chapstick and, thus, create an addiction-like pattern of usage.

This is why it's essential to be mindful when using chapstick and thoroughly research the ingredients in the product before purchasing it to ensure you're not putting your skin or mental well-being at risk.

How To (Actually) Heal Your Chapped Lips

A few useful ways to ensure your lips stay soft and hydrated are:

Exfoliate Your Lips

Regularly exfoliating your lips with homemade or store-bought scrubs can help remove any buildup of dry or dead skin cells and help them keep a smooth texture.

Product To Try: Tree Hut – Sugar Lips Scrub, $6

Invest in High-Quality Lip Balms

Using lip balms that contain humectants, such as glycerin, hyaluronic acid, or urea, can help draw moisture from the environment or the deeper layers of your skin into the superficial layers and keep your lips nice and hydrated. Therefore, if you're already spending money on chapstick, invest in a good lip balm that contains these beneficial ingredients.

Product To Try: Paula's Choice – Hyaluronic Acid + Peptide Lip Treatment, $32

Protect Your Lips

Wearing a good-quality lip balm before going out on cold or windy days can help protect your lips from any further damage and keep them in good condition.

Product To Try: Aquaphor – Lip Repair, $6

Treat Your Lips with Natural Oils

If you want to go the natural route, opt for oils such as coconut oil, almond oil, and olive oil. These are great alternatives to moisturize your lips and can be just as effective as any other lip balm.

Product To Try: Hempz – Ultra Moisturizing Herbal Lip Balm, $9

Closing Thoughts

Chapstick is one of the most affordable and widely available lip products, and while it may not be the best treatment for dry and chapped lips, it can work well enough if used correctly.

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