Lip balm is addictive

Host: Lyndsey Rodrigues
Wednesday, April 15, 2009

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Do you constantly apply lip balm thinking that you are preventing your lips from drying out, or could there be more to it? Is it, in fact, an addiction? Although no official scientific studies have been conducted to prove or disprove that lip balm is an addiction, the liberal frequency with which it is applied may actually be an unnecessary habit.

VIEW GALLERY: Guess the celebrity lips!

Take Rose Milne as an example. Rose has been liberally applying lip balm since she was 16 years old. During her time spent living and working in London, Rose began to increase the application of the lip balm more frequently to prevent her lips becoming dry, especially during the long bouts of cold weather.

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Since then, Rose has become accustomed to applying lip balm at least once every waking hour, and even uses it if she wakes in the middle of the night! "I find that if I go out without my lip balm, I need to buy one so that I've got it there so I can use it if I need to," Rose says.

But is its excessive use just in our mind or is there something in lip balm that actually makes it addictive?

To find out if using lip balm is indeed addictive and what her regular application is doing to her lips, Rose will go cold turkey for two weeks. But first-up we pay Sydney dermatologist, Dr Stephen Shumack, a visit.

Dr Shumack examines Rose's lips under the magnifying lamp to see what their condition is like up close and finds that her lips are of good colouration and do not show any dryness, flakiness or thickened areas. After all, our lips are composed of thin skin that consists of around 3-5 cellular layers (the rest of our skin has up to 16 layers), plus muscle and mucosa, which is what makes them so pliable. Plus they virtually have no melanin, so how we treat and what we place on them is important.

"There's nothing addictive in lip balm, it's really the sensation that you've got some grease or some oil on your lips, which is addictive, so people feel mentally that they need to put something on their lips on a regular basis," Dr Shumack says.

Concerned about what may happen to her lips over her two weeks of abstinence, Dr Shumack explains that Rose will have the urge to put some lip balm on and may experience some discomfort and dryness in the first two or three days. However, this should subside in about seven to 10 days, when the skin on our lips naturally renews.

After the two weeks, Dr Shumack checks out the condition of Rose's lips and although a challenging task for this lip balm addict, he confirms that her lips are in good condition. In fact, Dr Shumack says that 98 percent of Australians don't need lip balm, unless they are exposed to sun for prolonged periods, in which case they require one with a high sun protection factor.

But what if you just like the feel and look of wearing a lip balm, gloss or lipstick? Skincare expert Emma Hobson provides some tips on what to look out for when purchasing lip cosmetics.

"It's not difficult at all. Pick your lipstick or your lip gloss, turn to the back and you should find a full ingredient listing. A couple of great ingredients that I'd look out for that are fabulous for your lips are shea butter and also vitamin E, " Hobson says. "Both are wonderful to protect your lips against the environment and it'll make them soft, supple and really beautiful, kissable lips."

So what kind of ingredients should you avoid to keep lips in tip top condition?

Two key ingredients to avoid in lip glosses and balms are red D and C coal tar dyes and coconut oil. According to Hobson, both of those ingredients actually cause little tiny blackheads around the corner of the lips. She also suggests that you should only keep lipsticks for 12 months, as after that time they can go rancid, which isn't healthy. So check for their expiration dates and discard them if they have passed by.

And for those who think that licking their lips is keeping them moist, it's actually doing the complete opposite as the saliva contains digestive enzymes which can dry out your lips.

Overall, there's nothing wrong with using lip balm, providing you choose the right products with the most beneficial ingredients and avoid those that can cause irritation or blackheads. These simple factors can help improve the overall health and appearance of your lips. You just don't need to apply it 20 times a day.

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