Lip moisturizer (also called lip balm, or lip chap in Canada) is a popular beauty product also used for medicinal purposes (to reverse dry, chapped lips affected by head colds or poor weather). Such products are necessary to protect the thin skin of the lips, which contain no moisturizing oil glands. The first lip balm was created in the late 19th century, but an entire subdivision of the cosmetics industry has developed around the once solely medicinal need to protect this body part.
Contrary to the popular urban myth, lip balm is not addictive. It is widely believed that lip balm companies put chemicals in their product that chap lips, forcing consumers to continue purchasing lip moisturizers. This, it turns out, is a fallacy. Experts who have studied this believe that the addiction is psychological in nature. The balm user is accustomed to the softness of their lips, licking them to restore their suppleness once the balm has worn off. They may also attempt to bite the dry skin off their lips. This has the effect of drying out the user’s lips more than they were previously. Hence, they believe that they need the balm more than they really do.
Flavored lip balm also promotes lip licking. To prevent further licking (and consequent chapping), choose a non-flavored product. Best bets are petroleum or beeswax based moisturizers. For vegans or environmentally conscious folks, hemp-based lip balms that do not utilize animal products are available. It is just as important to protect lips from harmful UV rays as it is to protect the rest of the body.
Many lip balms today feature sunblock of at least SPF 15 to protect the user’s lips. Medicated moisturizers and balms are also available for heavily chapped lips. However, it is important NOT to use lip balm on cracked lips because the balm can trap bacteria or fungus, thereby creating a breeding ground for various infections.