The popular lip balm has some surprising secrets!
It Doesn't Actually Moisturize
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Sounds crazy, but ChapStick and most other lip balms don’t work by adding moisture; instead they seal your kisser to protect it from losing its own moisture. "The wax or petrolatum in lip balm essentially creates a watertight barrier that prevents your internal skin moisture—which normally evaporates through the surface, especially on dry, cold, windy days—from escaping, softening your lips and keeping them feeling moist," says board-certified dermatologist Jessica Krant, M.D.
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No, You Can't Be Addicted
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You may not go anywhere without your balm, but any urges you feel to reapply are strictly mental. "There is no known inherent addictive property to any of the ingredients in ChapStick," says Julia Tzu, M.D., a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at New York University.
However, some people may be allergic to certain ingredients, and that can cause contact dermatitis or irritant contact dermatitis, which may seem like chapping, Dr. Tzu adds. "If used consistently, the lips may become irritated and require the simultaneous soothing action lip balm provides. This may be the reason why people may feel 'dependent' on the product, even though a simple petrolatum jelly on the lips can also substitute for the soothing functions, while also being nonirritating." See your dermatologist if you experience cracked, irritated, and scaly pink patches around your mouth.
The Little Bit You Ingest is Okay
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There's a reason you've never seen menthol, beeswax, phenol, lanolin, cocoa butter, salicylic acid, and shea butter in your favorite recipes. "While there have been no cases of ingested lip balm harming anyone beyond maybe a minor stomach upset, these ingredients are not meant to be eaten regularly or in large amounts," explains Arleen K. Lamba, M.D., medical director at Maryland's Blush Med Institute. Luckily the amount you consume from licking your lips every so often isn't going to do much harm.
It Does Expire
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You'll likely use it up before it does, but ChapStick only lasts for two to three years. If you find an old tube and wonder if it's safe to use, be sure it doesn’t look or smell funny. "It's possible that bacteria and fungus can grow on old lip balm," says Anthony Youn, M.D., a surgeon practicing in Detroit.
Lips Aren't The Only Place to Use It
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Runners use ChapStick to prevent chapping around their noses in cold weather. You can also rub it into cuticles to moisturize them, tame unruly eyebrows, and even to lubricate a stuck zipper. Just be sure to keep separate tubes for different uses.