Lip balms/moisturizers — addictive?

Dear Alice,

Someone told me that ChapStick was addictive and the way I'm going through it, I believe them. Is it truly addictive? Can I get help?

Dear Reader,

While there are a handful of new caffeinated additions to the lip balm market, a vast majority of products do not contain any addictive substances at all. You may feel that you're addicted to lip balms/moisturizers because you've become so used to the feeling of well-moisturized and non-irritated lips. When you don't have a lip balm/moisturizer on, your lips may feel so dry and naked that you can't wait to get another "fix" of the stuff. This is likely psychological more than anything else. If all of your access to lip balm/moisturizer were suddenly taken away, you might be uncomfortable for a bit, but you would not experience any symptoms of withdrawal associated with physical addictions.

If you're worried about it, though, why not try to cut back on your use of lip balms/moisturizers for a while — to prove to yourself that you can make do with less of them? You could try gradually cutting back. At first, you'll probably feel uncomfortable without the extra protection and smooth feel of more lip balm/moisturizer on your lips. As time passes, you may eventually become used to the way your lips feel, au naturel.

Of course, if you live somewhere where winters tend to be cold and windy, you may want to wait until springtime to cut down on lip balms/moisturizers. The extra protection may come in handy in colder months because the skin on lips is sensitive to dry, cold, and windy conditions, and therefore is more prone to wind-burn and chapping. "Chapped" means that the skin has become overly dry because the amount of natural oils available to help keep it soft and supple has been reduced. This tends to happen more often in cold weather as the oil-secreting glands in our skin slow down production.

During the winter, and in dry environments, we need to help our skin stay soft and well-moisturized. One way to do this is by staying well-hydrated, because dehydration may contribute to chapped lips and dry skin (so drink lots of water!). Some lip balms will even contain sunscreen and can help prevent damage and premature aging of the lips and surrounding skin. While you may not need to use as much lip balm in the summer, a lip balm with sunscreen can offer you protection from the elements all year long.

Since the caffeinated products are new to field, there's no evidence that speaks to their potential to fuel or contribute to a caffeine addiction. The best way to keep caffeine in check is to practice moderation and notice how your body feels when you go without caffeine. See Caffeine's effects on health for more details.

It's good that you are thinking about moderation and balance in your life, and that's not just lip service!

Last updated May 29, 2015
Originally published Dec 20, 1996

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