- Chapped lips are inflamed lips, so stopping chapstick usage just reveals the underlying irritation.
- Some people are more prone to chapped lips due to where they live or what they eat and drink.
- A dermatologist told Insider a simple product like Vaseline is better than chapsticks with more ingredients, which can irritate the lips, being both the problem and solution.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
You’re taking a walk, sipping coffee with a friend, or helping your kid with homework when the urge strikes: You need chapstick. Those dry, chapped lips demand your attention until they’re soothed.
But then, just an hour or two after applying it, you feel that stick of Burt’s Bees call you again. It feels kind of like a substance dependency â€” the more you use it, the more you feel you need it.
But dermatologist Dr. Ife J. Rodney of Eternal Dermatology + Aesthetics in Columbia, Maryland, told Insider chapstick (or Vaseline or Carmex) isn’t addictive, though there are reasons you may feel compelled to use it more often than you’d like.
Why lips get chapped
Most skin on your body has hair, whether it’s full and thick, like in the armpits, or sparse and nearly undetectable, like the peach fuzz on your cheeks. Those hairs spring up from follicles, which also secrete oil.
The lips are an exception, and so “we don’t have the ability to moisturize always from the inside out,” Rodney said.
As a result, they can become chapped â€” or, in other words, inflamed.
Chapped lips are “inflammation of the lips that results in peeling and increased cell turnover” due to something like a change in the weather or eating something the skin is essentially allergic to, Rodney said.
That’s where your favourite tube of lip lube comes in. “Both the Vaseline and the chapstick add a barrier to seal the lips and calm that inflammation.”
Stopping chapstick usage just reveals the underlying inflammation
You may feel dependent on the stuff if, for example, it’s winter, your lips are super chapped, and you’re constantly coating them.
“Then, when you stop, the inflammation flares, and you experienced the discomfort again,” Rodney said. “But it’s not really that you need a Vaseline ‘patch’ or any other sort of product to wean you off the chapstick, per se.”
You may also feel like you can’t stop lathering your lips if you’re used to product with a mild steroid, like hydrocortisone, which are especially effective at soothing inflammation, and then down-shift to something more straightforward, like Vaseline.
“When you chop stop the [steroid-boosted] chapstick, you may find that inflammation on your lips appears even more aggressively,” Rodney said.
Some people are just more prone to chapped lips too, not necessarily because they were born that way but because their circumstances or behaviour irritates their kisser. For instance, folks who eat a lot of spicy foods, live in dry climates, or are generally dehydrated from not drinking enough water or drinking too much alcohol may find their lips perpetually chapped.
Rodney recommends a thin layer of Vaseline over scented or coloured products
Rodney never uses chapstick herself, nor does she recommend it to clients. That’s because the products can contain fragrances and other allergenic ingredients that exacerbate dryness and inflammation.
“The chapstick could be the problem and the solution at the same time,” she said.
Instead, she recommends a thin layer of petroleum jelly, which is gentle and only one ingredient.
“Less is more because even the ingredients in cosmetic products, including lipsticks, could be allergenic, they can be irritates,” she said. “And if you already have inflammation on the skin, then the aim would be to restore the skin barriers and soothe the inflammation.”
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