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Verify: Can lip balm be addictive?

The habit of putting it on could indicate an allergic reaction.

ATLANTA — Concerns over chapped and dry lips have turned into a question for our Verify team: Can the ingredients in lip balm lead you to want more or and even buy more? 

I would like to verify some information that has been relayed to me by friends, colleagues, and even on the internet. It was shared with me that chapstick contains tiny microscopic shards of glass, that are meant to cut your lips making you more addicted to the chapstick, causing you to buy more. What do you think?

Natalie's question is one that's gone viral before, even linked to other brands. To clarify, ChapStick is a brand name, while chapstick is also a common 'umbrella' term for any product meant to care for dry lips. With that in mind, 11Alive's Verify team turned to Dr. Lauren Ploch, who disputes the claim. 

"As far as we know there's no glass in lip balms and not on purpose but there's more than enough ingredients to cause irritation to the lips alone," Dr. Ploch, a board-certified dermatologist in Augusta, GA and Aiken, SC, said.

"Those are usually the things that are put in there to be feel good ingredients in the lip balms…to make you want to use it," she said. 

Verify: Can lip balm be addictive?

"It's more habit-forming than it is addictive," Dr. Ploch said. "For the most part when we lick our lips and our saliva is drying, we need a little moisture every now and then. The problem is some lip balm ingredients can be irritating to the skin and they can be irritating and even...cause allergic reactions." 

So reaching for your favorite lip balm? That's not an addiction. But according to Dr. Ploch, the habit can be a sign of an allergic reaction. 

"The ingredients we usually tell people to watch out for are carmol, menthol and phenol," Dr. Ploch said. "They all can be irritating to the lips, and potentially cause allergic reactions. I find people that are reacting to a lip balm… tend to keep using more and more and more of it and they think it is their fault…when really it's the product."

"If it looks good and it smells good and your friend recommends it, and you read about it online, it doesn't mean it's good for your skin," she said, recommending patients reach out to a board-certified dermatologist for questions and concerns. . 

11Alive reached out to Phizer Consumer Healthcare, the maker of Chapstick, who referred our team to the Consumer Healthcare Products Association. 

In a statement, Mike Tringale, VP of Communications & Public Affairs said: “This rumor is false, baseless, and irresponsible, as FDA and OTC manufacturers both demand good manufacturing procedures (GMPs) for consumer healthcare products and would never allow such an adulterating ingredient to appear in OTC products.”


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