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Does Lip Balm Make Your Lips Dryer?

It all depends on the product you're using.

Contributing Writer
woman putting on lip balm
Photography by: petrunjela/Getty

If it you ever feel like your lips are more chapped after you apply lip balm, you could be right. "Lip balms that contain humectants (ingredients that pull moisture from the air, like hyaluronic acid) but do not contain nourishing, occlusive ingredients to lock in moisture and prevent evaporation, can cause drying," says Dr. Whitney Bowe, MD, a dermatologist in New York City. Shea butter is an occlusive ingredient, and it's one of Bowe's favorite to look for in lip balms. "Aside from being a star when it comes to hydrating your lips, shea butter has proven antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties," she says. Bowe recommends EOS Pure & Free, which contains both organic shea butter and coconut oil.

 

If you're struggling with chapped lips, irritating ingredients in your lip product could be to blame, too. "Most people think they are addicted to lip balm if their lips feel drier just an hour after applying lip balm," Bowe says. "This feeling is usually the result of using products that contain plumping irritants like menthol, cinnamon, and camphor. While providing a cooling sensation, they often sting, and the sensation you're experiencing is actually a signal that you're having a reaction." Some dyes and fragrances can also cause irritation. "If you are experiencing a burning sensation or discomfort from a particular product, you might want to switch up the brand, flavor, or talk to your dermatologist about a particular allergy,"she says.

 

Related: More Reasons Your Skin Might Be Dry

 

If you're one of those people who seems to be applying lip balm on the hour, it is possible that there's a real reason why you feel like you have to keep swiping it on. "Although a lip balm addiction is not necessarily a real thing, lip balm overuse can become an issue," Bowe says. "If you love the flavor of your lip balm, you might find yourself licking your lips over and over, which will unfortunately cause them to dry out even more, as a result of your saliva. Also, if you constantly apply occlusive products to your lips, this can interfere with the skin's natural ability to adjust to changes in the environment."

 

Bowe recommends applying lip balm after eating or drinking to lock in moisture, and right before bed, as well. "Apply your balm just outside the borders of your lip line because it's the outer perimeter of your lips that is often chapped," she says. "And try to avoid those matte, long-lasting lip stains. Those tend to be very drying. If you do use them, make sure to prime the lips first with a hydrating balm."