Lip Balm Addiction

Addiction is defined as “the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming, as narcotics, to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma.” I like to think that the definition can be expanded to include lip balm as a habit-forming substance.

I…must…have…lip…balm. For as long as I can remember, my need for lip balm has been at the top of my hierarchy of needs – right up there with air, food, and water.

Preferences, Preparation, and Placement

I’ve come to love the Carmex brand and prefer cherry- or strawberry-scented moisturizer more than the original, but if I’m ever away from home and have lost my “travel” stash, I’d try just about any brand. Speaking of my travel stash, I have several sticks and tins of Carmex strategically placed within reach of just about anyplace that I plan to spend a lot of time: my desk, my vehicle, my purse (usually very close by), and my nightstand. I pretty much have my bases covered, but there have been a few close calls. Like the time I switched purses and forgot to transfer my lip balm between them. Or the time my lip balm rolled off my nightstand and was “lost” for two days. Then there was that other time (or two) when I thought a coworker pilfered it for some unknown torturous reason.

Validation? Advice.

I thought my attachment to lip balm was just another one of my neurotic attributes that distinctively defined me. That was until I saw a news report about people who couldn’t be without the waxy substance. “There are others out there who can relate!,” I thought. Finally, I knew that my need was indeed a real health concern. Or was it? It depends on who is asking and who is answering.

A quick Google search tonight found articles from the Washington Post (Dec. 14, 2008) and Fox News (Nov. 4, 2008) on this rather unique condition.

The Post reported that “there are countless Facebook groups are dedicated to the ‘crackstick’ ” (gotta join, brb). OK, so after providing what seemed like written validation at last, the Post stated that “lip balm isn’t addictive.” Really?! Tell that to my lips! Did they conduct scientific research to disprove the belief that lip balm addiction exists? No, but they did provide a few bits of advice to reduce dependency on balm: use petroleum-based rather than wax-based products, don’t lick your lips, be mindful of the sun, and finally, think about whether it’s the product or the behavior. (Note: The mere fact that they provided this advice seems as if they can’t make up their minds about whether or not lip balm addiction really does exist.)

While the writers at Fox News also aren’t keen on calling lip balm dependency an addiction, they did seek the advice of someone in the position to give a professional opinion about the topic, Dr. Marcia Driscoll, a clinical associate professor of dermatology at the University of Maryland. Dr. Driscoll conducted a very small, but telling experiment with a few colleagues. She reported that upon asking three colleagues about their use of lip balm, all of them reached into their pockets and pulled out tubes of lip balm. Dr. Driscoll admitted that “this [need for lip balm] might be more common than I believe.” Ding! Ding! Ding! Bingo, Doctor!

Her advice to those of us who are dependent is to avoid lip balms containing phenol, lanolin, parabin, and fragrances as they may initially seem to provide relief, but will be irritating if used long-term. Driscoll believes that the irritation could be what causes users to become dependent. She advises that petroleum jelly is as good option for preventing and soothing chapped lips and will not lead to dependence.

Next Steps

Maybe I’ll take some of the advice. Maybe I’ll just continue to replenish my stash, as needed. Maybe I’ll need an intervention led by my loved ones. Regardless of my next steps, I don’t think I’ll be able to throw away my Carmex just yet.

Kudos to the creator of Lip Balm Anonymous, Kevin Crossman, who went cold turkey and has been without lip balm for 16 years! I should be so brave!

Do you suffer from lip balm dependency? If so, share your habits and nightmares in our comments section.


Other Resources

Lip Balm Anonymous (web site) and Facebook page

Leave a comment