Research Paper: Chapstick Is Addicting

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Chap Stick is Addictive: A Persuasive Argument

Everyone has used it at some point in his or her life. Winter sets in, the cold weather cracks lips, and one picks up what he thinks is a harmless tube of ChapStick. The only problem is that ChapStick may not be so harmless. In fact, many people (from average teens to dermatologists) are now viewing ChapStick as an addictive agent that may even damage lips more than it protects them. This paper will show why and how ChapStick can be viewed as dangerous addictive despite arguments that suggest it is not.

The Truth about Lip Balm

Generically known as lip balm, this waxy substance that comes in all varieties of scents and flavors has been available through a number of brands for quite some time: there is Blistex, Lip Smacker, Avon, Nivea, Vaseline, Carmex, Burt's Bees, and of course ChapStick.

But the history of lip balm goes back to a physician named Dr. C.D. Fleet, who merchandised ChapStick at the end of the 19th century in a form that resembled a candlestick. By the 1930s, ChapStick was facing competition from Carmex -- "a salve for chapped lips and cold sores…[consisting of] menthol, camphor, alum and wax."

Throughout the decades, these lip balm competitors have seen others join the free market world; they have seen new twists on the wax stick, new additives, new crazes.

But what exactly do these lip balms do? That is something to which Dr. Nicholas Perricone has an answer. Perricone is a dermatologist at Yale. In 2000, he told the Daily Herald, "What happens with continued use of lip balm is we're putting a message on the surface of the skin that says to the base of the skin, 'Do not proliferate. Do not double. Do not grow as rapidly as you normally do,' because the signal is saying, 'Close down, we're sealed on top.'"

The message to which Perricone is referring is the one that comes from lip balm when it is applied to lips: it sends a message to the skin of the lips and that message is, "Stop growing!": "We can alter the way the skin grows from the basal layer to the surface by applying something to the surface."

That means lip balm is actually preventing lips doing something that they do naturally -- exfoliate.

The head of dermatology at Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore concurs. Dr. Monte Meltzer opposes those who say lip balm does not have serious side effects for those who use it. According to Dr. Meltzer, "lip balm often includes ingredients that cause a tingling, such as salicylic acid, phenol and menthol. Some of these are exfoliants that cause lips to peel. In turn, the lips become thinner and less able to protect against the elements. So people need to apply again, and the vicious cycle continues."

The less dead-skin tissue there is, says Meltzer, the more the lips are going to tingle because without that tissue they are more sensitive to elements as slight as air.

"If it was addictive, the FDA wouldn't let us sell it."

Paul Woelbing, grandson of the founder of the lab that created Carmex, threw his two cents into the debate when he told the Associate Press in 2006: "That's a rumor that's been going on for decades. If it was addictive, the FDA wouldn't let us sell it."

The problem with Woelbing's testimony is that 1) there is an obvious conflict of interest (after all, Carmex is a hundred million dollar product each year), and 2) it places a lot of undeserved trust on the Food and Drug Administration. This is the same FDA that approved GMO (genetically modified organisms) because the President of the United States signed an executive order in the White House declaring that no one could test the genetically-altered food products of Monsanto, the St. Louis-based biotech corporation that then went and introduced all its genetically-altered seeds into the American mainstream.

This is the same FDA that allows Big Pharma to sell drugs like Gardasil despite public outcry from doctors who say things like "there have been no efficacy trials," and researchers who testified that "the risk of adverse side effects is so much greater than the risk of cervical cancer, I couldn't help but question why we need the vaccine at all."

So, Woelbing's testimony that lip balm is okay is not particularly efficacious.

Or there is Julia Feldmeier, who wrote for The Washington Post in 2008, "The thing is, lip balm isn't addictive. Not really. Nothing in these products actually drives us to be physiologically dependent on them." While that may be true, it is a superficial analysis of lip balm addiction. An addiction is simply a habit that cannot be broken -- and it does not have to be caused by the product itself. The lip balm itself may not contain something like nicotine (if that is what Feldmeier is driving at), but that does not mean using lip balm cannot become addictive. What makes it such a strong habit to break can be no more complex than that which makes any compulsive-obsessive do something over and over again. Addiction, after all, starts in the person. And using ChapStick habitually can very quickly turn into an addiction, as any number of lip balm addicts will testify. The problem with those who oppose the notion that lip balm can become addictive is the sheer fact that it sounds like an absurd premise. Yet, we live in the age of Absurdity. The Theater of the Absurd has been around for over half a century. We have network news channels that broadcast absurdity twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. The only absurdity in this story is that some people refuse to acknowledge a simple psychological condition known as obsessive-compulsive disorder can be the endgame of lip balm use.

Dr. Charles Zugerman admits that the "addiction is not physiological…It's a psychological addiction because it feels good."

What Zugerman does try to stress is that lip balm does not harm the lips. That may be true in one sense -- but in another sense, is it good to continually thwart the natural processes of your body?

The Addicts

There is Kevin Crossman, creator of Lip Balm Anonymous -- a website dedicated to helping lip balm addicts kick the habit -- who states that "I went through a lot of pain and suffering because of my need for lip balm…I found myself waking up in the middle of the night searching for it."

Crossman has not collected any empirical data or performed any scientific studies of what makes lip balm addictive: all he knows is that people get addicted -- and that is all he needs to know: "I can say the medicated lip balms are used to treat cold sores, not dry lips. This causes the lips to dry out, making the person think they need more. Also, with flavored lip balms, people find them fun and exciting."

Yet, stating the obvious is not what Lip Balm Anonymous (LBA) is all about. LBA is for people who realize they lack the kind of self-control that Montessori tried to get her children to learn in school. LBA is for people who, like Crossman himself, find themselves waking in the middle of the night, craving something they know they don't really need. Says Crossman: "First, I think it's important for people to notice if they have any bad habits, like licking your lips…If your lips are still chapped, see a medical professional. We at LBA realize there are people who can use lip balm socially and on and an as needed basis. We just want to raise awareness for people that can't stop and become addicted."

As Crossman reports on his website, "Dr. Holly Phillips appeared on CBS' The Early Show and agrees that lip balm is addictive. The doctor believes there is both a psychological as well as physical component, especially with medicated lip balms. Flavored lip balms also encourage lip licking, an effect the doctor calls 'a vicious cycle.'"

Such a vicious cycle appears to be the case for Kara C. who write on LBA:

I really did not think I had an addition until I took the quiz because I am on Accutane and if I don't put any on for a few hours my lips crack and bleed and I have always had dry skin on every wear except my face (which is extremliy oily) with on exception my lips which were usually dry and I have dandruff because of a dry scalp and a rash becuse my skin is so dry (this started two day affter going on Accutane) and I usually forget to put any on until they crack but I put it on a lot and if I lose mine I just have to buy another and I put it on no matter were I am except on stage. & #8230;So do I have… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Chapstick Is Addicting.  (2011, December 3).  Retrieved August 17, 2019, from

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"Chapstick Is Addicting."  3 December 2011.  Web.  17 August 2019. <>.

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"Chapstick Is Addicting."  December 3, 2011.  Accessed August 17, 2019.