“I’m totally addicted to ChapStick,” said a bazillion people since forever. If you’re one of the many who apply lip balm dozens of times throughout the day, some well-meaning friend has probably accused you of having a ChapStick addiction.
Before heading off in search of a support group or trying to quit lip care products cold turkey, know there’s no such thing as a lip balm addiction — at least not physiologically speaking. Still, it could become a habit that causes some distress.
If you frequently apply lip balm, you’ve likely developed a habit. This is a learned behavior you engage in instinctively (meaning you don’t really think about it).
Addiction, on the other hand, is a chronic disease involving the brain. It causes an intense craving for the substance or behavior, leading to the compulsive or obsessive pursuit of it despite negative consequences.
For many, putting on ChapStick is just an automatic habit, much like brushing your teeth when you wake up or putting on a coat when it’s cold out.
If you’re overdoing it, chances are someone has mentioned how often you apply ChapStick.
Here are some other signs and symptoms that you may be using it excessively:
- You carry it with you wherever you go.
- You go out of your way to get it, even if it means you’ll be late.
- You have lip balms stashed all over the place, like your bag, your desk, the car, etc.
- You spend a lot of money on it.
- You have trouble concentrating if you’re not able to apply it.
These could all be signs of a potential behavioral addiction or a habit that might be getting out of control.
Lip balm conspiracy theorists believe lip balm companies purposely include certain ingredients to force a person to use more by drying out their lips.
But most people who use a product that doesn’t do what it’s supposed to are far more likely to go buy something else. Not exactly smart business.
Still, some folks may be extra sensitive to certain ingredients. To get the most out of a lip balm and avoid drying out your lips, choose products that don’t contain potentially irritating or drying ingredients.
Common culprits to watch for may include:
If you’re looking to rein in your lip balm use, try this three-step strategy:
- Identify your triggers. This is the first step in breaking any habit. Do you tend to apply it more often when you’re feeling stressed? Do you reach for it constantly when you’re hungry? When you apply it, stop and think about what you’re feeling and why you’re applying it.
- Do something about the triggers. Now that you know what your triggers are, it’s time to deal with them. For example, if you know that having a stressful day at work is a trigger, don’t keep lip balm with you at work. Leave it at home or out in your car.
- Find a substitute. We don’t mean a different brand or flavor of lip balm. Create a different plan to deal with your trigger. Instead of applying ChapStick, have a drink of water or get up and take a walk, even if just a few steps. Over time, this substitute will become its own habit.
If you find that your lip balm use is causing extreme distress, consider reaching out to a mental health professional.
You shouldn’t go through any physical withdrawal, no matter what you’ve read on the internet. Your lips won’t shrivel up and fall off. They won’t crust over from extreme dryness.
Lip balm doesn’t contain any addictive substances. Using it excessively doesn’t cause the lips and surrounding area to stop producing natural moisture.
At the most, you may be hyperaware of your bare lips, much like you’d be aware of how naked you are if you stopped wearing clothes. It’s not withdrawal; it’s just doing something new or different from what you’ve grown accustomed to.
Applying lip balm a few times a day to keep your lips moisturized when they’re chapped isn’t a bad thing.
But if your lips aren’t actually dry or cracked, taking care of your lips to prevent drying can help eliminate the need for excessive lip balm application.
To keep your lips healthy and moisturized:
- Protect your lips against sun damage with products containing SPF 30 or higher when outdoors.
- Avoid licking your lips, which is extremely irritating.
- Avoid rubbing, picking at, and unnecessarily touching your lips.
- Apply petroleum jelly (Vaseline), which can help keep moisture in.
- Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
- Avoid products that cause your lips to tingle or sting (even if they say that’s a sign it’s working — it’s actually a sign of irritation).
- Use a humidifier at home, especially in the bedroom if you sleep with your mouth open.
You can’t be physically addicted to ChapStick. Even if you feel like you’re missing a limb when you don’t have any with you, it’s more likely that it’s a habit rather than a true addiction.
There are plenty of ways to keep your lips moisturized and get rid of chapped lips without reaching for a lip balm. If your lips are always dry and cracked, consider talking to a dermatologist.