As a cold-water surfer and sailor from West Coast Canada, I have felt the wrath that harsh weather can inflict upon unprotected lips. To prevent or treat the effects that occur due to foul weather, lifestyle, or diet, I always include one of the best medicated chapstick into my morning routine.
What Is a Medicated Lip Balm?
I can hear your eyebrows furrowing with that term, ‘medicated lip balm,’ from over here. So what exactly do I mean when I say this? A medicated lip balm differs from that of a conventional lip balm mainly due to its inclusion of medicinally active ingredients and intended purpose.
Another common question here is whether or not all medicated lip balms include harsh and potentially harmful ingredients. The answer to that is a big NO. Many medicated lip balms on the market are produced with active plant extracts as their medicinal ingredients. Now, that’s not to say that all-natural products are safe. As with any product that you are applying to the largest organ in your body, your skin, there are still many factors to consider before purchase or use.
When to Turn to Medicated Lip Balm?
So why exactly are our lips more susceptible to becoming cracked and dry than the rest of our skin? Our lips simply don’t contain oil glands. They are left without the protective layer of oils that our skin has, the layer necessary to keep the skin smooth and discourage pathogens. Without this important defense mechanism, our lips are much more likely to suffer when left neglected.
Besides the fact that our lips are designed without protective layers, there are many other internal and external factors to consider when searching for the root of your cheilitis, commonly known as chapped lips.
(Look for lip balms with SPF and Aloe Vera & without citrus oils listed in the ingredients)
Cracked, dry, or painful lips are most often the result of exposure to intense wind or weather, may it be blistering heat or blizzarding cold. Although there is nothing to be done to control the weather in your community, there are still solutions to minimize the effects that your weather system has upon your lips.
- Purchase a humidifier for your home to increase the humidity levels
- Wear scarves that cover your lips during harsh winter days or on the ski hills
- Always remember to apply a form of SPF to your lips, winter or summer!
(Look for lip balms with Shea Butter, Coconut Oil and Aloe Vera listed in the ingredients)
It’s no secret that our bodies are composed of up to 60% water. When your body loses more fluids than you are feeding it, that level drops; this occurs through sweating, urinating, defecating, vomiting, and even crying.
As your body loses water, you are also losing electrolytes, such as salt and potassium. These electrolytes are essential to maintaining the systems in your body that allow it to breathe, move, and just plain function.
- Replacing lost potassium is possible through diet with the following foods:
- Sweet potatoes
- Coconut water (fastest and most hydrating source!)
But how do you know if you are dehydrated? By the time dehydration symptoms appear, you may already be down 5% to 6% of your body weight! At this point, you may begin to see the following symptoms:
- Increased thirst
- Dry skin
- Bad breath
- Muscle cramps
- Reduced output and darkening of urine
- Sugar cravings (due to the livers difficulty breaking down and releasing glucose)
Experiencing these symptoms may nudge you to grab a glass of water, but a person can actually lose 3% to 4% of their body weight before even experiencing any symptoms related to dehydration. For this reason alone it is always a good idea to drink up before the thirst kicks in to keep those lips luscious from the inside out!
(Look for lip balms without tasty ingredients)
Soft, supple lips are definitely something to drool over, but to obtain these qualities, you’ll have to take a hiatus on the drooling and lip licking yourself. It’s natural to think that licking your dry lips will add moisture to them, however, this is exactly the opposite of what you should be doing. When the saliva on your lips evaporates, it leaves your lips even drier than before.
(Look for lip balms with nutrient-dense botanical or mushroom extracts in the ingredients)
What may look to you as superficially cracked and dry lips may very well have a deeper source. When our bodies are lacking in nutrients, they may present in a multitude of ways- one of them being cracks along the corners of the mouth. This occurs when we are deficient in a range of B-vitamins (B2 Riboflavin, B6 Pyridoxine, B9 Folic Acid, B12 Cobalamin), Zinc, and Iron.
Replenishing your body with these vitamins is possible through a balanced diet including the following foods:
- Whole grains
- Organ meats
- Green vegetables
- Starchy vegetables
- Nuts and Seeds
HSV-1 (Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1, commonly known as Cold Sores)
(Look for lip balms with Lavender, Fresh Lemonbalm, and St. John’s Wort listed in the ingredients)
Cold sores occur due to a common viral infection, oro-facial herpes simplex virus (HSV-1), which infects approximately 80% of the population before adulthood. Once contracted, this virus lies dormant in the trigeminal nerve until outbreaks occur, after which point it will return to its dormancy until reactivated.
This virus manifests as several small fluid-filled blisters on and around the lips, which will eventually break into open, painful sores and begin to produce scabs. The healing process may last between 2 to 3 weeks, most often resulting in no permanent scarring.
Cold sores are contagious and spread between people through close contact and kissing. When you notice active cold sores appearing, one crucial thing to remember is to refrain from using tubed lip balm. Applying lip balm directly to your lips and affected area contaminates the lip balm, enabling the virus to spread as you reapply. Instead, opt for a tin of lip balm where it’s possible to apply with your finger- just be sure to wash your hands immediately before and after every application.
Although there is no cure for cold sores at present, there are several pharmaceutical and botanical extracts as well as lifestyle guidelines that assist in the prevention, management, and healing of outbreaks.
Some Key Lifestyle Guidelines to Consider to Minimize Outbreaks and Duration Include:
- Maintaining a strong immune system
- Meditation and stress reduction
- Limiting excess UV exposure
- Working with a nutritionist or consume a healthy, balanced, and nutrient-rich diet
- Working with a professionally trained herbalist for internal preventative treatments
Some Key Ingredients to Look For in a Lip Balm Include:
- Lavender (Lavandula officinalis) essential oil
- Fresh Lemonbalm (Melissa officinalis) extract
- St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) extract
Your Current Lip Balm!
(Look for lip balms without menthol or alcohol listed in the ingredients)
Could your current lip balm be causing more harm than good? The simple answer, YES! Although it is not your intention, the lip balm that you continue to apply on the hour every hour could be the culprit itself. The demand for lip balms today is huge, and therefore so is the supply- but not all are created equal.
Whip out your current lip balm and take a good look at those ingredients listed on the tube, and you may discover a plethora of ingredients that are just plain harmful to you and your lips.
Which Ingredients Should You Avoid In a Lip Balm?
Ingredients can be tricky to navigate- from words that you have never heard of or cannot even pronounce to sly attempts of hiding full ingredients under alias names. Although I simply cannot include every adverse ingredient to avoid when shopping for your next lip balm, below is a list of ingredients and additives commonly found in lip balms that I recommend steering clear of if possible.
Peppermint / Menthol, Camphor, & Eucalyptus
I must admit- peppermint is actually my personal favorite flavor of lip balm. The cool and refreshing feeling that it offers can’t be harmful, can it? It turns out if you are suffering from a case of chapped lips, these cooling ingredients are better avoided as they can actually have a drying effect!
This is a common ingredient in plumping lip balms. Cinnamon acts as a blood circulation stimulant and irritant, causing blood to rush to the surface of your lips. The inflammation that this creates is what gives the illusion of more plump lips. Although this may be inflicted intentionally, it is best avoided if you have sensitive or already damaged lips.
Another popular flavor! Unfortunately, citrus may make your lips more susceptible to harmful UV rays.
Petroleum (Mineral Oil or Petroleum Jelly)
This ingredient is produced through the use of synthetic chemicals, making it very likely to be contaminated by these ingredients themselves. Petroleum and petroleum by-products do not actually penetrate your lips, it simply coats them. Once you have licked off and ingested this chemically contaminated layer of petroleum (Ew!), your lips are back to being vulnerable to all environmental hazards.
Although this common ingredient acts as an emollient, essentially softening your lips- this fatty substance is actually ‘wool grease’. Created from sheepskin or hair, many studies have found it to contain several pesticide residues which accumulate in fat tissue and breast milk. As it is a by-product of wool, it also induces many people to suffer allergic reactions.
Likely to be one of the first ingredients found in most lip balms, parabens are known to sensitize the skin and elevate cellular damage due to UV exposure. Parabens are also added as flavors or fragrances used to make lip balms more ‘tasty’.
A common preservative that has been tested and proven to have carcinogenic effects, this one is another no-brainer to avoid.
Sunscreens in lip balm, yes please! Harmful chemically-made sunscreens on my lips, no thanks! Oxybenzone is a sunscreen created from chemicals and is a known endocrine disruptor associated with endometriosis in women! It is better to steer clear from this one too.
Phenol / Phenyl (Or any type of alcohol)
These bad boys right here offer the illusion of cooling effects upon your lips. The reality is that they are irritants that also may have the ability to remove thin layers of the skin on your lips, leaving them susceptible to further damage and discomfort in the long term.
This antioxidant is best left on the shelf as it is a common culprit of allergic contact dermatitis.
Which Ingredients Should You Seek In a Lip Balm?
It seems as if there are so many ingredients to be wary of when looking for a lip balm that will actually benefit you, but the reality is that there are more and more natural and effective brands on the market every day. There are healthier, more valuable ingredients for all of those nasty ingredients just waiting to be discovered by you. When searching for your medicated lip balm, be sure to keep your eyes peeled for these favorable ingredients!
These hydrophilic (water-loving) ingredients naturally hydrate your skin by attracting moisture from the environment to your skin’s surface, keeping your lips moisturized and soft. A few great examples of these include:
- Hyaluronic acid
- Aloe Vera
- Avocado Oil
Fatty acids (plant-based)
Ingredients in this category often act as emollients (keep moisture within) or emulsifiers (stabilizing and thickening agents). Very often, both actions can be found within one ingredient. Some key beneficial emollients and emulsifiers are:
- Avocado oil
- Coconut oil
- Jojoba seed oil
- Cocoa butter
- Mango Butter
- Shea butter
- Candelilla wax
Our lips do not have the ability to produce melanin at the same rate or levels as the rest of our skin. This means that they require an additional boost to block potentially harmful UV rays. This is possible with the addition of natural SPFs; just be aware that the amount of UV protection varies widely among the following potential ingredients:
- Zinc oxide
- Titanium oxide
- Coconut oil
- Almond oil
- Red raspberry seed oil
- Carrot seed oil
- Olive oil
- Shea butter
Herbal infused oils are a great way to amp up the medicinal content of any lip balm without bombarding the product with an array of additional ingredients. Since most lip balms require oil in their recipe, look for those with an oil infusion containing, but certainly not limited to, the following (specific to desired use and outcome):
- Marigold (Calendula Officinalis)
- Plantain (Plantago spp.)
- Marshmallow (Althaea Officinalis)
- Lemonbalm (Melissa Officinalis)
- St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum)
- Lavender (Lavandula Officinalis)
- Hemp (Cannabis sativa)
An extremely beneficial way to include medicinal ingredients in lip balm without adding artificial flavors and fragrances is essential oils! Essential oils are very potent. Not all essential oils are safe for ingestion and not all essential oils will have the desired effect (some even opposite!) that you wish for in a lip balm, as discussed above. The following is a list of popular and beneficial essential oils that may make their way onto the label of your next lip balm:
- Lavender (Lavandula officinalis)
- Vanilla (Vanilla planifolia)
- Rose (Rosa spp.)
- Rose geranium (Pelargonium roseum)
- Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)
- Jasmine (Jasminum grandiflorum)
- Frankincense (Boswellia serrata)
Recommended Lip Balms
Dr. Bronner Organic Lip Balm ‘Naked’ Scent
My personal favorite! I turn to Dr. Bronner for a multitude of products due to their simplicity and the effectiveness of chosen ingredients. As an international traveler, the biggest advantages here are the low price tag, consistency of product, and absolute ease to find and buy in almost every health store!
Henne Organics Luxury Lip Balm V2
For when you want to feel high class every time you whip out that lip nutrition!
Osmia Lip Doctor
This one is for the most sensitive lips when all hope seems lost- check out this bad boy!
Sallye Ander Rescue Me Intensive Balm
Packed full of natural goodness, this is a balm to carry with you for every occasion! Not only does this balm work wonders for your lips, but you will also be amazed at how diverse the applications can be made.
(Yes, it does contain some intense essential oils, so do use your own discretion at whether or not this is the appropriate lip balm for you. If you have sensitive and damaged lips, perhaps opt for the more sensitive options mentioned. For those looking for some hardcore protection on their lips, however, this is your jam!)
Lipster Medicated Lip Balm
Formulated by two pharmacists, this vegan lip balm contains natural ingredients- plus hydrocortisone for those who really need a helping hand overcoming their painfully chapped lips.
Not every medicated lip balm is produced equally. There are many formulas and recipes on the market- some more effective than others and not all addressing the same ailment. When choosing the right medicated lip balm for you, it is wise to first research the ingredients that are appropriate for your concern.
Once you have found your gem, it is advised to drink adequate fluids, make appropriate lifestyle changes, and include either your gem of a medicated lip balm or an appropriate protective lip balm into your daily routine to not find yourself back at square one some weeks down the road.
Just as you take the appropriate measures to keep your skin clear, your teeth strong, and your body healthy- it is just as important to maintain one of the key focal points upon your face- your lips!
- How to Find the Best Medicated Chapstick for Your Cracked Lips - July 27, 2021