Lips are fragile. They’re thin skinned and lack stratum corneum (the outermost layer that protects the epidermis) so they’re more susceptible to damage from the elements. That means we need to protect them with safe and effective products.
In my early 20s, I started making my own lip balm. I wasn’t at all concerned about melting and mixing beeswax and petroleum jelly and slathering the concoction on my lips. (I mean, I grew up in a family that thought nothing of slathering on Vaseline to treat everything from diaper rashes to scrapes to dry skin.)
But then someone I knew told me that petroleum jelly is made from the residue that forms on oil rigs. Yuck. That propelled me to learn more about undesirable ingredients in lip balms. And here’s what I found.
Petroleum Jelly and Mineral Oil
Petroleum jelly and mineral oil are derived from oil refining and are often contaminated with things like polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and 1,4-dioxane, both probable carcinogens. Because both these products readily penetrate the skin, by using lip balms with these ingredients, you are inviting these contaminants into your body.
Humectants—like glycerin and hyaluronic acid—aren’t great. They will pull moisture out of the skin, especially when it’s really dry out. That moisture that rises to the surface will evaporate, leaving you with ever drier lips. That said, if you choose a lip balm that also has shea butter or beeswax in it, that will act as a physical barrier to the moisture loss caused by humectants.
Parabens—like methylparaben and butylparaben—can penetrate the skin and act like a very weak estrogen in the body. There is evidence that they can possibly turn on the growth of hormone-receptor-positive breast cancers. In fact, parabens have been found in breast tissue and tumours. Scarily, studies have shown that methylparaben may also diminish the effectiveness of the breast cancer drug Tamoxifen.
Synthetic Dyes and Colours
Synthetic colours—like FD&C Blue 1 and Red 33—often include things like coat tar and heavy metal salts that deposit toxins on your lips. You could experience skin sensitivity and irritation but worse still, animal studies are showing that almost all FD&C colours are carcinogenic.
Fragrance and Flavour
Unfortunately, there are no laws that require manufacturers to include the actual ingredients for fragrances and flavours. While these ingredients could be natural and safe, the reverse is also true. Without transparency, it’s best to avoid lip balms that might smell and taste good but have “hidden” chemicals.
Now that we have the list of ingredients to avoid, where do we turn for a badass balm?
I started using etee’s Jumbo Lip Balm a few months ago and my lips are hooked. It gives me tons of moisture—without the muck.
I love that the packaging is plastic-free but I really love the simple and safe ingredients:
💋 Organic coconut oil
💋 Organic cocoa butter
💋 Organic beeswax
💋 Essential oils
And now, there are two great flavours to choose from: Cocoa Mint and the just-launched Grapefruit.
I’m just waiting to get my order of the Grapefruit Jumbo Lip Balm so I can compare and contrast—and declare my favourite!