The innocuous looking lip balm may not be as innocent looking as one regards it to be. In fact many global brands use synthetic chemicals. Most of the brands have ingredients that have been genetically modified with the use of pesticides. These pesticide inclusive products usually find their way into the blood, through the skin that is an extremely porous organ. In addition, most products have been tested on animals. Lip balm is more often than not ingested, and can pass through the fine layer of the lips.
Lip balms are a booming industry these days and gone are the days when people would rub a little home made ‘butter’ or milk cream on their lips and get baby soft lips. Today such home made recipes are passé, not because the home made recipes have stopped working or women have lost faith in them. The real reason is that they are no longer convenient to women who have entered professional spheres and need products that can fit into their hand bags and go places.
Lip Balm-Various Uses
The basic purpose of a lip balm is to sooth chapped dry lips and give relief to the wearer from bleeding lips, broken lip skins and sometimes even cold sores, angular cheilitis and stomatitis. It helps keep the lips in a moisturized state by forming a protective layer on the surface so that the ill effects of the cold, harsh and polluting environment do not reduce the lips to a dry and shriveled state.
Lip balms are today enriched with not only wax based emollients, but are also enhanced with vitamins, sunscreen and some pigmentation, similar to what is added to lipsticks, to produce tinted lip balms. This is a much sought after product as it keeps the lips well protected and also adds some colour to them. In addition lip balms also come out in edible flavours and at times also have ingredients added that produce a cooling and soothing effect, like the Maybelline Minty Lip balm. All these have elevated the ordinary lip balm to a place of importance.
Much before they were available commercially, using petroleum as its base, lip balms were made by people in their homes, albeit in small quantities. This was due to the fact that such balms did not have preservatives and were prone to get stale and decayed. Most of these balms were made by using bees wax as the base and heating it with some oil. Jojoba oil was the most favoured until the softening properties of the shea butter was found. This concoction was then cooled and used to apply over the lips to form a protective layer over the thin lip skin. Lip balms decreased the emergence of wrinkles, evened out the skin around the mouth, and thus helped retain the shape of the mouth. Lip balms, therefore, were as much of a beauty aid as it was a necessity to keep away dry, cut chapped skin.
In India, which has a history of using natural formulae for almost all types of ailments and beauty regimes, lip balms too were made using all natural ingredients. What is indeed praiseworthy of these formulae is that they can stand their own against any of the commercially available products. In fact in terms of quality the age old natural recipes score much higher as they were bereft of side effects. The natural lip balms that were used usually were non-fussy and involved the use of a single cream based ingredient like ghee, milk cream, honey, crushed rose petals mixed with honey, glycerine, juice of the aloe-vera plant or oils such as castor oil or coconut oil or almond oil.
Petroleum-based Lip Balm
The first lip balm that was commercially available was the Chapstick made by Dr. C.D Fleet in the early 1880s. However he did not have much success with this product.
This ChapStick was then improved upon in the year 1912 by John Morton who brought the rights to the product from Dr. Fleet for $5. He then melted the product, poured it into cylindrical moulds and then cut these into little sticks after cooling. Thus the original formula, in a repackaged version was sold in the market.
In 1963, the A.H Robbins Company took over the rights of the chapstick from the Morton Company and proceeded to market the same product with some changes; they introduced the chapstick in four different flavours. In 1981 sunblock was also added to the chap stick so that it would not only moisturize the skin but also prevent the lip skin from the effects of the Sun. Hence ChapStick Sun Block 15 was introduced in the market.
In 1985 petroleum jelly was further added to make the chapstick more potent. It not only protected the skin but also provided a glossy, shiny effect. The ChapStick Petroleum Jelly Plus lip balm was introduced in Regular, Sunblock 15, and Cherry-flavored varieties. These were packaged in convenient squeezable tubes and were very popular.
By 1992 medicated lip balms entered the market and were available in the stick form, squeezable tube form and in tiny jars.
Another lip balm that grew immensely popular and was also petroleum based was the Carmex brand, the pioneer of which was Alfred Woelbing. The principal ingredient of this lipbalm was lanolin. The product went into production problems during World War II as lanolin was rationed and usually reserved for the military to prevent their equipment from getting rusted and out of working condition. However Carmex brand became intensely popular after 1957 and has not looked back since then.
Blistex, another lip balm using petroleum as its base was first manufactured in 1947 and its version with in-built sun block is very popular across the world. Today Blistex sells in over 70 countries and their Blistex Ultra Protection lip balm with SPF 30 is a very preferred option for most women.
Many brands have been introduced lately that not only smooth the skin, provide protection from the cold and harsh conditions but also offer the very important feel-good-factor that is very vital for any cosmetic product. These days, flavours range from strawberry, orange, mint, berry, grape and lemon to more exotic flavours of chocolate, tangerine, Japanese green tea and even ginger. They also have sunprotection factors built into them as also pigmentation and high sheen. Vitamins E and C are also added to make the lip balm a truly wholesome product.
In India lip balm made by Hindustan Lever Limited, and sold under the brand name Vaseline Intensive Care, dominated the market for a long time. These days’ major cosmetic houses also have a range of lip balms, such as Maybelline, Lotus Herbals, Oriflame, Avon, Chambor etc.
Lip balms have two kinds of ingredients. One, that are active and two, that are inactive. Among the inactive ingredients are beeswax, camphor, cetyl alchohol and cetyl palmitate, candellila wax, added flavours, lanolin, lanolin oil, menthol, mineral oil, petrolatum, polybutene, propylparaben, paraffin, red6lake,theobroma, cocoa seed butter and titanium di-oxide.
The active ingredients that are used are dimethicone, oxybenzone and padimate. The former is used as a skin protectant. It is this that gives the moisturizing abilities and protects the skin. The later are essentially sunscreens.
Herbal lip balms have been introduced into the market these days by certain brands as Himalaya Herbals, Biotique, Lotus Herbals , Shehnaaz Hussain, VLCC and many more. Since the herbal cosmetic revolution has come about, there are innumerable brands that have entered the market. However many among them are not really very safe. They are often misleading and often carry much of the same ingredients that are found in those that are non-herbal. So how does the consumer shield himself from these spurious and fake products?
For one, information is very necessary. People ought to know what is there in the products they use and the harm their ingredients can do. Unfortunately, this kind of information is very difficult to come by. For lip balms, the ingredients are more or less the same for all brands except for the flavours or vitamins or other such additions. Those which are herbal usually contain a blend of castor oil, which is used to relieve inflammation of the skin and mucous membrane. Coconut oil that is known for its healing and softening properties is also used. Other oils that are used are oils that trap moisture and provide vitamins to the soft skin of the lips. For example Godhuma oil has potent antioxidant properties and is a good source of Vitamin E. Cocoa butter, caramel, cocoa powder, allantain, glycerine along with beeswax and olive oil which are considered very good in their moisturizing abilities.
Herbal brands are not bland and also have natural sunscreens included. Like carrot seed oil is added to provide protection against the Sun. Since the lip balms also work towards relieving conditions of herpes or cold sores, leaves such as the sweet Indrajao leaves are used for their anti bacterial and astringent properties. The oils are blended together and then allowed to go cold. They are then packed into little tubes or rolled out in a stick form so as to increase its aesthetic value. Herbal based lip balms are perhaps the next best thing, after home made recipes that one can use to get soft and moisturized lips.
Lip Balms and Safety Standards
The most toxic product that a lip balm contains is Petrolatum. Derived from petrol, it is very easy to see why it is an ingredient that is a known carcinogen. In fact petrolatum is a much used product that has been in vogue for almost a decade. Petrolatum has been linked to breast cancer and ovarine cancer. However this has not deterred manufacturers from desisting from its use.
Other such ingredients that are toxic are mineral oil, saccharin, camphor, flavours, wax-white and carnuba, octyldodecanol, wax paraffin, added flavours, sun screen emollients such as oxybenzol and Red#6 Barium Lake. Lanolin that is also used is a derivative from sheep’s bladder and as such the oil is known to cause allergies. Saccharin is also known to be carcinogenic.
Padimate O is a penetration enhancer and this ensures that not only do the lips receive adequate protection and deep moisturization, it also ensures that the toxic, carcinogenic products also penetrate and go deep down into the skin.
Salycylic acid, often found in some brands, such as Carmex is very unsafe because the acid is a known exfoliant that is it removes the skin. For lips that need creamy emollients, this is indeed bad news. Phenol is an anti bacterial agent and should ideally not be used on a daily basis as it leaves the skin drier.
Often lip balms also have menthol, camphor and phenol which give it a cool, tingling sensation, “much like drinking water”. However these ingredients dry out the lips and the wearer is forced to put on the balm again. This leads to a condition that can be described as a simple addiction. This is because the lip balm induces cravings (the wearer cannot stay long without wearing it and lips become dry; person constantly licks the lips); produces withdrawal symptoms (the wearer longs for the cool, moist sensations that is produced by the lip balm) and this addiction does not require medical intervention. Hence lip balms can also be mildly addictive due to the substances included in them.
Most of the products that have such ingredients are definitely unsafe for human use and manufacturers are allowed to get away with the inclusion of such toxins in their product. In fact most of the ingredients do cross the minimum toxin levels that are allowed by the government dictated safety norms.
Hence it is of utmost important to do away with products that put consumer health at risk. There are a number of organic products available. It is best to buy products that specify ‘organic’ which means that the ingredients do not carry pesticides.
The best alternative is however products that are all natural and oily in their formulations. Most of the people hailing from older generations do carry with them age old recipes that promise beautiful skin minus any side effects. Glycerine, honey, crushed rose petals, shea butter, extracts of the aloe-vera plant and milk cream all were ingredients that were used on the lips to decrease lines and continue to give the mouth its definition and elasticity. These are easy to procure and are also non-fussy.
Recipes for making lip balm at home
- Grate cocoa butter.
- Add to this, roughly chopped shea butter.
- Add to this beeswax and any oil like vanilla,peppermint, almond, coconut or olive oil. The last three ingredients are the best that one can use.
- Heat the mixture.
- For added flavour one can add some melted chocolate or honey so that the concoction tastes sweet.
- Cool and refrigerate.
- The look and the amount of the balm might change or ‘dip’. In such a case one can keep some aside and spoon it in afterwards. Use this lip balm which is full of goodness minus any side effects.
Lip Balm- Not Just Mere Lip Service
Lip care is not a very time consuming process and a few moments of application of a lip balm is all that is required to shield it from the harsh weather and environmental conditions. The only time that lips need serious looking after is when a person is afflicted with herpes. This would require a proper course of antibiotics and a topical application such as a medicated lip balm like M.A.C Medicated Lip Treatment. In such cases a person should be doubly sure of the product she is putting on her lips so as to not aggravate matters.
The picture is not so bleak and if there are products that are hazardous, there are also many lip balms that are within the regulated safety standards. The emergence of herbal lip balms is also good news for most women who see a lip balm more as a cosmetic necessity than as a luxury.
- Is Lip Balm Addictive?