What is Lip Balm and How Often Should You Apply It?
Lip balm is one of the more ubiquitous skin care products in our modern lives, but it's also something that very few people actually give any thought to. Indeed, most folks just grab whatever Chapstick is readily available and think they’re set.
But in reality, there are multiple types of lip balm products and different things to consider as you start using lip balm consistently. For instance, did you know that there is such a thing as applying too much lip balm, even if you have dry lips?
Understanding exactly what lip balm is, and how often you should apply it, will go a long way toward ensuring you get the most use out of these helpful lip products.
What is Lip Balm?
In a nutshell, every lip balm product is designed to do one thing: protect your lips. A given type of lip balm might do this in any number of ways depending on its ingredients and its intended use.
Lip balm can:
- Moisturize dry lips and dry skin
- Act as a sunscreen if there's SPF in the formula
- Support overall lip health
A lip balm product is usually comprised of at least two active ingredients or agents: a moisturizing element (also called an emollient or humectant) like petroleum jelly, glycerin, lanolin, or shea butter, and a wax ingredient that helps the formula actually stick to your lips. The resulting balm should be easy to spread across your lips a few times to provide lasting protection and moisture, depending on your needs.
Regardless of the ingredients used in the formula, all lip balm products work in essentially the same way. When you rub lip balm on your lips, the formula’s ingredients produce what’s called an “occlusive” layer of material. This creates a seal that prevents moisture from escaping the skin of your lips. Lip balm’s occlusive layer is effective since dry air and cold temperatures gradually draw moisture away from your skin. This layer prevents the moisture from escaping in the first place, helping lips to stay healthy.
Most people end up needing lip balm at one point or another because the skin of the lips is particularly thin compared to everywhere else on your body.
Lip balm is typically applied using a small tube like those used for lipstick. However, you can also use lip balm from jars or small tins, and apply it straight to your lips using your fingertips.
Lip Balm vs Chapstick
Many people use the terms lip balm and Chapstick interchangeably. But the truth is, that Chapstick is just a brand of lip balm. The reason it’s used interchangeably with the categorical product name is that Chapstick was the first type of commercial lip balm to make it big on the market.
In fact, Chapstick originally came out in the 1800s, and became even more popular throughout the 1930s and beyond. Because it was the first major commercial lip balm, Chapstick is now synonymous with the entire category, similar to how some people refer to all sodas as "Cokes" or all facial tissues as "Kleenex-es."
However, Chapstick itself is usually used for moisture and general lip protection. Other types of lip balms can provide better UV protection or anti-aging benefits compared to Chapstick, which is why understanding the difference between both terms is important.
What Should You Use Lip Balm For?
Lip balm is such a popular product because it provides numerous advantages depending on the exact ingredients. Just off the cuff, lip balm can:
- relieve mild irritation and chapped lips
- produce an aesthetically pleasing glossy effect (similar to lip gloss but with added benefits)
- moisturize your lips to make them softer
- protect lips from UV damage
- eliminate or smooth mild wrinkles that come with aging
Plus, lots of people enjoy different types of lip balm because it comes in tons of flavors and scents. This, in turn, can add to your personal aesthetic, particularly if you have a perfume that goes well with the balm’s scent, or if you have a particularly favorite tinted lip balm to add some warmth to your look of the day.
Lip balm is a very convenient and easy-to-use product since it generally comes in lipstick-like tubes, which are easy to carry in a pocket or purse. It’s not uncommon for the use of lip balm to be "as needed" either rather than as a dedicated part of a morning makeup or grooming routine, although it can fit there as well.
How Often Should You Apply It?
In general, you wouldn't be wrong to assume that applying lip balm or Chapstick whenever you need to is a good idea. Many frequent lip balm users apply lip balm every day, multiple times, during several key moments throughout the day:
- In the morning once they wake up. Chances are, your lips are dry when you first wake up. You can apply a little bit of lip balm after your shower or even beforehand if you need to head out on a run during a brisk winter morning.
- After every meal. Assuming that you eat three times per day, it helps to apply new lip balm after every meal. This is because, as you eat, you gradually lick your lips or otherwise get saliva onto your lips’ surface. This wears down the coating of lip balm that you put on before, calling for a reapplication.
- Before bed. Putting on a little lip balm before you go to bed will go a long way toward preventing your lips from drying out as you sleep. This is also important since most people breathe through their mouths when they sleep, which has a natural drying effect on the lips.
Basically, most frequent users put on lip balm whenever the previous layer doesn't feel like it's there anymore. The protective layer that a lip balm product provides only lasts for up to four or five hours in total depending on the exact ingredients, and different lip balms may have recommended reapplication rates listed on their tubes or containers.
Are There Problems With Applying It Too Often?
While keeping a fresh coat of lip balm on your lips can be excellent for keeping them moisturized and looking great, doing it too often can also produce problems of its own.
For instance, if you constantly apply more lip balm to your lips, you might accidentally start licking your lips more and more frequently. This is especially true if you purchase a lip balm with a nice artificial flavor.
The problem comes about when your saliva gradually dries out the skin of your lips and removes the lip balm layer at the same time. It begins a vicious cycle where you have to apply more lip balm because you keep licking your lips, so then you need to apply more, and so on and so forth.
If you feel “addicted” to lip balm, practice only applying it a few times per day, or give yourself a break and stop using it at all for a few days.
Many types of lip balm products use artificial ingredients. Constantly applying these to your lips could cause long-lasting damage to your skin or otherwise dry out your lips instead of making them more moisturized.
Some people try out a new lip balm product only to discover that the brand in question contains one or more allergens, which they then have a reaction to in the form of a lip rash. To avoid these issues, it often helps to target a lip balm made with natural ingredients.
Green Goo’s lip balm, for example, is a plant-based product that can soothe, protect, and improve occasionally dry or chapped lips. Furthermore, their Sweet Honey lip balm comes with built-in sun protection, too, while gently moisturizing your lips to make them feel softer over time. The balm even comes in a few great flavors so you can choose your favorite.
The balm's natural ingredients include:
- natural flower oil
- fruit and seed oils
- vitamin E
This particular lip balm uses natural beeswax instead of other wax ingredients to promote long-lasting protection and moisture. This natural ingredient also makes it very easy to apply the lip balm, even if your lips are already chapped.
Ultimately, it’s always a great idea to target any kind of skincare product with natural ingredients to avoid ingredients your dermatologist wouldn't be too happy seeing.
Other ingredients to look for include camphor and menthol. Both of these ingredients can soothe irritated lips since they act as mild anesthetics and produce a pleasant tingle. Salicylic acid also can cause a tingling sensation, and can be found in some lip balms to help exfoliate the lips--be cautious if you see this as an ingredient though, because too much salicylic acid may actually end up drying out your lips.
If you’re looking for a lip balm that can protect your skin from sun damage, you’ll want a lip balm with antioxidants like vitamins C and E and possibly even zinc. Such lip balms will be marked as SPF 30, indicating high sun damage protection.
All in all, lip balm – especially lip balm made with natural ingredients – can do wonders for your lips' health, look, and feel. Our lips are often even just a little bit chapped from daily activities and exposure to the elements, but lip balm can turn that all around!
Taking the time to take care of your lips with an all-natural lip balm can go a long way to improve lip health--consider using Green Goo’s lip balm to give your lips the nourishment they deserve!