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What lip balms are safe?

lip balm will include safety tip

You apply it umpteen times a day, carry it in your purse, even share it with your kids—but how safe is your lip balm, really?

Most women I know hoard lip balm—they’ve got one in the car, one in the kitchen drawer, there’s one rolling around in the car, the purse, the coat pocket, the beach bag… Then when we’re at the checkout stand, ladies, we see a cute new packaging or intriguing new flavor, and we’re going to buy that one, too. Am I right? Lip products are used by 90 percent of American women, with lip balm being the most popular, according to research from Mintel. “Lip products are likely perceived as low-risk purchases, driven in part by their lower prices in comparison to face and eye make-up,” wrote Shannon Romanowski, a beauty and personal care analyst at Mintel. We slather these products on our mouths all day, every day, and one has to wonder: Are they truly low-risk?

I checked the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Database. The EWG ranked 702 lip balms and the majority were safe. In fact, more than half of lip balms – a total of 427 – received a low hazard rating.

Out of the rest of the 273 products, 260 were ranked as moderate hazards and only 13 were high hazards.

Here’s where the safety of lip balms gets really tricky, though. Like so many other cosmetics, you can’t really judge the safety of a lip balm by name alone. Some “natural” and regular companies produce safe AND unsafe products. (Typically, though, most of the safe cosmetics companies produce safe cosmetics across the board – their lip balms are no exception.)

As an example, Alba Botanica, Avalon Organics, and Burt’s Bees sell a variety of lip balms. Some of these balms received low hazard ratings and others received moderate hazard ratings.


Taken alone, chemicals in any one consumer product may not cause harm. Unfortunately, people are repeatedly exposed to industrial chemicals from many different sources, including cosmetics, on a daily basis,” explains Ena Do, director of marketing and communications at the Breast Cancer Fund in San Francisco. “The average American woman uses 12 personal care products a day, resulting in exposure to as many as 126 unique chemicals from personal care products alone.

Ingredients To Avoid In Your Lip Balm

Petrolatum (Petroleum Jelly)
Petrolatum is made from refining petroleum- yes, the one that goes in our cars! Can we all just agree that we don’t want that stuff anywhere near our lips, no matter how moisturizing it is! Unfortunately, the refining process involves toxic, harsh products and the petroleum jelly can get contaminated during manufacturing. This makes it an endocrine disruptor linked to breast cancer. Yet another concern is that it creates an airtight barrier on the skin making it a penetration enhancer, increasing the absorption of other toxic ingredients.

Butylated hydroxy anisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT)
Generally used as preservatives in lip balms, butylated compounds have been linked to health concerns like cancer, organ-system toxicity, respiratory irritation and endocrine disruption.

Phenol/Menthol, Alcohol
Lip balms are meant to moisturize and nourish – everyone knows that. So, putting in ingredients that dry out your skin can seem pretty counter-intuitive, don’t you think?

Ingredients like phenol and menthol give that tingling effect and were initially introduced into lip balms for exfoliation. Instead, they typically end up irritating the skin and taking off the outer layers exposing our delicate lips to environmental factors.

Fragrance And Flavors
These should just read ‘hidden chemicals’. Manufacturers are allowed to include any ingredient under the guise of ‘fragrance’ in order to ‘protect their trade secrets’. This hidden list of ingredients can more often than not contain phthalates – strong hormone disruptors linked to fertility issues as well as worsening allergy and asthma conditions.

Chemical Sunscreen
While having sunscreen in your lip balm is great, having it in the form of chemicals like oxybenzone is not. Oxybenzone is a known endocrine disruptor commonly associated with endometriosis in women.


Phew. That was a long list of don’ts, I know. But there are plenty of safe options out there. “I suggest looking for lip products that contain plant-based waxes; high quality oils, organic oils such as avocado oil, raspberry seed oil and sunflower oil, cocoa butter, non-GMO vitamin E and organic aloe,” says Jane May Graves, the founder of Ladybug Jane vegan lip balms. Graves helped me hugely with the list above, by the way—thank you, Jane! She’d been using lip balm since she was 5 and went she went to create her eco, health conscious line, was appalled when she discovered what was actually in most of the products, particularly because her mother had been diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.

She was also surprised by another factor: How many lip balm products contain petroleum, beeswax, alcohol, phenol, and menthol. “At first these ingredients seem to soothe, but they quickly dry the lips. This drying leads to a need to reapply more frequently. It’s important to understand that the skin is the largest organ. The skin is a passageway that rids our body of toxins and helps prevent chemical and waste build-up, which is why it’s very important to allow the skin to breath. We often hear of ingredients acting as ‘protective barriers’ or ‘holds in moisture’. This is actually the opposite of what you want, an airtight barrier on the skin, not allowing for normal ‘breathing’ is not healthy.”

Graves suggests using products that contain only natural and organic ingredients, which can be preserved using natural preservatives such as rosemary extract and vitamin E.” After a year, the products should be disposed of.

Sharron Pinheiro’s line, Eve Organics Beauty, offers lip balm and other lip products that are vegan, with a high percentage of organic ingredients, and are gluten free. And the magazine Allure provides this list of 9 Lip Balms So Natural You Can Eat Them.

Moisture Glycerin Lip Balm Natural Aloe Vera Lipstick



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