Why Your Lip Balm Addiction Could Be Doing More Harm Than Good - How To Heal Dry, Sore Lips With Plants

Did you know that our lips are as distinctive as our fingerprints? With thousands of tiny lines and wrinkles that are entirely unique to us, the complex skin on our lips is very vulnerable to damage and dryness.


Not only are our lips complex, but they are also thin & delicate. Most of our skin has about 15 or 16 outer protective layers, but the lips only have 3 to 4. This isn’t helped by the fact that our lips have no oil glands and very little melanin leaving them a) unprotected from harsh environmental aggressors, and b) unable to moisturise themselves.




As such a vulnerable part of our face, our lips can really suffer in harsh environments like freezing cold winds or bright sunshine. The resulting dry, chapped feeling is not only uncomfortable and distracting - but it can quickly become painful if our lips crack and bleed.


So, why does lip care often get neglected in our skincare routines? Most of us swipe on a lip balm and hope for the best, but it turns out the wrong products could be doing far more harm than good. Caring for your lips the right way is actually surprisingly easy, all it takes is a carefully selected lip balm that works for you, and some knowledge of how the skin on your lips functions. But first, you need to know what ingredients and habits to avoid…


Lip Balm Addiction


Although lip balms often provide immediate relief, it turns out that some harmful ingredients may actually have a drying effect on the lips. This starts a vicious cycle that can quickly become mildly addicting.


If you’re a regular lip balm user, you might know the dry, thirsty feeling I’m talking about. No matter how much balm you apply, the lips never feel satisfied, so you reach for the lip balm and start the cycle all over again. There are a few factors/ingredients that can lead to ‘lip balm addiction’…. 





Firstly, there are potential irritants included in many lip balm recipes, such as fragrances, preservatives and other added ingredients that can lead to a loss of hydration on the lips. Joshua Zeichner, a New York-based dermatologist suggests avoiding balms that contain fragrance, camphor, menthol, or salicylic acid, which can irritate the fragile skin on and around the lips. You should also avoid flavoured lip balms as they can encourage you to lick your lips which only dries them out further.


Unbalanced Humectants vs. Occlusives


Secondly, you need to be careful of lip balm recipes that include humectant ingredients WITHOUT the presence of occlusive ingredients. Some humectants, such as glycerine or hyaluronic acid, pull moisture out of the lips leaving the skin dehydrated and sore. This is because humectants work like a magnet and draw water out of whatever is nearby. However, we’re not saying that humectants are bad. When used correctly, humectants can be very moisturising. The trick is to pair a humectant ingredient such as Castor Oil, with an occlusive ingredient, such as Shea Butter.  


This is because the occlusive ingredient creates a protective barrier that seals the moisture in, helping the lips to stay hydrated all day. Dermatologist Leslie Baumann MD explains it simply ‘Humectants hold on to water, and occlusives keep it from evaporating,’. The perfect lip balm finds the right balance of ingredients that will hold on to moisture in order to hydrate the lips but will also create a protective seal to prevent moisture evaporation.


Lazy Lips


And finally, over-use! No matter how good your lip balm is, if you’re applying it too often it will end up doing more harm than good. This is because the lips become reliant on the product and lose the ability to moisturise themselves. Dermatologists call this ‘lazy lips’ – and, unfortunately, the only way to combat it is to slowly wean yourself off of the product your lips have become dependent on. Sorry! We know that that’s a painful process – but we do have some tips and tricks to make it a little easier.


How To Care For Lips with Natural Alternatives


Armed with the knowledge of what isn’t good for the delicate skin on our lips – we can now look at the methods and effective natural alternatives to actually nourish and care for the lips.


Step 1 - Healing, Natural Ingredients


The first step is to heal any cracks or splits. Partly because this will ease any discomfort but also because when our lips are dry & damaged, they are no longer protected from the elements. By healing the skin, the lips are able to return to a natural rhythm where they are better able to hydrate and support themselves.


Herbs & Botanicals


We use certain herbs, plants & botanicals in our lip treatments that have been used to aid with wound healing and skin regeneration for centuries. Many of which have stood the test of time and are now scientifically proven to benefit the skin.



Calendula – Calendula is commonly used to speed tissue healing after burns or injuries. It actually encourages cellular regeneration which enables the skin to heal itself. The flower is an excellent healer for chapped, dry lips because it is rich in linoleic acid, an essential fatty acid that seals cracks between the cells in the outer layer of the skin. It is also rich in antioxidants known as carotenoids which reduce inflammation, aiding the skins reparative process.


Comfrey – Comfrey has similar healing properties as Calendula – with the added benefit of Allatonin, a substance that stimulates cell regrowth. It is also an emollient, meaning it helps soften and moisturise dry, rough skin on the lips. And Comfrey contains important minerals that are essential to the skins natural healing process.


Chickweed – Chickweed, also known as starweed, stitchwort, or scarwort, is demulcent meaning it relieves irritation and inflammation. As a nutrient-rich herb, containing Vitamin A, B & C, Chickweed helps the body assimilate trace minerals and vitamins to create overall vitality at a cellular level. In layman’s terms, Chickweed nourishes the health of the lips to help them heal and soften.


Rosemary – Rosemary is what is known as a warm herb, meaning it stimulates, motivates and warms bodily systems. It boosts circulation, which not only helps the lips look plumper, but can speed the healing process as blood rushes to the area carrying white blood cells, oxygen and all the ingredients needed to soothe wounds.

Oils, Butters & Waxes


While herbs & botanicals do an excellent job of stimulating cell regeneration to heal wounds, this is only half the formula. Oil, butters, & waxes are needed to hydrate and moisturise the lips to enable a healthy healing process. (Psst. This is where it’s important to find that careful balance between humectant & occlusive ingredients.) 


Tamanu Oil (Occlusive) – Tamanu Oil, harvested from the nut of the Tamanu tree, has a high fatty acid content, making it incredibly moisturising on the sensitive skin of the lips. It’s been used in Polynesian cultures for generations to heal wounds, and a study in 2016 found evidence to suggest that the oils high antioxidant content can stimulate skin cell proliferation and wound healing activity.


Castor Oil (Humectant) – Rich, golden and thick Castor Oil is harvested from the seeds of the Castor plant. Rich in a monounsaturated essential fatty acid known as Ricinoleic Acid, Castor Oil provide a deep moisture boost for the lips. As a humectant, it works like a magnet for water and draws moisture from the air and environment into the lips. However, it can also draw water out of the skin cells, so must be paired with an occlusive oil, such as Tamanu, to retain that moisture in the lips.


Beeswax (Occlusive) – Beeswax is an occlusive, so does an excellent job at creating a barrier on the skin to protect the lips. It stops irritants from getting in and prevents moisture from getting out. However, beeswax doesn’t actually hydrate the lips, it just creates the protective barrier needed to seal any oils inside – much like the skin’s natural lipid barrier. This is why it must be paired with a humectant, such as Castor Oil. Overuse of beeswax can lead to lazy lips – so try and only use once a day to give the lips a chance to breathe.


Shea Butter (The Magic Multi-tasker) – Shea Butter is a skin saviour when it comes to moisturisation. It is a creamy lipid loaded with antioxidants and fatty acids to protect and hydrate the skin. Shea Butter is occlusive, meaning it creates that seal to keep moisture trapped in the lips – but it also has hydrating properties to nourish the skin of the lips. Shea is full of vitamins A, E & F and boasts a high number of triglycerides and fatty acids that condition and hydrate skin.


Step 2 - Once a Day Masking & Avoiding Lazy Lips


When it comes to the lips – less is definitely more. You should be aiming to give the lips the tools they need to hydrate and moisturise themselves without smothering them in heavy product. Remember earlier when I said we had a few tips & tricks to help - we recommend using a lip mask every night (or as you feel you need it) rather than compulsively applying balm throughout the day.


This is what inspired our Overnight Lip Treatment Mask – it includes all of the products mentioned above and has been crafted to allow the lips to do their healing overnight. Meaning that during the daytime, the lips are well moisturised without the need for a protective & occlusive barrier layer. This frees your lips to breathe and return to a naturally healthy rhythm.


We curated a ritual that combines our overnight lip mask treatment with Gua Sha massage to remove stagnant lymphatic fluid and promote healthy blood flow. It was designed with simplicity and natural methods in mind. Our skin & bodies are far cleverer than we give them credit for, and our lips are no exception. All they need is a nudge in the right direction (i.e. a once a day treatment mask) to heal themselves without the need for harmful chemical ingredients.


Considering how delicate and vulnerable our lips are, lip care should be a natural part of our skincare routines. I think the problem is that most people think they are taking care of their lips with balms and sticks from the supermarket – when in reality, they’re accidentally making the problem ten times worse. So, I hope this article has helped you understand your lip health better, and that you now have the tools to never have to suffer through a dry lip season again.


Thanks for reading...

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1 comment

How many times a day should I put on lip balm?

Bob Cane

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