Help I’m cracked-out on chapstick: How to ditch your lip balm habit in 5 steps

Guest post by Maryr
Are you addicted to Chapstick? Should we call it CRACK stick? Yikes. By: tup wandersCC BY 2.0

I used to have a serious lip balm habit. I had to have lip balm in my purse at all times. I also had a couple of sticks around my apartment, and I would have a minor panic attack if there wasn’t a Chapstick in arm’s reach.

I’m a teacher, and I was so compulsive about lip balm that I would actually apply it in the middle of giving a lecture. So, that was me: standing up in front of a class of 30 students, trying to get them to converse intelligently about The Epic of Gilgamesh, and applying Chapstick Medicated at the same time. Not very professional.

At a certain point, I started to wonder if lip balm was necessary at all. For someone like me whose lip “dryness” doesn’t arise from any actual medical condition or symptom, I realized lip balm was unnecessary.

Here are some recommendations for cutting out lip balm, and simplifying this one tiny aspect of life. This isn’t a primer for defeating real chemical dependency, or treating a serious issue — my lip balm habit was just that, a habit. And habits can be broken.

1. Go slowly

I had been applying Chapstick quite literally every waking hour, if not every half hour. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to go cold turkey, so I gradually weaned myself off of it. First, I limited myself to one application every hour or so. Once that didn’t feel painful and uncomfortable, I lengthened the time to every two hours, then every three, and so on. In some cases, it took a couple of days before I could lengthen the interval again. I was patient with myself, though. I think the whole process took about three weeks.

By: DidriksCC BY 2.0

2. Drink lots of water

Ice water worked for me. I know that some people prefer not to drink very cold water, but the coldness helped replace that cooling feeling that I got from the lip balm I used. Every time I wanted to apply lip balm or started to think about how dry my lips felt, I took a sip of water instead. Hydration, of course, helped address the dryness that I had been treating with lip balm.

3. Avoid lip-licking

That is, avoid licking one’s own lips. Licking someone else’s lips (or other body parts) is probably an okay distraction while weaning oneself off lip balm.

4. Keep the lip balm at home

Once I was only applying lip balm every few hours, I stopped keeping it in my purse all the time. This helped break the habit of reaching for my Chapstick in the middle of a conversation. If it wasn’t there, then I couldn’t use it.

5. Get a good lip balm full of moisturizers and absent of anything that gives a tingle

Even original Burt’s Bees is a “no” here because of that tingle. So I have a stick of Neutrogena SPF 15 Lip Moisturizer that I keep at home with my other toiletries.

Once I didn’t need to apply lip balm every day, and could comfortably go several days without any, I could concede that lip balm itself isn’t necessarily bad. Lip balm is useful as a primer under lipstick or gloss, and lip balm with an SPF can genuinely protect lips from damage. Likewise, adding moisture can be helpful on the driest winter days. Now I apply my lip moisturizer once a day in the morning, and it only ventures into my purse when I go to the beach. Habit kicked.

neutrogena lip moisturizer

Comments on Help I’m cracked-out on chapstick: How to ditch your lip balm habit in 5 steps

  1. I used to have a lip balm addiction…but I realized it was the type of balm I was using. My solution? Just avoid any lip balm with “camphor” listed in the ingredients. That’s what gives some lip balms their addictive nature (it makes your lips feel drier and chap).

    I recommend Jack Black Intense Therapy lip balm (great flavours…my husband uses Grapefruit & Ginger and I use Original Mint). My sisters love Rosebud Salve from Rosebud Perfume Co.

  2. I see the big difference between myself & my balm-addicted friends is that I use it as a primer before applying lipstick, & they don’t wear lipstick so they’re constantly using the lip balm (& I *big puffy heart* Burts Bees). But once I have lipstick over it, I’m done. I don’t feel anything but moisturized on my lips (which really helps bec. some matte lipsticks can be drying). After a meal, I’ll reapply balm + lipstick, & that’s it. Not saying everyone needs to wear lipstick, but if you need a trick to kick the habit…

  3. After a course of Accutane, my lips are left feeling dry (a very common side effect) even after I was no longer taking it. Almost 10 years later I still rely on lip balm, but I’ve learned to “leave my lips alone” so that the lip balm I did apply stays there. I now work a lab job where we suit up in essentially biohazard suits so I usually end up going 4 hours or so without being near my lip balm. It’s hard sometimes but I try to remember to apply before going in.

    • I went through accutane too, about 12 years ago. I also happen to come from a place with crazy wind and cold winters, and all the resulting dryness that entails, so not using lip balm was never really an option. I’ve tried to always restrict myself to using it usually only in the morning, or when its extra dry, sometimes up to 3 times a day at most. It does definitely keep it in check so I don’t have to spend so much on the lip balm (except when the tube is running low, then it just doesn’t seem to work very well anymore).

    • Same here! I was on it 20 years ago and I still make sure I’m well stocked with lip balm, though I’m not as quite as obsessive about it as before. Keeping hydrated definitely helps.

  4. Also, in the morning after brushing your teeth and before you go to bed put a simple unscented lotion like Curel on your lips. Unlike a chapstick it actually soaks into your skin and helps prevent chapping and dryness. You lotion your face, why not your lips!

  5. If I use plain vaseline on my lips before bed, then I’m usually good to go all day without lip balm on a normal day. I agree that the “medicated” lip balms dry out your lips more than they help.

    And I keep another container of plain vaseline downstairs for when I’m riding my bike in colder weather.

    • Just be aware that vasoline doesn’t actually moisturize but instead creates a barrier that keeps existing moisture in.

      Which does make it better for outdoor activities that could potentially dry out lips. It just won’t add any moisture if your lips do get chapped.

      • Oh yeah, it just works to keep the natural moisture in. If I forget the vaseline before riding my bike, I have been using coconut or olive oil because I think I have a reaction to some of the other oils used in even some natural-type lip balms.

    • I developed such a Vaseline habit, and had to switch to Burt’s Bees (which I now only use once-twice a day). Vaseline can (supposedly) encourage your lips to stop producing as much moisture of their own, so it can get really compulsive.

      But YMMV, whatever works for you is great! Plain vaseline is great for outdoor stuff I’m sure.

      • What type of Burt’s Bees do you use? I have tried a couple, but they made my lips worse, but that could maybe be because they were tinted.

        • Burt’s Bees is owned by Clorox. I wouldn’t trust what sort of chemicals they are putting in their chap stick, especially the tinted ones (or any of their products for that matter)! Watch out– and good idea for listening to your lips when they said ouch.

          • Actually, Burt’s Bees are pretty good about keeping things natural, but you might be sensitive to lanolin like I am. I can’t use Burt’s Bees balms and a lot of their lotion because they use lanolin as an emollient. Lanolin is the oil naturally on wool, and they leave it on things like wool coats to make it waterproof. I’m allergic to the stuff, and it’s not an uncommon problem.

          • Burt’s Bees didn’t used to be owned by Clorox! and I never use the tinted ones or Original peppermint. My favorite is Mango flavor, it’s ultra moisturizing and has a yummy smell. More importantly, it’s non-irritating.

  6. I have a ChapStick-Habit too, and it usually gets worse in Winter. My ChapStick of choice has always been Lipsmackers, you know, the ones with funny flavors. It got almost as bad as yours, where I applied it during courses of a meal. I also have the bad habit of tearing off pieces of skin of my lips when they are dry. When I have ChapStick on, I usually just rub them together. I discovered I use needed to do something else when I got bored or tense… Even consciously turning it off when I caught myself at it helped a lot.

    • I still have the bad habit of tearing off the skin from my lips. Wearing or not wearing lip balm doesn’t really make it worse or better – it’s just bad either way. I’ve kicked my lip balm habit, but picking my lips will have to be next on my list of bad habits to get rid of!

      • When you kick that habit, let us know! I’ve been trying unsuccessfully to kick it by trying to remind myself to reach for lip balm instead, but maybe I should try something else. I don’t do it every day but I do worry that I’m going to get myself sick easily if I forget to wash my hands and do it.

        • I have tried to threaten myself with the unsanitary nature of it – I’m really not much better than a toddler. But it doesn’t help! I haven’t figured it out yet.

      • I pick at the dry skin because my lips get super dry (hence the lipbalm habit) and it looks *gross*. So, I exfoliate every few days. After I get out of the shower I’ll take a washcloth, soak it in some warm water, and run it over my lips. Dry skin gone! Or at least mostly gone.

        As for the fidgeting….well, I can’t help you there, I fidget terribly as well!

    • Needing to fidget with lips/mouth is something I have a lot of trouble with. I’ve found that chewing gum really helps with this! And there are some great sugar free gums that have calcium in them to help teeth, or xylitol to help digestion.

  7. I usually only put it on right before bed. Since I’m asleep, it has time to soak in and actually work without me licking it all off. I find that works well enough that I don’t need to put on more during the day except on really dry days.

  8. Any lip balm with oil in it is not helping you – the oil feels soothing but dries your lips out. Generally the rule of thumb is to only use something marketed as a treatment – Fresh has some amazing ones, both tinted and not. Also, there’s a company called Bite that makes an agave lip mask that I loooooooooove! Tastes awesome, smells awesome, I put it on right before bed and my lips always feel great in the morning! Their whole line is amazing – all lip products, all only made with ingredients that the FDA allows to be in our food.

      • I apologize, I meant to specify petroleum oil. I shouldn’t write comments the minute after I wake up from a nap 🙂

        I also think it’s fun that I actually didn’t link to any of these but a moderator put that though. Thanks! I hope it makes it easier for someone to try one of them, if they’re so inclined!

    • Can you tell me more about the thing with oils? Considering coconut oil is an amazing replacement for hair treatment and skin moisturising, I would have thought that oils would be fine for your lips too. I recently bought a lip balm that was ALL oils (a number of different ones) because it had no preservatives or chemicals in it, and it was fantastic when I was sick and had dry lips.

  9. Okay, bear with me, this is going to get a little weird for some of you. I understand that the specific lip balm addiction describe herein is due to camphor (i.e. the tingle), but I was addicted to lip balm/lipstick simply because my lips would sting and crack from dryness no matter how hydrated I was. I tried everything in the world, but nothing helped except keeping them coated at all times, all year long. Let’s not even talk about winter, dear jeebus, how the winter ravaged my lips! So, I hope the group doesn’t mind this slight deviation from the topic. I promise, it’s related.

    Several years ago, people started getting all excited about primer under make-up. Being a woman who suffers from scleroderma and requires make-up to stick to mah face 24 hours a day to cover the telangiectasias, I was intrigued by the product claims, so I went to a make-up counter to try it out. But, wow, the sticker shock: the cost per ounce is ridiculous! Not to be defeated, I did what I do (I am a researcher) and I checked out all the active ingredients to see if I could find something similar away from the paycheck aisle. I thought, maybe I could even buy the main ingredient alone, thus protecting myself from all of the other potentially irritating chemicals.

    Holy majoly, what I found was that the ingredient that makes primer work is the same ingredient in—wait for it— Monistat Chafing Relief Powder Gel®, not to be confused with the yeast infection medication also produced by Monistat. The chafing gel is specifically designed to protect skin from, well, chafing by adhering a very thin, clear coating of silicone on the skin, which results in a slick surface. (Runners use it on their inner thighs for marathons, too.) Anyway, someone in the cosmetic industry also figured out that the same active ingredient (Dimethicone) helped makeup stay on longer as well filled in fine lines and skin imperfections, etc. And, viola! Make-up primer hit the market—albeit at 1/6th of the volume for ten times the price.

    Having found a possible replacement for the pricey primer, I bought a tube of chafing gel and tried it under my make-up. Not only does it work WONDERFULLY as a primer, but I also almost immediately noticed that my skin was getting smoother and smoother, too. Even without make-up, my pores have disappeared and my lines are barely noticeable anymore.

    Now, the point of all this back-story: In addition to my skin looking better and better, I noticed that my lips stopped chapping as well. Every morning when I put on the chafing gel, I smear it over my whole face, including my lips. The real test was the first winter after I started using it when I realized that not only was my face not becoming wind chapped, my lips also stayed healthy and smooth. Bonus!

    Since my discovery, loads of people have noticed the difference in my skin and asked me about it. Usually, when I tell them the secret, they balk. The braver ones give it a go and never look back. I once even converted a high-end make-up representative in Harrods (They sell it under another name in the UK so I asked the chemist for “chub rub”. When he directed me to it, I looked and it was also Dimethicone.)

    Nowadays, some of the make-up blogs are picking up the tip and preaching to the masses, too, so check out a couple of them for further proof of the miracle replacement. You can usually find the blog posts by Googling “chafing gel and primer.” After reading up on it, give it a go. Honest to god, it works like a dream on your lips and your face for about $6!

    • Oh my goodness THANKYOU! This looks awesome and I’m doing it. You don’t happen to know the name of the UK one? I want a primer for my wedding but I’d rather spend mega bucks on my foundation not a cream.

      Besides I have a Benefit tester of pore reducing cream but it just goes into bobbly bits on my face, weird. Besides I totally get chub rub anyway so win for multitasking!

      • I don’t remember the specific UK brand, but just check the ingredients of the chub rub you already have. If the active ingredient (first one in the list) is Dimethicone, you’re good to go. Good luck and…


    • That was one of the first tricks I ever came across in the beauty community!

      It also works great for its intended job of preventing chafing. It’s amazing for breakung in shoes too.

  10. I also apply right before bed and right before I leave for work in the mornings.

    Although…since we’ve owned a dog I’ve had to rethink the “right before bed” application. Our pup sheds like crazy and there’s always hair on my pillow, no matter how hard I try to keep it fur-free. To me there’s nothing grosser than applying lip balm at night and waking up with dog hair stuck to my slightly-sticky lips. :-/

  11. Like many others, I suffer from lip balm addiction. I hate having nothing on my lips, so I switched to wearing lipstick. I find that while I needed to apply lipbalm every hour or so to keep my lips “moisturized”, I only need to apply lipstick twice a day to obtain the same effect. This is part of my weaning process, maybe it can help others. With that technique, I only apply lipbalm per se at night, before going to bed.

  12. I didn’t realize I had a lip balm addiction until I got my lip pierced, and suddenly my beloved array of chapsticks was liable to block my piercing and cause infection. After a few bouts of redness, I gave up and went cold turkey. I was MISERABLE…for about a month. Ten years later, I’ve taken my lip ring out, but I only put on lip balm a handful of times a year, mostly for sun and wind protection. My lips don’t peel anything like they used to, either.

  13. The petroleum products in a lot of lip balms are half the problem — they don’t moisturize, they just put a barrier between your lips and the air. And I found that the more I used them, the more I needed them. Same thing goes for lotions with petroleum derivatives. So once I kicked that habit and made the switch to plant-oil based products, the lip balm need dropped. So in addition to keeping hydrated, not licking your lips (or picking them), all that, consider also shifting to an all natural product to use sparringly. I personally really like Mongo Kiss, which is fair trade as well as organic, all natural, etc. And I rub my daily lotion into my lips in the morning and evening as well, in addition to using a lip scrub (sugar or baking soda in coconut oil) to keep things smooth. It does help.

    I know it sounds super crunchy and ridiculous, but it made a difference. I used to be a fiend for Carmex and it never really helped, and the combo of the camphor, menthol, phenol, and parafin. Once I stopped with that stuff and went a bit crunchier, my chapped lips really, really improved. So did the rest of my skin, honestly.

  14. I use a natural lip balm from a local apiary that contains 4 ingredients, one being the essential oil they use to scent and/or flavor. Their Vintage Vanilla is awesome, and they also make Lavender and Almond varieties. They’re camphor free, and amazing. I use it 3 times a day MAX, whereas I was slathering it on when I used Burts. Moving away from over processed and chemical laden products is never a bad thing. There are a TON of options out there for all sorts of day to day things that you don’t have to do linquistic gymnastics to pronounce what’s on the ingredient list. Heck, I even make my own deodorant and it works better than anything I ever bought in the store. Ditching the chemicals is probably one of the best things you could ever do for your body in the beauty arena.

  15. I find that the one thing that helps me not to over-use my lip balm is investing in really high quality, ridiculously expensive lip balm that I get at Sephora. I get myself a tube of fresh’s Sugar lip balm maybe once or twice a year, and it’s really all I need. A little goes a long way (one swipe on my lower lip, smush my lips together, and they’re both more than coated), it lasts quite a while, and when I go to put it on, the $22 price tag always makes me think, “Are my lips actually dry? Would water fix this? Am I just bored” so I’m not applying more often than necessary.

  16. I have overused lip balms with peppermint oil to the point of getting chemical burns on my lips. No joke. And that was already trying to stay away from anything with a tingle I could feel since I never liked that. For me, it’s mostly about being able to rub my lips together. While I use different things at different times, I use a lot of vitamin E in stick form. Also, like above commenters, I’ve noticed that lipstick or lip gloss can last a lot longer than balm sometimes – but I always thought that was because I was out in public and distracted, versus on my own and able to mess with my lips more.

  17. In the summer months I am a kayak camp expedition leader. We paddle from island to island, hang out on said islands, and the only shade available is from our hats. I wear an spf 30 lip balm every 2 hours or so. I have seen people skip spf on their lips and end up utterly miserable from sunburn, compounded by the constant salt spray. We try to drink about 4 liters of water a day so we’re not dehydrated, but I do need that spf, its a life saver! The rest of the year I put some on maybe once a day. SPF is for winners =)

  18. I’ve got a bit of a lip balm habit as well. Working in retail, I talk all day and get quite thirsty and chapped. While I drink a lot of water, it never quite solves the problem.
    I also have a terrible habit of chewing on my lips, which aggravates the issue.
    I’ve found lately however, using lip gloss has helped me use less balm, I’ve realised I’m less likely to touch my lips because they’re sticky instead of balm-y, I usually only apply a couple times a day these days. (It used to be many many more times a day)
    Also using a lip balm from Lush which is the best lip balm I have ever used in my life, Lip Service. Saved my lips. I swear by it!

  19. So I recently made some lip balm myself, and it’s really simple:

    2 TBS sweet almond oil
    1 tbs beeswax
    1 tbs honey

    In a double boiler (or a glass measuring cup floating in a pan) over low to medium heat, melt the almond oil and the beeswax together. It’s better to stir with a bamboo skewer or something thin, as the wax tends to cool and harden on a spoon. While it is starting to melt, measure out and add the honey. Stir until it’s just completely melted, and pour into a small container.

    I got a smoother consistency using pasteurized honey over raw honey, but both work and are delicious. It’s nice for when you NEED something on your lips but I don’t feel the need to continually reapply like with other types of lip balm.

    • Honey won’t stay mixed in the lip balm – it *will* eventually separate without some kind of emulsifying agent. Also, because honey has water in it, it can grow bacteria (yes, yes, I know all about how honey doesn’t go bad, the Egyptians preserved body parts in it – if you’re prone to infections, is it worth the risk?). And finally, it’s the sweeteners in lip balms that give it a flavor and that’s what makes you lick your lips, which of course defeats the point of wearing lip balm.

      Full disclose: I make lip balm for a living.

  20. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I like the gradual method and have seen many who try to go cold turkey. No way! I was applying lip about every 30 minutes at work and it was being compulsive. It always seemed to wear off quickly and I had to keep re-applying. So I tried your method of going 1 hour without, then 2 and so on. I am now applying about 4-5 times a day. I am trying to decide on an “appropriate” amount. Thinking 3-4 times a day. Here are some tips that I learned along the way:
    Use a straw-I constantly drink all day and realized that this was wetting my lips making them drier
    Cut some of your food into bite size pieces-for instance if I am eating an orange-make the pieces small enough to pop into my mouth without touching the lips too much. I did not worry about this for meal times
    The best product to help me get over this was not a lip balm but Gold Bond Friction Defense. This reduces friction and you don’t think about your lips as much.
    Keep your lip balm out of reach.
    At night I use the Bite Agave Lip Mask. I wake up and my lips are still relatively moist. It is expensive though.
    Good luck!

  21. After a 43 year addiction, Vitamin E has been my saving grace. It has no toxins and actually helps heal my cracked lips. I hope there will come a day when I no longer have to rely on Vitamin E. I would love to go “totally natural.”

  22. This was a big wake up call, starting tomorrow I’m going to follow these steps exactly, except for the water. Water makes me urge for lip balm as it washes what I have on, off. Thank you!

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