Being a guy, I don't have much experience with skin care. I'm the kind of guy that would rather have his wife hold my hand with dry hands than a handful of lotion. I just don't like the stuff. However, growing up in Colorado, there was always one form of skin care that I never left home without — lip balm. Between the dry, windy, cold air and the intense sunshine, my lips were always dry and chapped if I didn't have lip balm around. And skiing without lip balm was a definite no-no.
My favorite lip balm has always been Carmex. I've never had any complaints with it. It always seemed to work fine (but what do I know about skin care?). Growing up, I thought it was strange that Carmex and most of the lip balms on the market had petroleum products in them. Why were we putting an oil by-product on our lips? It just didn't make sense. But there weren't any other options.
Well, it turns out my young misgivings were well grounded. I didn't know back then that the petroleum jelly in lip balm was first discovered when oil-rig workers in Pennsylvania noticed a paraffin-like material forming on their rigs. The material frustrated the workers because it caused their rigs to malfunction. But they noticed that it helped soothe their cuts and burns.
While petroleum jelly does soothe burns, it's not good for your lips. When you slather it on your lips, it completely seals them off and prevents your skin from breathing. My friend and editor of Women's Health Letter Nan Fuchs, PhD says it's "like wrapping your skin in plastic wrap." Remember, plastic wrap is a petroleum product too — so this is an accurate comparison.
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However, petroleum jelly isn't the only petroleum product in most lip balms. Phenol is another product that we pump out of the ground with oil rigs. When phenol first came on the scene, it came from coal tar. But today, it comes from petroleum. Industry uses phenol for things like epoxies, nylon, herbicides, and pharmaceutical drugs. What's more, phenol is illegal for use in cosmetics and skin care products in Europe. So what do they know that we don't? In its raw form, phenol is mildly acidic and can cause chemical burns. I'll admit, Carmex has never burned my lips. So I don't worry too much about the burns. But, again, why put an oil by-product or a caustic substance on your lips?
Giving up Carmex is a tough habit to break. But my friend Janet Zand, OMD, LAc, and Système 41 just developed a lip balm that I'm really excited about. I've tried it, and I could feel the difference immediately. It soothes and moisturizes without feeling waxy or like a goopy gel. More importantly, it doesn't contain any petroleum by-products or even any so-called "natural" products like salicylic acid (which is an exfoliant that acts like fine sandpaper on your lips). These products can leave your lips drier and more chapped than they were before using them.
Instead, what Hydrating Lip Therapy does have is nutrients, such as vitamins C and E, and some wonderful natural oils that really are great for your lips. I particularly like the macadamia and kukui nut oils, as the Hawaiians have used them for hundreds of years to soothe chapped lips and skin. These two oils are the secret ingredients in this lip balm that work wonders on sun- and wind-damaged lips. One study even showed that they can reduce the inflammation from injured skin and help with healing. So now you can put something on your lips in which every ingredient is absolutely wonderful for your lips.
Your insider for better health,
Steve Kroening is the editor of Nutrient Insider, a twice-a-week email newsletter that brings you the latest healing breakthroughs from the world of nutrition and dietary supplements. For over 20 years, Steve has worked hand-in-hand with some of the nation's top doctors, including Drs. Robert Rowen, Frank Shallenberger, Nan Fuchs, William Campbell Douglass, and best-selling author James Balch. Steve is the author of the book Practical Guide to Home Remedies. As a health journalist, Steve's articles have appeared in countless magazines, blogs, and websites.