Lip balm addiction - and a chapped lip problem

He thought about it all the time. He had to have it. If he went too long without it, his need for a fix consumed him. But this wasn't about drugs or alcohol or cigarettes. Kevin Crossman, a website manager in San Francisco was a lip balm addict using his balm dozens of times a day.

And he is not alone. Dr Marcia Driscoll, a clinical associate professor of dermatology at the University of Maryland, says lip balm addiction is real – albeit a bit surprising.

Chapped lips (80% of which are female) are an issue with which she deals a lot as a dermatologist. Wind, sun, cold and dry air especially during the colder months can cause chapping, as can lip licking. Continued licking of dry lips can cause dermatitis of the lip, which can spread all around the mouth. According to the Mayo Clinic, breathing with an open mouth is a trigger, as is dehydration.

But Dr Driscoll thinks the main reason so many women suffer chapped lips is cosmetic, citing numerous ingredients with the potential to irritate – including aromas such as pumpkin, cheesecake, tropical fruit and bubble gum.

It's also possible that chapped lips are a symptom of a more pervasive skin ailment; those with tendencies toward dermatitis or eczema also tend to get chapped lips. If chapping is severe and doesn't respond to treatment, Driscoll and other doctors advise seeing a dermatologist.

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January 2009

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