De-Mystifying Lip Balm and Lotion Ingredients

by 12 March 11, 2011 0 Comments

Lotion on Face I received an article written by Melissa Cooper Sargent of  It gets down to the nitty gritty on ingredients.  I am totally reproducing it here.  It's a good read:

Lip Balms and Lotions

To beat the dry days of winter choose lotions, lip balms and other moisturizing products made from plant oils (such as sweet almond, apricot kernel, jojoba, sunflower and olive) or plant butters (such as shea or cocoa), rather than petroleum based products containing mineral oil, petrolatum or paraffin.

Debra Lynn Dadd, author of Home Safe Home, writes "Mineral oil, in fact, dries the skin, so youhave to keep applying the absorbs the natural oil more easily, an dit is more healing than mineral oil."  The "protective" layer petroleum products form on the skin and lips actually prevents moisture absorption.  Mineral oil has also been linked to arthritis in animal studies.

Lip balms commonly contain petrolatum or paraffin, both of which may be contaminated with impurities linked to cancer and are restricted for use in Europe.  Beeswax, candelilla wax and carnuba wax are natural alterantives to petrolatum and paraffin.

Look for natural glycerin as another beneficial ingredient.  According to Dadd, "Moisturizing creams and lotions...containing natural glycerin act as magnets to draw out water from the atmosphere and hold it until the skin needs more water."

Watch out for medicated lip balms, such as those by Chapstick and Blistex which contain phenol.  Phenol is classified by the European Union as, "Toxic by inhalation, skin contact, and ingestion."  According to the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry, "Phenol is a manufactured substance found in a number of consumer products.  Skin exposure to high levels of phenol has resulted in liver damage, diarrhea, dark urine, and hemolytic anemia."

Other common ingredients to avoid include BHA, parabens, triethanolamine (TEA), and fragrance.  BHA (a preservative) is a "Reasonably Anticipated Human Carcinogen" according to the National Toxicology Program's 11th Report on Cancer.  Methyl, ethyl, propyl, and butyl parabens (preservatives) act like estrogen and may disrupt normal hormone functioning.  TEA (blends oil and water - a common requirement for lotions) has caused liver tumors when applied to the skin of mice.  Fragrance likely contains phthalates, which are linked to cancer and birth defects. 

Fortunately, more companies now offer products with vegetable oils, natural waxes, glycerin and other beneficial ingredients to keep our skin and lips moist and our bodies healthy.  Here are some tips when looking for the right product.


  1. Don't settle for undocumented terms like "natural" or "herbal" in the product name.  Read ingredients and make sure there's no petroleum-derived ingredients, phenol or other potentially harmful ingredients.
  2. Locally handcrafted products may or may not have pure ingredients.  Always read labels.  We know of some Michigan formulators that don't rely on chemical additives or petroleum-based ingredients.
  3. Look for the USDA Organic seal.  Mineral oil, petrolatum,  paraffin and other petrochemicals are synthetic and are not allowed in products carrying the USDA organic seal.