What to look for in lip balm this winter
Have you seen lip balm that’s labelled petroleum free? Amazon even has a category for its online shoppers that’s devoted to petroleum free lip balms.
Petrolatum or white/yellow petrolatum is what you’ll likely see if you’re looking at an ingredient list to see if a lip balm has petroleum.
The ingredient is a petrochemical that’s also found in other skincare and haircare products and it’s designed to form a seal against water and air, preventing moisture loss from lips and skin.
If you’re about to choose a new lip balm, it’s worth noting that there’s doubt over the safety of petrolatum. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has raised concerns that it’s potentially toxic to our organs - and in the European Commission’s cosmetic ingredient database, petrolatum is restricted unless the refining history can be shown, and unless it’s been demonstrated that it’s not produced from a carcinogenic substance.
The EWG is also concerned over petrolatum’s potential to be contaminated by PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons), and has rated it among the top 20 ingredients with impurity concerns, by prevalence of use. PAHs are found naturally in the environment but can also be synthetic.
The organisation’s website makes several references to PAHs as possible carcinogens, as well as being potentially toxic to the immune system and to organs, and the potential to accumulate in wildlife and humans.
Mineral oil is another ingredient in some lip balms that’s been the subject of concern over contamination by PAHs, and over toxicity to the organs and immune system. Like petrolatum, it’s an ingredient that gives skin a seal to prevent moisture loss.
What to look for in a lip balm:
Keep an eye out for lip balms with healthier ingredients that moisturise using ingredients that aren’t petroleum based. Petrochemical-based lip balms may not be a good long term option as the coating applied to your skin can stop moisture binding to your lips, and they might need to be reapplied often.
We use beeswax, sweet almond oil, cetearyl alcohol (an emollient moisturiser) and peppermint fragrance in our lip balm sticks.
Lip balms with a small number of ingredients and that are free from chemicals like parabens and synthetic dyes and flavours can be a healthier option. Parabens are a preservative known to disrupt our endocrine systems, while synthetic dyes can irritate the lungs, eyes and skin.