Chapstick: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly


Alison Miller, Staff Writer

Chapsticks have been debated over for quite some time, and fan favorites are argued about constantly. However, what’s the science behind how chapstick works? What ingredients should you avoid? What ingredients should you run to? 

Mary L. Stevenson, MD, recommends that you look for ingredients in chapsticks, like “…white petrolatum, lanolin, shea butter, beeswax and ceramides…” These ingredients lock moisture into the skin, which is what you should look for in a chapstick. Dermatologists also recommend that you look for products with the shortest ingredient label. Chapsticks like Glossier’s Balm Dotcom, Aquaphor Lip Repair, Burt’s Bees, Vaseline Lip Therapy, and Neosporin Lip Health all have short, hydrating ingredient lists that will nourish your lips. 

However, some ingredients in chapstick can do more harm than good. Ingredients like, “…menthol, camphor, phenol or any sort of alcohol…” can be extremely damaging to some people’s epidermis, not only because everyone’s lips don’t have the extra layer of protection like the rest of your skin, but because one could have a slight allergy to the numbing ingredients like camphor or menthol, or really any alcohol based product. “…menthol, camphor, and other numbing ingredients in lip balms can cause what’s called contact dermatitis: irritation and itchiness that result from contact with the ingredient,” states Vox News. Some chapsticks have nourishing properties, but also contain these ingredients that can be harmful to some. Brands like ChapStick, Carmex, and Softlips all contain camphor, menthol, or other types of alcohols. 

To conclude, look for chapsticks containing moisturizing properties to protect the extremely sensitive outer layers of the epidermis. It’s better to be safe than sorry, rather than using chapsticks with those ingredients and finding out you have an allergy the hard way. Remember to stay away from alcohol based ingredients, and “medicated” chapsticks.