The Guardian Positions Lip Balm Addiction as OCD

A major article chronicling our struggle with sobriety was published today. Are you a lip balm addict? by Morwenna Ferrier includes some interesting statistics, including that the balm industry is now expected to hit £1 billion this year.  Unfortunately, the article describes the affliction as not really an addiction but merely a compulsion.

While lip balm isn’t addictive in the actual, traditional sense because it doesn’t contain ingredients which generally cause physiological dependency – a spokesperson from mental health charity Mind said it’s not something they’ve come across – compulsive application is “a thing” and tantamount to an OCD. As Joel Rose, director of OCD Action, explains “the minute you define it it becomes a thing, the compulsion becomes real”. And if you like to apply lip balm 70 times a day, then you may be displaying compulsive tendencies.

Rose might be complaining that those of us in recovery from lip balm addiction are “playing fast and loose with language”, but when I was using Cherry Chapstick dozens of times a day it wasn’t because I felt a psychological desire to sooth. It was because my lips burned and I felt pain that could only be addressed using lip balm.

Still it’s nice that the Guardian article keenly plays it down the middle and acknowledges that regardless of the reason there’s pain out there for people who habitually use lip balm.

Are you one of those people who applies it multiple times a day? Yes. Do your lips still feel chapped? Yes. And yet do you continue to apply it despite evidence suggesting it’s not helping? Yes. Then you might have a problem.


Columbia Journalism School’s Lip Balm Expose

The very smart students at Columbia Journalism School put together this video about lip balm addition. In addition to a audio quote from yours truly, they also got the Carmex folks to go on the record that their products are not addictive, but according to the dermatologist who was interviewed Carmex does contain drying agents.

Columbia News Tonight: Paying Addiction Lip Service

Modern Chic Magazine’s Three-Part Expose

A fairly even-handed view of lip balm addiction has just been published by Modern Chic Magazine. Author Gabrielle Blue sums it up this way:

No company wants to be the first to admit their product is in any way harmful or addictive, and for all we know the lip balm industry is innocent. But as lip balm addicts continue to grow in numbers, develop support groups on Facebook and unite to kick the habit on sites such as Lip Balm Anonymous, it’s getting harder to believe there’s no truth to their claims.

modernchicBlue also got some plum quotes, including one from Carma Labs, makers of Carmex. “We are addictive,” says Mike Pietsch, vice-president of sales at Carma Labs.  “We’re addictively good.”  Talk about playing up the addictive legend for fun and profit!   Meanwhile, Paula Begoun , author of “The Original Beauty Bible” says of “medicated” balms such as Carmex, “‘Medicated,’ however, is at best a dubious term.”

Read more: three-part expose at Modern Chic Magazine, The Lip Balm Addiction.

LBA Interview on ‘This Way Up’ in New Zealand

rnzLBA’s Kevin C. appeared on the September 17, 2011 episode of This Way Up from Radio New Zealand. The story by Simon Morton also included included comments from people on the street and consultant dermatologist Dr. Louise Reiche.  The story is available online or you can listen below.

Interestingly, Dr. Reiche admitted there can be harmful effects from certain types of lip balms. She mentioned that lip balms that contain menthol or salicylic acid can make the lips feel “stingy” and may cause the lips to swell. “But if you’re a person who is using it a lot, and you have a more sensitive predisposition, you may go on to causing a permanent amoxil rash on the lips.” Lip balms with these ingredients include “medicated” lip balms such as Carmex.

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