Lip balm can be a saving grace for dry and chapped lips. But some products contain ingredients that actually do more harm than good. Learning which ingredients to avoid, and which ones are healthy, can help you navigate the sea of products out there.


Phenol, also called carbolic acid, is a chemical compound and antibacterial agent commonly found in lip balms. The EWG Cosmetics Database lists this ingredient as being moderately to highly hazardous, citing concerns about organ system toxicity. The Cosmetics Directive of the European Union deemed phenol toxic in cosmetic and personal care products. Phenol is allowed in limited amounts in some over-the-counter cosmetic products in the U.S., but it has been banned for use in cosmetics in Canada and parts of Europe.

Lip Balm Addiction

Have you ever noticed that your lips actually get drier after you start using lip balm? You might have an addiction. Dermatologist Amy Wechsler, author of “The Mind-Beauty Connection: 9 Days to Reverse Stress Aging and Reveal More Youthful, Beautiful Skin,” told Oprah magazine that phenol strips the protective top layer of skin off of lips, so people become “addicted” to lip balm in that they’re constantly trying to replenish the lost moisture by reapplying it.

What to Look For

When shopping for lip balm, avoid phenol and look for ingredients such as beeswax, shea butter and/or jojoba oil. These natural ingredients provide healthy sources of moisture that are easily absorbed into the skin of the lips.

Homemade Lip Balm

To guarantee your lip balm is phenol free, make some at home yourself. Make a lavender lip balm using 2 tablespoons coconut oil, 1 tablespoon dried lavender, 1 tablespoon grated cocoa butter, 1/4 teaspoon vitamin E oil and 3 drops lavender essential oil. Gently warm the coconut oil on very low heat in a stainless steel pot; remove from heat, add the lavender and stir. Allow to steep for one hour, then strain it into a bowl with a fine sieve or cheesecloth. Pour the mixture into a clean pot, return to low heat, add the cocoa butter and stir until melted. Take the pot off the heat, add the essential oil and vitamin E oil and let sit for three hours.