Lip Balms Revealed - What's in Chapstick?

Chapstick Petrochemical Lip Balm

There are many factors to consider when choosing a lip balm. However, one of the easiest ways to tell lip balms apart is simply by looking at the label. 

Ingredients Don't Lie

That's why we decided to take a deep dive into the ingredients of the leading lip balm brands. And, first up on the list is probably the most iconic name in the space - Chapstick. 

Chapstick Ingredients:

  • White Petrolatum 45% 
  • Arachidyl Propionate
  • Camphor
  • Carnauba Wax
  • Cetyl Alcohol
  • Fragrance
  • Isopropyl Lanolate
  • Isopropyl Myristate
  • Lanolin
  • Light Mineral Oil
  • Octyldodecanol
  • Oleyl Alcohol
  • Paraffin
  • Phenyl Trimethicone
  • Red 6 Lake
  • Titanium Dioxide
  • White Wax
  • Yellow 5 Lake.

Just look at this list. It's full of chemicals and alcohols. Half of the ingredients are unpronounceable. And the primary ingredient is a petrochemical made from crude oil. 

Let's take a look at a few of them.

Active Ingredient: White Petrolatum 45%

What Is It?

White Petrolatum is a nice way of saying petroleum jelly. It is an emollient, which is used to moisturize the skin, and it works by forming an oily layer on top of the skin that traps water inside. [1]

What does it do?

Clinical studies show that petrolatum is effective in moisturizing skin. Some experts even say that petroleum jelly is the "best moisturizer available." [2]

However, other experts believe that because petrolatum "is an occlusive barrier, locking in moisture" that "it does not allow moisture to be absorbed from the atmos­phere" and so it can  be "less moisturizing than those with emollients that enable moisture exchange." [2]

So, while there is debate on whether it is the most effective moisturizer, consensus is that it does work as a moisturizer.

How is it made? Petrochemicals and Crude Oil

Effectiveness debates aside, petroleum jelly is a petrochemical. It's the same stuff they lube machines with and it's made from refining crude oil which is drilled and pumped out of the ground.

Geopolitics

A lot of wars have been fought over access to and control of oil. And, many people have concerns about the environmental impact of big oil on the planet. And while most people can't completely escape petrochemical based products - they are literally everywhere - if you want to minimize your use of them, this could be a consideration.

Cancer Risk

"When properly refined, petrolatum has no known health concerns. However, with an incomplete refining history, petrolatum could potentially be contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs." [3]

"The National Toxicology Program (NTP) considers PAHs as a class to contain reasonably anticipated carcinogensthe International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) lists 14 PAHs as probable or possible carcinogens and one PAH as a known carcinogen.  A study on Long Island, NY, found that those women with high levels of PAH-DNA adducts had a 50 percent greater risk of breast cancer." [3]

So, the question here is, how scrupulous are Chapstick's suppliers? 

"The EU mandates that for cosmetic use, the full refining history of the petrolatum must be known and proven to be non-carcinogenic. The US sets no requirements on refinement and the PAH content in the petrolatum used in personal care products." [3]

Arachidyl Propionate

What is it?

Arachidyl Propionate is wax used in cosmetics and skin care products. It has a low melting point, melts on touch. It is used as a lubricant. 

How is it made?

Artificially, in a lab.

"Arachidyl Propionate is the propionic acid ester of the corresponding CLO fatty alcohol. It is manufactured as a mixture of the esters of the C,8-C28 fatty alcohols, of which the C, fatty alcohol ester is the major constituent." [4]

Is it safe?

Yes, it is considered safe. In clinical studies, "it was neither an irritant nor a sensitizer...neither phototoxic nor a photoallergen" and "is safe as a cosmetic ingredient in the present practices of use and concentration." [4]

Animal Testing

The report also notes "In test animals, Arachidyl Propionate was neither a primary dermal irritant, nor a skin sensitizer, and it did not have comedogenic potential. It was nonirritating to rabbit eyes." [4]

Camphor

What is it?

"Camphor is a waxy, flammable, transparent solid with a strong aroma." [5] It is one of the main ingredients in Vicks Vapo Rub and is used as a topical pain reliever.

How is it made?

It used to be extracted from the wood of camphor trees, but now it is mainly made from Turpentine. 

Now, compare that to our ingredients:

 Skin Is Skin Ingredients

  • Hibiscus Seed Oil 
  • Organic Baobab Seed Oil 
  • Organic Shea Butter
  • Organic Coconut Oil
  • Organic Castor Seed Oil
  • Candelilla Wax 
  • Natural and Essential Oils

 What would you rather put on your skin?

References

[1] [2] [3] [4] [5]