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Carmex Might Be Doing More Harm Than Good for Your Lips

Aug 16, 2023Aug 16, 2023

Created during the Great Depression, Carmex is a product people swear by for hydrated lips. However, some research reveals it could be bad for you.

Aug. 31 2023, Published 12:20 p.m. ET

Everyone has a lip balm of choice, a go-to salve with a familiar scent, texture, and the promise of relief. However, some might be better for you than others.

Carmex, the lip care brand with a loyal following, may not be as good as we once had hoped. Marketed as a medicated protection for chapped and dry lips, the signature yellow tube of lip balm can be spotted from across the room.

However, Carmex devotees may want to find a new lip balm favorite after reading more about its questionable ingredients and possibly addictive nature. Is Carmex bad for you?

The general consensus is that Carmex is not good for you in comparison to other lip balms. Although incredibly popular, some of its ingredients have dermatologists recommending other products.

However, it may not be bad for the reasons that you think. Although Carmex has the potential to damage your lips, it doesn't contain glass shards or formaldehyde, despite what rumors say, and it's not designed to make you addicted, per The Cut.

That being said, there are some ingredients you may want to pay attention to.

According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), Carmex Medicated Classic Lip Balm, SPF 15, ranks a solid 5 on the safety scale (the scale goes from 1 to 10, with 10 being the worst).

The EWG explains that the main concerns are octinoxate and oxybenzone, found in many sunscreens, which absorb UV light to protect the skin from the sun. Oxybenzone has been found by studies to be a hormone disruptor, possibly affecting birth weight, and altering testosterone levels in children.

Other literature has shown that octinoxate, the other active ingredient in the Carmex Medicated Classic Lip Balm, SPF 15, can disturb hormone production in the thyroid, as well as metabolic stability.

Petroleum is another major ingredient in Carmex products, as well as other popular salves like Vaseline. Although it can give you a moisturized look to your skin, petroleum jelly, also known as white petrolatum, comes from the oil refining process, ergo making it an unsustainable ingredient, per HuffPost.

Although you can buy Carmex products that are fragrance-free, some do contain "flavor," a vague ingredient listing. According to Illuminate Labs, this likely means it contains synthetic flavoring chemicals.

You may have heard some internet banter around people being addicted to Carmex. There is an explanation for this. There's a possibility you could be allergic to some ingredients in Carmex, such as menthol, camphor, beeswax, or lanolin, which can cause lip irritation for some people. The inclusion of beeswax and lanolin also means Carmex is not vegan, though the brand does not test on animals.

Additionally, as dermatologist Dr. Whitney Bowe told The Cut, "These ingredients can cause people to feel as though they need to reapply a lip balm more frequently, so it feels like an addiction.”

So Carmex itself is not made to be addictive, but you could be exacerbating your allergic reaction by not knowing your lip balm is the problem.

For Carmex alternatives, you can try sustainable and vegan options like Dr. Bronner's All One! Organic Lip Balm, or this zero-waste lip balm from EcoRoots.