Chances are, if you use lip balm enough to be concerned that you're addicted to it, others have noticed your habit and perhaps commented that it can cause cancer. However, typical lip balms don't contain substances that are addictive in and of themselves and they're not chock-full of carcinogens.
Rumors that lip balms contain dangerous cancer-causing agents or acids are no truer than the cover story of that tabloid you thumbed through in the checkout line yesterday. In fact, the worst side effect to overuse of lip balm is an increase in lip chapping. Some ingredients in lip balm can lead to a tendency to use the product more frequently by prolonging the chapped effects. Avoid products with phenol, menthol or salicylic acid. Balms with these ingredients may cause a pleasant tingling feeling, but that sensation is actually protective layers of dead skin on your lips peeling off. Removing these layers of skin leaves your lips more susceptible to the environmental factors that cause chapping [source: Associated Press].
Also avoid lip balms with an added scent or flavor, which may irritate the lips. Go for something natural instead of that tempting chocolate- or strawberry-flavored product.
Your best bet is a lip product that contains petroleum. Petroleum keeps moisture in the lips, so it will help prevent future chapping instead of perpetuating it.
Because some ingredients in lip balm can increase chapping and cause you to continue using these products, you may wonder whether this qualifies as an addiction. Read on to learn about the debate over whether lip balm addiction is psychological or physical.