Choose a Lip Balm Free of Pore-clogging Ingredients
The Essential Info
If you are acne-prone, the best approach for choosing a lip balm is to look at the ingredients. Steer clear of any products that contain pore-clogging ingredients. Also avoid fragranced or flavored lip balms, which may cause skin irritation or allergies in some people.
- Guidelines for Choosing a Lip Balm for Acne-prone Skin
- List of Common Comedogenic Ingredients
- Tips for Using Lip Balm on Acne-prone Skin
Lip balm, also known as lip salve, is an over-the-counter drug product that is applied to the lips to provide a protective layer on the lips in order to prevent or relieve mild conditions such as:
- Dry, chapped, and/or peeling lips
- Angular cheilitis (redness, chapping, and cracks in the corners of the mouth)
- Stomatitis (inflammation of the lips and mouth)1
This is especially important in cold, dry, and/or windy weather.
While the lips themselves do not develop acne, lip balm can easily migrate to the skin around the mouth, where it might potentially trigger acne. Therefore, it is important to select lip balm that is safe for acne-prone skin. To find a lip balm that will not contribute to acne around the mouth, follow these guidelines:
Guidelines for Choosing a Lip Balm for Acne-prone Skin
- Avoid pore-clogging ingredients: Before buying lip balm, take a look at the list of ingredients. Avoid lip balms containing comedogenic (pore-clogging) ingredients. Examples of comedogenic ingredients commonly found in lip balms include coconut oil, cocoa butter, and isopropyl myristate. The table below provides a complete list of common comedogenic ingredients.
- Avoid fragranced lip balms: Some lip balms contain added fragrances, which may cause skin irritation and/or allergies in some people. We know that irritation can aggravate acne, so the best strategy is to choose a fragrance-free lip balm.
- Avoid flavored lip balms: Many lip balms contain strong flavors. While some flavors are benign, others can be irritating, particularly mint or menthol flavors. To be safe, choose a lip balm without flavoring added.
- Sunscreen in your lip balm is a added bonus: Just like skin on other parts of the body, the skin on the lips can burn in the sun. If your lip balm comes with an SPF (sun protection factor) label, which means it provides some protection from the sun’s rays, that is a plus.
- Do not worry about finding a lip balm made specifically for acne: Some lip balms made for acne-prone skin may contain salicylic acid, which is a somewhat effective anti-acne ingredient. However, the amount of salicylic acid that can actually reach acne-prone skin from lip balm is negligible. Do not worry about trying to find a lip balm with salicylic acid.
List of Common Comedogenic Ingredients
Many research studies have looked at how likely various ingredients are to cause comedones (clogged pores).2 Based on a thorough review of these studies, we have compiled two lists:
- Definitely avoid: These are ingredients that people with acne-prone skin should definitely avoid, because a substantial amount of evidence shows that they are comedogenic.
- Consider avoiding: These are ingredients that people with acne-prone skin may want to consider avoiding, because some evidence suggests that they might be comedogenic.
Tips for Using Lip Balm on Acne-prone Skin
It is always a good idea to avoid irritating the skin when applying or removing lip balm, as physical irritation of the skin can make acne worse. Practicing good hygiene is also important. Keep these tips in mind when using lip balm:
- Apply lip balm only on the lips: If your lip balm comes in contact with the perioral skin (skin around the mouth), it might potentially trigger acne in this area. To avoid this, apply lip balm only on the lips, and be careful not to apply it beyond the lip line.
- Remove lip balm gently: Most people simply leave lip balm on, and that is usually the best way to avoid irritation when removing it. However, if you want to remove your lip balm, you can easily remove it by using cotton pads or tissues wetted with jojoba oil and/or makeup removers. Use gentle pressure and avoid rubbing so as not to irritate the skin around the mouth.
- Do not share your lip balm: Sharing your lip balm increased your likelihood of getting a skin infection.
- Do not use expired lip balm: Lip balm that is past its expiration date can start to break down or allow the growth of bacteria and mold. Never use expired lip balm.
Lip Balm Ingredients: The Full Scoop
- Engasser, P. G., Lip Cosmetics, Dermatologic Clinics, 18(4), 641-649, (2000). https://www.sciencedirect.com/journal/dermatologic-clinics/vol/18/issue/4
- Katoulis A. C., Kakepis E. M., Kintziou H., Kakepis M. E. & Stavrianeas N. G., Comedogenicity of cosmetics: a review, Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, 7, 115-119 (1996). https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1468-3083.1996.tb00606.x
- Callelo, J. F., Opel, J. E., Ordino, R. J., Sandevicz, R. W. & Jose, N. R., Method for treating chapped lips, United States Patent, No 6,086,859. Date: July 11, 2000. https://patents.google.com/patent/WO1999009936A1/en
- Magee, S. V., Bachert, J. O., Partridge, N. & Dickerson, J. R., Botanical butter stick balm, United States Patent, No 7,695,727. Date: April 13, 2010. https://patents.google.com/patent/US7695727