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It’s lip balm season, which means your lips are already chapped and dry, or they will be soon. It’s pretty irritating, but it’s just a fact of life if you live in Canada. But why are your lips always dry, even with liberal use of lib balm? It has more to do with the ingredients than it does your lips’ ability to absorb.

Dr. Aleksandar Krunic, a dermatologist at Swedish Covenant Hospital and dermatology professor at University of Illinois College of Medicine (Chicago) and Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, suggests you avoid the following:

  • Fragrances and artificial colours
  • Menthol, camphor and phenol – while these things cool your lips, they also dry them out
  • Alcohol
  • Salicylic acid – don’t use products with this if you are allergic to aspirin
  • Aloe butter
  • Vitamin E (tocopherols)

Most of these elements are traditionally found in skin moisturizing products, but your lips are much more sensitive. So, yes, even aloe  butter and vitamin E, while typically viewed as restorative, can be a lip irritant. We looked into 16 of the most popular lip balms on the market to find out what’s in ’em. What we found is that most of these products contain at least one of the six known lip irritants (we’ve made every instance bold, so it’s easy to see among all the really long, science-y words). In fact, only two came out with a squeaky clean record.