Why Petroleum-Based Lip Balms Could Be Harmful

Reaching for lip balm when your lips are chapped from the winter cold seems like a no brainer, but what's in your lip balm could ultimately cause more harm than good. If you've ever wondered whether petroleum-based lip balms could be hurting you, I've got the answer. (I've also rounded up some epic alternatives to try instead.) While you ultimately have to decide for yourself what you feel comfortable putting on your body, it's wise to be aware of the potential risks involved.

As harmless and "normal" as it might seem, petroleum jelly and mineral oil, which are derived from oil refining, can possibly be contaminated with carcinogens called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) and 1,4-dioxane. The EWG noted 1,4-dioxane, which the "EPA classifies as a probable human carcinogen and the National Toxicology Program considers a known animal carcinogen," frequently contaminates "common petroleum-based cosmetic ingredients." EWG acknowledged that "companies can easily remove it from ingredients during manufacture, [but] tests documenting its common presence in products show that they often don't, leaving their customers at risk for potential chronic and widespread exposures to this cancer-causing compound."

However, not all doctors agree caution is necessary. Andrew Weil, M.D., shared on his blog, "Because petrolatum is derived from oil, it needs to be refined, and some refining methods use toxic compounds. One class of these refining agents, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAH'S, have been linked to cancer. Any traces of these are removed at the end of the refining process."

My personal verdict? I will use 100 percent Vaseline on occasion, but prefer eco-friendly petroleum-free alternatives for health and environmental reasons.

The choice is yours, and below are my favorite alternative petroleum-free picks to fight chapped lips if you're interested!

1. Un-Petroleum Balm

Alba Un-Petroleum Balm, $2, Amazon

This vanilla-scented balm is the beloved one you see in the top picture! I use it every single day.

2. Earl Grey Lip Balm

Savannah Bee Company Earl Grey Lip Balm, $3, IHerb

Featuring organic beeswax, sweet almond oil, and bergamot oil, this earl grey lip balm is a luxurious lip treat.

3. Naturally Smooth Coconut Lip Balm

Yes To Naturally Smooth Coconut Lip Balm, $3, Amazon

Light and clean, this shea butter-based lip balm will keep your lips nice and smooth.

4. Visibly Soft Lip Balm

Eos Visibly Soft Lip Balm, $6, Amazon

This super creamy shea butter formula from Eos comes in dreamy scents like coconut, blackberry nectar, and raspberry pomegranate.

5. Intense Therapy Lip Balm

Jack Black Intense Therapy Lip Balm, $10, Amazon

This hydrating formula from Jack Black comes in a slew of scents, but grapefruit and ginger is my top pick!

6. Smashed Agave Lip Mask

Bite Beauty Smashed Agave Lip Mask, $26, Sephora

This red wine-tinted lip mask heals lips with organic jojoba oil.

7. Sugar Lip Treatment

Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment, $20, Amazon

Reparative waxes, sugar, and black currant come together to create this Allure top-rated balm.

8. Argan Infinity Lip Oil

Josie Maran Argan Infinity Lip Oil, $9, Amazon

For a burst of dewy, hydrating color, this organ-oil based balm/gloss doesn't disappoint!

9. Oriental Plants Balm

Koh Gen Do Oriental Plants Balm, $55, Nordstrom

Meant to be used all over your body, this plant balm contains 36 botanical extracts and isn't greasy at all.

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Images: Author's Own; Courtesy of Brands