Harmful Ingredients & Their Effects on Your Lips

lip balm on lips

Lips can tell you a lot about a person, everything from their age and level of hydration to their current mood. While some perceive lips only as a beautiful feature, our puckers are actually one of the most sensitive parts of our body. 

Not only do lips have over a million nerve endings, but our skin is also at its thinnest there. Needless to say, lips require extra care and attention, just like the skin on our face. 

The delicate balance of healthy lips should be nurtured and protected. Unfortunately, we often take them for granted and put harmful products on them without even knowing it. 

That’s why it’s important to check your lipsticks, lip balms, and chapsticks for problematic ingredients that could damage the skin of your lips. If you’re not sure where to begin, here’s a list of harmful ingredients that are shockingly often found in everyday lip care products.

Any Type of Petroleum

Some people swear by the moisturizing properties of petroleum jelly, and while there’s some truth in that, you should also be familiar with the other side of the coin. This ingredient comes directly from petroleum residue after oil production. Does that sound like something that should go on your sensitive lips?

Now, it’s important to note that if the refinement process is done thoroughly, products with petroleum aren’t a health threat. Unfortunately, there isn’t much due diligence around the process, so there are products out there that contain toxins from petroleum. Additionally, this ingredient can help with moisturizing your lips by sealing in the hydration, but it simultaneously creates a barrier for the oxygen to flow naturally. This can lead to clogged pores and even acne in some cases.


Parabens, commonly found in many cosmetic products, are used for their antimicrobial properties. However, some research suggests that certain parabens, like propylparaben and isobutyl, might have potential endocrine-disrupting effects, meaning they could interfere with hormone systems in the body.

It’s important to stress that these findings are based on preliminary studies, and further research is necessary to fully understand the extent of their effects. Regulating bodies such as the EU and FDA currently consider parabens safe within established usage limits. However, to be on the safe side, it’s best to avoid them as they can also dry out our skin and make it more prone to cracking, which is the opposite of what we need. 

Luckily, more and more companies are creating paraben-free products such as Gisou’s lip oil which contains natural ingredients that nourish your skin without endangering your health. All our lip care and skin care products should be based on natural ingredients, which might be more difficult to find, but are infinitely better for our well-being.


We all want to smell alluring and fresh, and cosmetic cosmetics are in the know. That’s why they’ll use all sorts of fragrances to make their products more inviting, and this goes for lip care as well. Unfortunately, the contents of those fragrances in cosmetics are largely unchecked, which leaves room for misuse.

A lot of research is being done on the level of toxins artificial fragrances carry and what effect they have on our bodies. 

Results have been staggering so far, showing that fragrances can directly disrupt our hormone levels, cause skin conditions like eczema, and may even carry carcinogens. We already know how lovely lipsticks and lip balms can smell, but that should be a warning sign to check the ingredients list, not a nudge to buy them.


The term “alcohol” in ingredient lists can refer to a wide range of compounds, not all of which are harmful to the skin. Certain types, like fatty alcohols, can even be beneficial, offering moisturizing properties. However, some types of alcohol, such as SD alcohol, denatured alcohol, or isopropyl alcohol, can indeed be drying and irritating, especially for sensitive skin like that on the lips.

Alcohol can cause irritation and sometimes even act as an exfoliant, but not in a good way. If you use a lip care product with alcohol every day, the skin could become very dry and chapped and your skin exposed to all kinds of external irritants. Better to avoid the whole ordeal altogether and choose products that are alcohol-free.

Traces of Lead

This is a tricky one because you won’t find “traces of lead” on any cosmetic label, but that doesn’t mean that the lead isn’t there. Since it’s a heavy metal, having it on your skin and absorbed into your body can cause all sorts of health issues, from hormonal changes to increased chances of infertility. 

Be sure to do your research before you buy new cosmetics and check if there are any reports of traces of lead in their products. If yes, better to go for something else, and possibly healthier.

As you can see, there’s a lot to consider if you want to treat your lips in a way they deserve. If all the research seems overwhelming when you start, don’t worry, the more you know, the easier it will be to pick products that are good for you and your lips. And that alone is worth the effort!

Olivia Wolfe
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Olivia is a full-time health intern with a passion for writing and simplifying information on health, beauty, and wellness that comes from her firsthand experiences. With an academic background in healthcare and a love for writing Olivia’s writing style is characterized by its ability to simplify intricate information. Drawing from her time as a nursing intern, she infuses her work with personal anecdotes and practical advice, giving readers something to relate to. During her free time, she likes to strum the ukulele.