Is Carmex lip balm good or bad for your lips?

Carmex is a very popular lip balm brand that has been producing lip care products for over 80 years. Over the years this brand has suffered from rumours claiming that the Carmex lip balms are bad for the lips, confusing users on whether or not to use them. In this article, we will tell you whether or not Carmex is good for you and what are its side effects.

Carmex lip balm

Abour Carmex lip balms

The first lip balm produced by Carma Lab was the Carmex Classic, a medicated lip balm for cold sores. It comes in a jar, tube, and stick form.  It was first designed by the brand’s founder as a remedy to his cold sores. He, later on, sold it in pharmacies door to door until the product became popular and sales exploded.

Since 1999 the Carmex Classic has been voted the #1 over-the-counter lip balm brand according to the Pharmacy Times magazine.

Over the years the brand has launched several other lines of lip care products. However, the classic formula still remains the most popular.

What is in Carmex lip balm?

Here is a breakdown of the ingredients found in Carmex Classic tube:

  • Petrolatum: It is refined derivative of petroleum used as an occlusive and skin protectant for moisture retention  in the skin. It may be however, contaminated with polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), cancer-causing chemicals that can also irritate the skin. Although, for cosmetic purposes, this kind of contaminants are most likely to have been removed.
  • Lanolin: a refined derivative of the fat-like sebaceous secretion of sheep. It is extremely hydrating and helps to soften the skin.
  • Cera alba: More commonly known as beeswax, Cera alba is a natural wax used as an emollient and thickener in cosmetic products.
  • Cetyl esters: This is a synthetic wax used as an emollient and skin condition in the lip balm.
  • Paraffinum liquidum: also known as mineral oil, this petroleum derivative is a skin protector and emollient with skin conditions properties. It simply sits on the skin to prevent moisture loss but does not offer any extra benefits like plant oils.
  • Theobroma cacao seed butter: commonly known as cocoa butter it is natural oil used as a skin protectant and occlusive.
  • Camphor: is a natural wax used for healing skin irritations thanks to its anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties
  • Menthol: is a flavoring and analgesic ingredient used to soothe dry and irritated skin.
  • Salicylic acid: This ingredient is a skin exfoliant (beta hydroxy acid) that helps get rid of dead skin cells in skin treatments.
  • Aroma
  • Vanillin: a fragrance ingredient that adds a vanilla flavor to the balm.
  • Citronellol: a naturally occurring scent ingredient derived from plants such as rose, geranium, and lemongrass; can aggrevate the skin.
  • Geraniol: a naturally occurring scent ingredient found in various essential oils such as rose oil and citronella oil, moderate skin irritant.
  • Hydroxycitronellal: a synthetic fragrance made from the naturally occurring scent chemical citronellal, can irritate the skin.
  • Limonene: a scent ingredient and solvent naturally occurring in the rind of citrus fruit; can cause sensitivity.
  • Linalool: a terpene used in perfuming cosmetic products, it can cause irritation in sensitive skin.

What does Carmex do to your lips?

Carmex is a moisturizing and soothing lip balm for dry and chapped lips. It contains several emollients that form an occlusive barrier on the lips that soothe and softens dry lips. These emollients form a protective barrier that traps moisture in the skin to keep the lips hydrated.

The salicylic acid present in this balm helps exfoliate dead skin cells, while menthol and camphor have a cooling and soothing effect on irritated lips.

Side effects of Carmex lip balm

Although considered safe to use on the lips, certain ingredients in this product may cause certain reactions.

Carmex contains menthol and camphor, two ingredients that are responsible for the tingling sensation you feel upon application. This feeling is extremely uncomfortable for people with sensitive lips.

Camphor in Carmex lip balm may also cause allergic reactions in some people. This may manifest with signs of redness and irritations on the lips.

Carmex contains synthetic and natural fragrances which could be irritating to people with sensitive skin and may cause allergic reactions.


What happens if you use too much Carmex?

Carmex usage rate is indicated to use as required. However if for some reason you apply too much of it, you may feel intense tingling sensations on your lips. Carmex contains menthol and camphor that gives a cooling effect. Too much of it may cause you an uncomfortable tingling sensation.

What happens if you put Carmex under your eyes?

The camphor and menthol as well fragrances in the product may end up irritating your eyes and cause them to water. If you have sensitive skin, your skin may be prone to allergic reactions to said ingredients, like swelling, redness, and irritations.

Is Carmex good for sunburned lips?

Yes, it can be. The Carmex Classic stick not only protects and helps heal chapped lips caused by exposure to the sun. It contains sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15. This means that the skin of the lips when covered in Carmex, takes 15 more times to burn than when exposed to the sun.

Does Carmex make your lips bigger?

No. The Carmex Lip balm is not designed to make the lips bigger. In case of any swelling, this is a sign of an allergic reaction and you should rinse off the product and see a doctor.

Does Carmex dry out your lips?

This lip balm is formulated with petrolatum which is an occlusive skincare ingredient used to trap moisture and boost the skin’s hydration. It also contains emollients like cocoa butter, beeswax, and mineral oil that contribute to softening the skin of the lips.

Furthermore, camphor in Carmex helps boost collagen production for more firm and plump skin. For this reason, Carmex should not dry out your lips but if you are sensitive to any of its ingredients it could cause some undesirable reactions.

Is Carmex good for cold sores?

Yes, it is. The original Carmex recipe which is still the one used in the Carmex Classic lip balm was designed to help soothe cold sores.

Carma Labs also produces a cold sore treatment lip balm, Carmex® Multi-Symptom Cold Sore Treatment. This product contains benzocaine, an FDA-approved ingredient, that temporarily relieves pain and itch related to cold sores and fever blisters.

Can Carmex heal/get rid of cold sores?

Carmex only helps relieve pain, itches and dryness caused by cold sores. It does not get rid of them.

Why does Carmex tingle?

It contains menthol and camphor. These two ingredients cause the tingly and cooling effect you feel on application.

Is Carmex safe during pregnancy?

Because Carmex contains salicylic acid even though not in high concentration, it is best to consult with your doctor before use.

Final thoughts – Is Carmex lip balm good or bad for you?

Carmex contains a mixture of natural and synthetic ingredients so it’s not an all-natural product. It contains several moisturising ingredients and ingredients that help to soothe irritated lips.

Some ingredients found in Carmex are known allergens such as Citronellol, Linalool and Limonene so if you have sensitive skin you may get a reaction. Camphor and menthol which are added to soothe lips can also cause irritation and tingling sensation.

Mineral oils in Carmex help prevent moisture loss but they don’t add any extra benefits, contain no vitamins and don’t penetrate the skin to help it heal within.

Taking everything into account, Carmex lip balm does offer some benefits but it’s not the best lip balm you can use to moisturise and soothe your lips as it contains several synthetic ingredients. Mineral oils and synthetic fragrance are of particular concern here. It’s better to moisturise your lips with natural-based ingredients to nourish your lips deeply.