Is ChapStick Unhealthy? A Dermatologist Answers

Is ChapStick Unhealthy? A Dermatologist Answers

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ChapStick is one of the most popular lip balms in the world. The brand was founded in the 1970s, and is used to treat chapped lips as well as to generally moisturize the lips.

But does ChapStick contain research-backed ingredients for improving lip appearance and skin quality, or is the brand just great at marketing? Are there any questionable additive ingredients in ChapStick? What ChapStick product has the best formulation? And what do medical experts think is the best way to treat chapped lips?

In this article we’ll answer all of these questions and more as we analyze the ingredients in ChapStick based on medical studies to give our take on whether the brand is healthy or unhealthy.

We’ll discuss which ChapStick product has the best ingredients, and feature videos from credentialed medical experts discussing how to best treat chapped lips.

Ingredient Analysis

ChapStick Original active ingredient

The active ingredient in ChapStick Original is shown above.

White petrolatum is the only active ingredient, and this ingredient has significant research backing.

A 2016 clinical trial reported that petrolatum has a skin barrier protecting effect and an antimicrobial effect.

A medical review published in the Indian Journal of Dermatology found that petrolatum can reduce water loss from the skin by up to 98% when included at a minimum concentration of 5% (the concentration in ChapStick is 45%). This suggests that petrolatum is one of the most effective moisturizing ingredients known to researchers.

As we documented in our article on is Vaseline good for your face, petrolatum was also clinically shown to protect skin from environmental irritants.

Clearly the active ingredient in ChapStick is likely to be effective. However, the product also contains a number of inactive ingredients that may be questionable from a health perspective, as shown below:

ChapStick Original inactive ingredients

Fragrance is included in many cosmetic products, but a medical review published in the Air Quality, Atmosphere & Health journal analyzed clinical data on this class of ingredient and concluded the following:

“Results of this study provide compelling evidence that everyday fragranced products can impose serious risks to human health, environmental quality, businesses, and society.”

Red 6 Lake and Yellow 5 Lake are artificial colorants, and a 2015 medical review found that artificial dyes can absorb through the skin and may have immune-disrupting effects systemically.

Overall, we consider ChapStick likely to improve skin moisture content, protect the lips from environmental irritants and promote skin barrier repair due to its active ingredient.

We don’t currently recommend ChapStick due to the inactive ingredients highlighted above.

But what ChapStick product has the healthiest formulation? We’ll discuss in the next section.

Which ChapStick is the Healthiest?

ChapStick Natural ingredients

The ingredients in ChapStick 100% Natural Lip Butter are shown above.

There are many naturally-derived, research-backed ingredients in this formulation and zero inactive ingredients that we consider unhealthy.

Coconut oil was shown to be highly effective at moisturizing skin in a clinical trial published in the Dermatitis journal.

Beeswax was shown in a 2016 medical review to have antimicrobial activity.

Shea butter is clinically shown to promote skin barrier repair, as we documented in our LifeCell Skin review article.

Avocado oil was shown in a 2008 clinical trial to be nutrient-rich, and the researchers described this compound as “an excellent source of enrichment for dry, damaged or chapped skin.”

Overall, we consider ChapStick 100% Natural Lip Butter to be likely effective for moisturizing skin, improving appearance of the lips and supporting skin barrier repair.

We recommend this product from a formulation perspective, and consider it to be much healthier than ChapStick Original.

Interested consumers can check out ChapStick 100% Natural at this link to the product’s Amazon listing, where it can currently be purchased for under $1 per stick.

But what do medical experts think about the best way to treat chapped lips? We’ll discuss in the next section.

Medical Experts Discuss ChapStick Ingredients

A YouTube video from the “Doctorly” channel is highly informative, includes engaging graphics, and discusses how to best treat chapped lips:

A video from board-certified dermatologist “Dr Dray” shares 10 tips on how to heal chapped lips fast:

Our Clean Lip Balm Pick

Dr. Bronner's Organic Lip Balm is our top healthy lip balm pick.

This product has the healthiest formulation of any lip gloss we’ve reviewed. Like Laneige, it contains hydrating natural ingredients like organic avocado oil and organic jojoba seed oil. 

However it's fragrance-free and contains no additive ingredients that we consider to be unhealthy.

Stay up-to-date on our research reviews


ChapStick Original is unhealthy in our opinion. While it’s likely to be effective, it contains three additive ingredients including synthetic dyes that may have negative health effects based on clinical studies.

For consumers seeking a single-ingredient, affordable lip balm, we think Vaseline is a better option than ChapStick Original.

ChapStick 100% Natural Lip Butter is arguably the most effective and healthy lip balm formulation we’ve reviewed to date on Illuminate Health, and we recommend this product from a formulation perspective.

The “100% Natural” product contains a host of naturally-derived ingredients like avocado oil that can moisturize the lips, and is entirely free of questionable additives.

We would definitely recommend that consumers planning to buy ChapStick opt for the 100% Natural version. It’s essentially the same price as ChapStick Original as well.