Lip balm is an ointment used on the lips to help keep them moist and to aid in the healing of sores and cracks. Different types use different ingredients, ranging from petroleum jelly to those relying on "natural" ingredients such as beeswax. This product is different from lip gloss and lipstick, both of which usually serve only a cosmetic purpose. Lip balm, in addition to adding a sheen to the lips, also aims to fight chapping and to protect the sensitive skin of the lips from sunburn.
The most famous brand of lip balm in the United States is ChapStick®, which manufactures hundreds of varieties. The brand has become so popular that its name is often used for any product, no matter the manufacturer. The company produces a number of different product lines, each of which offers different varieties for consumers. The All-Natural line, for example, has additives such as mango butter, jojoba, and vitamin E.
Flavored lip balms are also very popular, particularly among younger users. Some manufacturers specialize in different, fun flavors, though most major brands have at least one flavored product available. Popular flavors include strawberry, cherry, and mint, with odd-ball flavors such as coffee offered by some companies.
Though most products have some level of sun protection in them, usually around SPF 4, many manufacturers offer special lines of sun-care balm that contain especially potent sunblock. These are ideal for people who spend extended periods of time in the sun. Most protecting lip balms have an SPF of at least 25, and often contain ingredients such as aloe and vitamin E as well.
Medicated lip balm is also available from a number of companies. These products contain a number of ingredients meant to soothe pain in the lips and help repair intense damage. Ingredients such as menthol, camphor, and phenol act as analgesics to dull the pain, while petrolatum helps to repair damage to lips.
There are a number of rumors that lip balm is "addictive," requiring users to continue using it or face damage to their lips and experience physical withdrawal symptoms. Most independent investigations suggest that there is no physical addiction occurring with the use of these products, but that users become accustomed to a high level of softness and moisture in their lips, and experience psychological withdrawal when they return to a natural state. This may provoke users to lick their lips in a misguided attempt to remoisturize them, which ultimately serves to dry them out more and cause cracking, which may then be attributed to a physical addiction to the ointment.