November 20th, 2010

Carmex vs. Burt’s Bees

carmex-original-jar-detailI did a scary thing today – I looked at the ingredients in my lip balm. I say scary because I’m not sure it’s something I ever truly wanted to know. I’ve been using Carmex® for years, especially in the winter when my lips get extremely dry (it’s also great as a cuticle moisturizer). But I’m also loyal to Burt’s Bees®, because it’s all-natural. So how unnatural is Carmex®?

First things first – the ingredients:

Carmex® vs. Burt’s Bees®

Menthol                                             Beeswax

Camphor                                           Coconut oil

Phenol                                               Sunflower seed oil

Fragrance in Petrolatum                 Peppermint oil

Lanolin                                               Lanolin

Salicylic Acid                                   Tocopherol

Cocoa Butter                                     Rosemary leaf extract

Wax Base                                            Soybean oil

Canola oil

A few things bothered me when I read these two lists. First, is that Carmex® contains a drying agent – Salicylic Acid, the same active ingredient in zit medication. Why would a lip balm, which is supposed to moisturize, need a drying agent? Second “fragrance in petrolatum,” which is their fancy way of saying Petroleum Jelly. Again, Petroleum Jelly initially holds moisture in for your lips, but it also doesn’t allow your lips to absorb any moisture, leaving them as dry as they began.

But the ingredient that really got to me was Phenol, which is not only an anesthetic (which I need on my lips to what? Why would I want to numb my lips?) but is also an alternative to formaldehyde for embalming, and in large injections can be used to kill a person! And while I suppose being able to embalm someone on the spot may come in handy some day, the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep cosmetic safety database rated it a 9/10 (High Hazard) on its ingredient safety scale. This rating applies to the ingredient itself, not the product containing it, but still. Phenol is one of Carmex’s® three active ingredients (at .4%) and it’s considered that dangerous? When I read that I threw out my Carmex® forever.

Ultimately, everyone makes the decision about what to put in and on their body. People having been using Carmex® for years and still live to tell the tale. But when I have the option of putting something on my lips, which is eventually digested through my body, why would I choose a product with such dangerous ingredients? Carmex® recently announced that they’re changing their packaging to eliminate 20% of the plastic from the traditional jar. That’s great. But changes to Carmex® really need to start with the ingredients.

Long live Burt’s Bees®!

burt

Comments

    My daughter recommended Carmex to me when I started getting a fever blister. She said it keeps helps her and the fever blister goes away. I only have Burt’s Bees Super Shiny Natural Lip Gloss. I put it on before going to bed and it helped. The fever blister is not painful and seems to be drying up.

    I don’t know about Carmex but, this girl is sticking with Burt’s Bees products!

    Salycilic acid is a mild acne med and probably there to allow exfoliation of the cold sore and dry skin on lips. I think the main argument I hear in favor of Burt’s is that it is a beeswax barrier and not a drying petroleum barrier, but Carmex is mostly beeswax too. I think Carmex works better and the phenol does not concern me personally, but I do not claim to be particularly educated about the risk.

    Salicylic acid isn’t a drying agent. In certain concentrations at a certain PH level it exfoliates dead skin by weakening the bonds holding the dead skin cells together. In lower concentrations and with a PH of higher than 4 it is actually anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial. It has also been shown to improve skin barrier function and collagen production so it’s pretty much ideal in a lip balm or any moisturizer. Not that I’m a fan of Carmex or anything. I prefer lips with coconut oil bases myself. I would recommend the one from Avalon Organics, for what it’s worth.

    Carmex was originally developed to ease the pain and symptoms of cold sores, fever blisters and chapped (raw) lips. It is not just used as a lip balm, so the pain relieving and drying (for blisters) makes complete sense. If you are looking for a natural moisturizing lip balm, Carmex is not the right product. If you are looking for relief from irritating/painful cold sores or chapping, Carmex will provide that. Also, considering their other ingredients (sunflower oil, coconut oil, lanolin, beeswax, etc.) are all fantastic and natural moisturizers used in a multitude of natural lip balms and creams, including Burt’s Bees products, I think Carmex is a perfectly safe product to use for the occasional cold sore.

    Salicylic acid is a sneaky way for companies who make lip balm to make sure you need to keep using lip balm. It causes the lips to peel making you think you need to use more lip balm to moisturizer them. Yes most lip balms will moisturizer your lips but at the same time it’s causing them to peel making you need more. I’ve been a Burt’s fan for a long time and I never stray away from them do to the fact there is no salicylic acid in it. If I use anything different I can tell almost within the first day that my lips are peeling more than they should. Just a sneaky way for companies to make you “need” more balm.

    I have to say that Carmex has never made my lips peel more than they should. I generally put it on at night and the next night I feel the need to put it on again, but not because my lips are damaged, but because there’s just such a noticeable difference.

    After a couple of weeks of not using Carmex though my lips do begin to become chapped, and that’s never very pleasant.

    Now I haven’t tried Burt’s Bees, although planning to, but Carmex does an extremely good job at what it does.

    Nice blog post, but you should cite your sources though.

    Salicylic Acid isn’t technically a drying agent. It’s used to cause the old skin cells to shed and encourage new cells to grow. It’s used in dandruff treating shampoos too.
    And if you’re in the EU it won’t contain phenol so that’s less of a worry.

    This may be extremely out of date but I must point out that, if you were so bothered by the 0.4% of phenol in it, you could see that in Europe the use of phenol is not permitted and therefore each recipe of Carmex varies.
    Furthermore, salicyclic acid is mistakenly seen as just a drying agent but it is also a keratolytic and cosmotolytic so that, as the person above stated, the skin shed more readily, the clogged pores unclog and bacteria within is neutralised.

    Oh, and not to mention the benefit of including cocoa butter in the product. I use Carmex one time in the morning and it holds through out the entire day.

    Also, I’m still alive!

    The “fact” that salicylic acid is used to to make Carmex as an addictive product is nothing short of foolishness. Just as molecules such as dipenhydramine (Benadryl) and aspirin have multiple uses, so too does salicylic acid. Salicylic acid doesn’t “dry out” as many people claim, but rather acts as a micro exfoliant, removing dead epidermal cells from the lips to be replaced with healthier, new cells. I really liked how you went about this, but simply put, the information here presented is incorrect and full of fallacies. Sure, salicylic acid can kill you in larger amounts, but so too can water, beta carotene and apple seeds if given enough quantities. Also, salicylic acid is naturally derived from many genera of trees and Carmex also contain bee’s wax, just as Burt’s Bees. As another poster has already said, Carmex adds its numbing agents for pain relief. Just as with salicylic acid, phenols too are only dangerous in high levels. In the small amounts that it exists in Carmex, you have nothing to worry about. The fact of the matter is, Burt’s Bees is just like any other company and has jumped on the hot topic: “all natural”. Keeping in mind that they are owned by Clorox, I don’t think I need much more explaining as to why they will do any marketing campaign to draw customers from their competition to themselves. To conclude, the Carmex-scare groups that exist, and suggest “natural” alternatives to them, are nothing more than campaign dogma not truly supported by science and backed by a lack of understanding of the molecules that make up the products themselves.

    KEEP IN MIND THAT BURTS IS NOW PART OF JOHNSON & JOHNSON AND WATCH OUT FOR INGREDIENT CHANGES

    Interesting that in your comparison you seemed unconcerned by the fact that Burt’s contains Soy and Canola oil, both of which are largely genetically engineered crops. I don’t think I would be anymore excited about using Burt’s than Carmex.

    Carmex was initially made for cold sore relief which why the ingredients are in there.
    Think about it anyrhing with the name balm in it is to heal; not to moisterize. If youre lookin for something for chapped lips Burt Bees or Chapstick is the best

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