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Volume 71, Issue 136, Thursday, April 27, 2006

Opinion

Remember, kids: just say no to balm

James Davis
Opinion Columnist 

Here's a question that's probably on most everyone's mind: Is it possible to be addicted to ChapStick?

The short answer: Yes. Yes, it is. The more you apply lip balm, the more you'll want to do it again. Soon, you'll be caught in a downward spiral of shame and moisturizing until you're more balm than man.

You think I'm being an alarmist, don't you? Well, go ahead and discredit me, but here's what the experts have to say. Paula Begoun, author of The Beauty Bible, claims that menthol, camphor and phenol, the main ingredients in most lip balms, do more harm than good.

"All those things are drying and irritating," she told Newsday. If chapped lips were a mosquito bite, ChapStick would be your anxious fingernail scratching away for relief that never comes. Instead of providing actual medication, lip balms are used, according to Begoun, "to make the consumer think something is happening." Carmex, Burt's Bees, Blistex all of them might as well be called Placebo Putty -- or, you know, something more clever.

I know what you're thinking: Boy, I sure could go for some ChapStick right now. My lips are pretty moist, but they could stand to be a little moister. Even my mentioning the name has probably sent you into a lip-licking frenzy. There's no need to be ashamed. I know the pleasure of an application of lip balm just as well as the next person. The bottom line, though, is that it's just not healthy. Most experts assert that your lips naturally exfoliate every 28 days or so. And, as with other 28-day cycles that will go unnamed, it's best to let nature take its course.

I understand this physical abuse will continue, however. You, dear consumer, are not at fault. It's the malevolent ChapStick overlords who have trapped us in their web. And with the adult market saturated, they've stooped to targeting our children!

Take, for instance, this bone-chilling account from Megan B., one of the many first-person testimonials listed on Lip Balm Anonymous' Web site: "My addiction started 3 years ago, when I was 10. My first memory of lip balm, though, was at the early age of 3, with Avon Ice Cream flavored. It was packaged to look like a cone full of ice cream. I was hooked from the start." With Disney churning out Pooh-shaped ChapSticks, and with so many enticing flavors, how's a child to resist? 

But I will readily admit I am only one person, and my stance, no matter how firm, can hold up only so long against the marauding juggernaut of capitalism. Just to be safe, though, here's a short list of other goods and services you might be addicted to: toothpaste, cigarettes, contact lenses, cell phones, your chiropractor, your iPod, crossword puzzles, ketchup, acupuncture, Taco Bell, organized religion, the Internet, pornography, alcohol, nasal spray, tanning lotion, Archie comics, marijuana, vegetarian chili, public education, iced tea, Major League Baseball and laughter.

As you can see, you have your work laid out for you. And I'm only scratching the surface here. There are hundreds -- literally hundreds -- of other substances out there waiting to addict you. But with a little hard work and will power, you can avoid them all. We are, after all, the land of the free; let's try to keep it that way.

Davis, an opinion columnist for The Daily Cougar, 
an be reached at jpdavis@uh.edu.

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