After applying Chapstick for about the fifth time in an hour, I typed “lip balm addiction” into Google to see if there was any validity to the addiction myth. What I assumed would be a quick Yes or No turned into an afternoon of research and, in order to save you readers from similar distraction, this article. For your benefit, I have thus pursued this affliction with the tenacity of a honey badger and the thoroughness of a government audit, climbing two full flights of stairs and searching three whole rooms in order to find the necessary tubes of lip balm to study. I also spent a lot of time on Wikipedia.
My initial search yielded multiple links to LipBalmAnonymous.com, a support site for those with lip balm addictions and no other sympathetic outlet for their frustrations. They appear to be leading the online charge against both non-believers and conspiring lip balm manufacturers, claiming that many popular balms feature chemicals that unnaturally dry the lips or include flavors that make us more likely to lick our lips, exacerbating the problem. They also claim that, by definition of the term “addiction,” lip balms indeed cause psychological and physiological dependence.
The psychological claim is tough to argue with, since it can be applied so broadly. Does that mean many of us are also “addicted” to other items we feel we can't live without, such as shoes, cell phones, GPS systems, etc? Having already spent this long researching lip balm addiction in one afternoon, I don't intend to engage that argument as well, but I can go with something more tangible — the chemicals.
In common addictive substances, the offending chemical is typically widely known, the most famous example being nicotine in cigarettes. Are there any such addictive elements in lip balms? The short answer seems to be no. As far as my extensive research suggests, all ingredients in household lip balms either protect the lips from wind and sun, or smell nice. That means lip balms do not generate any physical dependency, although they may make your lips tastier and therefore more lickable. Also, by the way, lanolin (found in Burt's Bees) can also be applied to your nipples.
So, as far as I've found, lip balms do not create a physical addiction or dependency, just a physiological one. This 2008 Washington Post article suggests a few ways to wean yourself from balms. I personally don't feel sufficiently threatened to stop using it, but if you are frightened by your perceived dependency, just know that, unlike with many addictive substances, you are the only thing stopping you from quitting.