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According to various sources, EOS Lip Balm may cause a rash and allergic reaction. In fact, one woman is filing a class-action lawsuit against the brand with claims that the lip salve gave her a serious skin reaction. The plaintiff, Rachael Cronin, said that she bought an EOS lip balm from Target, applied it, and felt her lips become even drier, according to TMZ. After continuing to swipe the lip balm on, she experienced blistering, cracked, and bleeding lips that she says took 10 days to completely clear.
But what about EOS Lip Balm could be causing the reaction? Below are my own thoughts on the situation:
How Most Organic and Natural Products Get Around Using Parabens
Let’s look at the ingredients list for a typical EOS Lip Balm in Moisturizing Mint:
Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil*, Beeswax (Cire D’abeille)*, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil*, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil*, Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Oil*, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter)*, Stevia Rebaudiana Leaf/Stem Extract*, Tocopherol, Limonene**, Linalool**. *Organic. **Component of Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Oil*. Certified Organic by Oregon Tilth.
Though it’s unpopular to say right now, I believe parabens are the most effective preservative system in skin care and cosmetics today. Parabens aren’t in skin care and cosmetics products because manufacturers are cheap, negligent, or trying to harm you. In fact, I believe parabens are the only effective protection against most bacterial species, due in large part to their ability to interfere with the metabolic pathways of bacteria in a manner similar to many antibiotics (Cosmetics and Toiletries, 2005).
To get around the controversy surrounding parabens as phytoestrogens, many manufacturers have started to use organic acids as preservatives. However, as one study shows, the following organic acids have been found to be effective against fungi, NOT many types of bacteria (Cosmetics and Toiletries):
- Benzoic acid
- Potassium sorbate
- Sodium benzoate
- Sorbic acid
The reason these organic acids fight fungi and not bacteria is because they interact only with microorganisms’ cell walls. Some bacteria, like Mycoplasma, don’t even have a cell wall! To protect the products further, many cosmetics companies include ingredients like phenoxyethanol, benzyl alcohol, and chloroacetamide to improve their efficacy against bacteria, yet the combination of these ingredients with organic acids doesn’t seem to be as effective as parabens, either (Cosmetics and Toiletries).
EOS Lip Balm Contains No Parabens, Organic Acids, or Other Preservatives
From the ingredients list, EOS seems to use limonene and linalool as the only preservative system. I’ve been saying it for years on FutureDerm: I don’t believe that this is enough! While EOS and many organic/natural companies have their hearts in the right place, it is my opinion that you may be putting yourself at more risk without chemical preservatives.
It is true that cosmetic and skin care products must undergo extensive antimicrobial testing before being sold in the U.S and have a typical shelf life of two years. However, the minimal regulatory testing does not include conditions where you’re repeatedly dipping bacteria-covered fingers into your lip balm pot, or storing the bacteria- and fungi-filled lip balm pot in a hot, humid place (such as you might if you leave your lip balm in your car in the hot, humid summer months), or if you share the lip balm with others.
Try leaving your organic/natural products (without chemical preservatives) open in the shower over the course of a few days! I left the cap of a paraben-free shampoo open once for a few days by accident, and found it gave me significant forehead acne. When I looked inside the bottle, it was absolutely disgusting. Again, although standard cosmetic and skincare testing covers bacterial and fungal growth for products with chemical preservative systems, I fear it may not be enough for typical use.
The Issue is NOT Vitamin E or Beeswax
Other experts are claiming that the issue with EOS lip balm may be the inclusion of vitamin E or the beeswax (Inquisitr). While I agree that natural ingredients do not have to be purified like synthetic ingredients and can certainly trigger allergies, I don’t agree that the vitamin E or the beeswax is the likely issue here. There are many quality skincare products that have been on the market for decades with high concentrations of vitamin E and beeswax that have never caused issues, such as Skinceuticals CE Ferulic (with 1% purified vitamin E) and Jergen’s All-Purpose Face Cream (with about as much beeswax as EOS lip balms).
In the quest to get safer products for ourselves and our families, I fear the pendulum has swung too far the other way. I personally believe some natural and organic products do not contain adequate preservative systems to cover the full range of bacteria and fungi that may grow under certain conditions imposed by users. As Stanford-trained dermatologist Dr. Kathy Fields, M.D. of ProActiv and Rodan+Fields fame once told me, “The benefit of the higher calling is to give good evidential information to tell what is real and what is a lie; to help the consumer. It is so overwhelming, and there is also so much politics involved in some of the ingredients. Unfortunately a lot of misinformation goes the wrong way. No one wants cancer from a cosmetic, like in the case of the rumors about parabens. By the way, you see parabens all over the place. Did you know you just ate a spoonful of parabens? Parabens are naturally found in blueberries!”
It’s a shame, but I stand by what I have said time and time again on FutureDerm: I believe it is not safer to go without proven preservatives, unless you use the entire bottle of product within a short period of time. Whether you support the use of parabens, organic acids plus phenoxyethanol/chloracetamide, or another preservative system altogether, I hope that this EOS Organic Lip Balm controversy inspires natural and organic skincare companies to start including trace amounts of chemical preservatives that are effective against a wider array of bacteria and fungi than limonene/linalool alone to help keep consumers safe.
***This article is my opinion only.