The EOS Lip Balm Recall: My Opinion Behind the EOS Lip Balm Rash and EOS Lip Balm Reaction

Skin Care
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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).

Bacteria Skin Care

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):

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.

bacteria

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).

beeswax

Bottom Line

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. 

  • Andrea

    The need for preservative in anhydrous systems is debatable – probably a good idea for anything that comes into contact with moisture but not essential. However! The ingredient lists for all EOS balms list EXTRACTS – which either normally contain water or if they are powdered, they are not oil phase powders and attract moisture. What’s more, the coconut EOS balms contains WATER as an ingredient (as well as water phase additives), and NO preservative. So they’re not anhydrous balms. I’m surprised *all* of them don’t mold immediately.

  • I bought the Eos lemon 2 weeks ago and my lips were more dry and bleed and now I have a pimple. My sister told me about the lawsuit after I bought the product. Definately won’t buy this anymore.

  • Beck P

    Corti-balm that is …sorry for the typo

  • Beck P

    For those who have lip balm reactions to any brand …eos or anything …my dermatologist suggested using this stuff called DR Dans cori-balm it has hydrocortisone in it .. I had rash and cracked lips (allergic reaction) for over 3 weeks …this stuff cleared it up in 3 days!

    • Taylor

      Thanks for the recommendation, Beck! Glad to hear that you find an alternative that worked well for you.

      Best,

      Taylor

  • Sharin M. Fowler

    what do we do with this to get our money back

    • Taylor

      Hi Sharin,

      Unfortunately, we don’t know if EOS will offer refunds. You will have to contact EOS directly.

      Best,

      Taylor

  • Anna

    I twice had reactions to the sweet mint eos lip balm that felt exactly the same as the allergic reaction I get from mangoes. My suspicion is that the problem is with limonene – it’s known to be an allergen & is found in both mangoes and eos.

    • Taylor

      Hi Anna,

      Unfortunately, it’s likely that users’ adverse reactions with the EOS lip balm may be due to multiple sources. However, both limonene and mint can be irritating to some users, so perhaps that was the source of your allergic reactions. If you have any more questions, please let me know.

      Best,

      Taylor

  • Lena

    @Melody
    ..and still the bacteria and molds cannot grow inside the lip balm. As in: the amount of bacteria that can get on your lips is not heightened because of the balm. Its just as high as it normally is due to licking of lips etc.
    Even if some of your saliva gets on the balm it will evaporate from its surface immediately because the water is not integrated in the balm (no mixing, no emulgators to incorporate it, as far as I can see…) As nothing can live without water, bacteria will not proliferate nor accumulate in the balm.
    I could imagine that some people’s reactions could be due to the peppermint oil. It contains some substances like limonene and phellandrene, that are known to be sensitising. Also an allergic reaction can develop with a time delay. So even if you haven’t been reacting to something with allergic potential for some time, you can still get allergic to it.

    Also sry for my english, it’s not my native language

  • Ann

    I’ve been getting rashes and acne around my mouth and I wasn’t sure what was causing it, but I realized that whenever I stopped using the EOS lip balm they went away.

    • Taylor

      Hi Ann,

      While some users’ adverse reactions may be due to the EOS lip balm, your rash and acne could be due to a myriad of other sources. While avoiding this product until you figure out the root of your symptoms is best, we suggest speaking with your doctor or dermatologist as quickly as possible so that they can determine if there is another aggravating factor at play.

      Best,

      Taylor

  • Melody

    Water-free? It’s a lip balm. As in it goes on your lips, which are close to your mouth which is filled with saliva, a secretion composed primarily of water.

  • Sara

    I had a bad reaction too. It lasted a few months and felt like a chemical burn. And I’ve never had a reaction to any product ever. My theory is that EOS is all “organic & natural” and it allows bacteria to grow on the EOS. Because I’m not allergic to any of the ingredients on it. If you read other people’s reactions you’ll see that many people, myself included, used EOS for months without a reaction. And the suddenly you have a reaction. Which is why many of us didn’t know what caused it. It was horrible.

    • Taylor

      Dear Sara

      We’re sorry to hear that you too had a bad reaction to the lip balm. If you would like any recommendations, please let us know.

      Best,

      — Taylor

  • Becky

    Loved this lip balm but am going to have to quit using it. I can use it for one day and for the next week my lips are so dry that they peel. It’s horrible. Very sad about this.

    • Taylor

      Dear Becky,

      We’re sorry to hear that you too had a bad reaction to the lip balm. If you would like any recommendations, please let us know.

      Best,

      — Taylor

  • Lisa

    I agree with Lena. You do not need preservatives in a water-free system. You only need preservatives if water is involve. I think the lady may have been allergic to something in the ingredients.

    • Taylor

      Hi Lisa,

      True, she could have been allergic to something in the formulation, but one cannot deny that the lack of strong parabens has a high potential for allowing bacterial growth and causing a subsequent adverse reaction.

      Please remember that parabens are intended to exhibit antimicrobial/antibacterial activity, and even just a little bit of water, whether from saliva or a few drops from a drink, could be enough to promote bacterial colonization. It’s also important to keep in mind that you are rubbing lip balm onto a germy surface (your lips and fingers). While the lip balm spotlighted in this post does not contain water, several of the EOS lip balms do contain water, such as their Visibly Soft Lip Balm. The issue is not that this lip balm doesn’t contain water, but rather that the this lip balm did not contain enough strong preservatives to fight against bacterial growth and colonization.

      Best,

      Taylor

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  • Carranda Sedlock

    Thank you just got back with my daughter and her mouth is a Mess!! Due to this product!

  • Lena

    yes, no real preservatives but how would bacteria/mold grow anyways in a water-free system????
    Preservatives are really NOT NEEDED here!
    Just sth to keep the oils from getting rancid (antioxidants)

    • Taylor

      Hi Lena,

      We argue to the contrary, that parabens are indeed needs in this formulation both to prevent bacterial growth and to prolong the item’s shelf life. If you would like to have a more thorough discussion of the matter, please feel free to send us an email at support@futurederm.com.

      Best,

      Taylor

  • Andrea

    Thanks for addressing this… I had actually just found myself wondering what FutureDerm might have to say! Is your theory that the negative effects a few people have experienced might be due to bacterial growth that occurred due to a lack of proper preservatives? That would make more sense. My initial thought was that the woman who sued must have been allergic to something in the ingredients, but they all seem pretty innocuous. That being said, I don’t really understand why those complaining continued using a product that gave them such bad reactions… if a lip balm isn’t satisfactory, I chuck it after ~24 hours!

    I am a fan of the EOS vanilla bean lip balm that comes in the tube (as opposed to the sphere), even though I found the spherical ones mediocre. I checked, and the ingredients are actually a bit different (the vanilla bean ingredients: Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil*, Olea Europaea (Olive) Fruit Oil*, Beeswax/Cera Alba (Cire D’abeille)*, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil*, Natural Flavor (Aroma), Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea Butter)*, Stevia Rebaudiana Leaf/Stem Extract*, Tocopherol, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil*, Vanilla Planifolia Fruit Extract*. *Organic). Do you have any insight on why the vanilla one seems to work better based on this?

    • Caitlin

      It’s not a “few people” and you don’t know within “24 hours” what is causing the reaction.
      “A substantial number of consumers, upon information and belief in the tens of thousands, and potentially in excess of hundreds of thousands, who have purchased and used the product — spanning all gender, ages, and race — have experienced devastating adverse reactions to the product, consisting of mild to severe rashes, dryness, bleeding, blistering, cracking, and loss of pigmentation, lasting from a few days, to a few months, and some consumers with long-lasting and perhaps permanent symptoms”

      Allergic reactions can take 24 -72 hours to occur. It’s not an obvious link between the reaction and the product. It took me 45 days to figure it out what was giving me the rash. I am highly educated, saw my doctor, an allergist and researched the hell out of what might be wrong with my lips. I wish all of the ignorant people commenting on this issue would shut up. You have no idea what we have been experiencing. I will send you a picture right now if you like. It’s awful and painful and it’s not going away. I thought it was a great product, too, until my face swelled up. Keep using it. Wait and see.

      • Taylor

        Dear Caitlin,

        True, allergic reactions may take several days before they appear, and sometimes even medical professionals may be stumped as to what is actually causing the adverse reaction. I am really sorry to hear that you had such a bad reaction to the lip balm. May I ask what ended up being the problem — did you have an unknown allergy to one of the ingredients in the product? How did you resolve the issue? What did your physicians think that the issue was originally, before realizing that your lip balm was the problem?

        While I would love to hear more from you, I ask that you please remain polite and respectful in your comments. FutureDerm is dedicated to sharing scientific information with its readers, and we cannot do that successfully if the readers are not fostering a friendly and informative environment.

        Best,

        — Taylor

    • Taylor

      Hi Andrea,

      Without knowing the woman’s full dermatological and medical history, it’s hard to determine precisely why she had a bad reaction to the EOS lip balm. However, I believe that the lack of preservatives and bacterial growth may be the culprit here.

      Given that the EOS Vanilla Bean Lip Balm has only worked well for you, I cannot say why you have had a better reaction with it than other lip balms.If I were to take an educated guess, however, I would say that perhaps the tube’s smaller surface area allows for less bacterial colonization. Alternatively, perhaps you took better care to avoid contamination when using this product.

      Best,

      Taylor

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