Can you get hooked on lip balm?

It’s a question you might ask yourself after the fifth lip balm reapplication on this wintry February day: Is it possible to get hooked on this stuff? The answer: Yes! (Kinda.)

“It’s an interesting question,” says Perry Romanowski, a cosmetic chemist and a blogger over at The Beauty Brains. (So interesting, in fact, that he and his fellow beauty brainiacs have penned a soon-to-be-released book asking that question, plus others.) “You can’t get addicted to lip balm in the way you can get addicted to cigarettes; that’s actually a chemical addiction that affects your brain.” But as he explains it, lip balm can certainly be habit-forming.

The lower layers of your skin produce fresh, new skin cells, which die and can dry out a bit by the time they reach the top layer, Romanowski explains. “When you put the lip balm on the dry skin, what that does is interfere with the signaling mechanism that signals to the lower cells to start producing more,” he says. “Using lip balm, while it makes your lips feel good initially, when it wears off your skin feels dry again and your skin doesn’t have time to replenish that.” So you apply more lip balm. And when that wears off, you apply more. And more. And more! “And so in that way you can get ‘addicted’; it becomes sort of a psychological habit.”

Another explanation: Some lip products out there contain products — like the antiseptic chemical phenol, or even peppermint — that can act irritants, and can potentially dry your lips out.