• Mayo Clinic Minute: Stop sharing your lip balm

Medically reviewed by Dawn Marie R. Davis, M.D.
Besides the ick factor, Dr. Dawn Davis, a dermatologist at Mayo Clinic, says sharing your lip balm or lip moisturizer with another person is a bad idea. Sharing these products increases your risk for contracting cold sores, which are caused by herpes simplex virus (HSV-1). Dr. Davis says people can carry the herpes virus in their mouth without developing active sores. They can spread the virus to other people when they share lip balm, lipstick or a drink.
Watch: The Mayo Clinic Minute Journalists: Broadcast-quality video pkg (1:00) is in the downloads. Read the script. Many people use lip balm. Dr. Davis fully supports the practice. “The application of a lip product, whether that be a gloss, or a stick or a swab, is a very positive thing to do for your skin," she says. "And we know that using moisturizer with sunscreen on the lips helps decrease the risk of skin cancer to the lips.” But, Dr. Davis says, sharing your lip product should be off limits. Lip balms or swabs can be potential carrier of germs, including potentially a virus. Dr. Davis says that’s because germs and viruses can be spread by fomites, or shared cosmetics. So the next time a friend or family member reaches for your lip balm? "It is completely polite to say no to sharing cosmetics. I think that we’re all in the habit in society of not sharing toothbrushes and utensils without them being clean. And just, similarly, we should have this same habit with cosmetics," says Dr. Davis.

Related articles