Can I Put Lip Balm on My Baby?

Sleeping baby with open mouth

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You could spend forever just staring at your infant's face. If, while you're doing that, you notice that their little lips are chapped, you may wonder whether you should apply lip balm. You might remember hearing that babies under 6 months should only ingest breast milk or formula, but feel unclear about whether they could really swallow a significant amount of lip balm.

However, it's important to know that you should never apply lip balm to your baby's lips, unless it specially formulated for infants. Lip balm often contains camphor, an ingredient that can be lethal to babies.

In many cases, you can just leave your baby's chapped lips alone. "Certain lip balms can be safely applied to babies' lips but aren't usually necessary, " says Leah Ansell, MD, a board-certified dermatologist with expertise in cosmetic, medical, and surgical dermatology and a focus on providing care for the entire family. "Safe emollients like plain Vaseline or Aquaphor are good options if the baby's lips look dry."

Ahead, we get deeper into why lip balm isn't the best choice for your baby's chapped lips and what to do instead.

Is It Safe for My Baby to Use Lip Balm?

You can apply lip balm that is formulated especially for infants if your child's pediatrician gives the okay.

However, never use adult lip balm on a baby. "Baby and infant-friendly lip balms often contain natural components and don't contain the same chemicals as lip balms for adults," says Anna Chacon, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and published author based in Miami Florida.

In general, lip balm is not considered necessary for babies. You can leave their lips alone or apply a minimal amount of petroleum jelly. "This is an excellent option for your baby's chapped lips because it is gentle and has no additives," says Dr. Chacon. "Spread the least bit possible on their lips."

Every baby is different. Be sure to consult with a pediatrician if you have any questions about putting lip balm on your baby.

Benefits of Baby-Safe Lip Ointment

Chapped lips aren't necessarily something to worry about, but they can sometimes lead to other issues that baby-safe lip balm or petroleum jelly can help prevent.

One of these issues is caused by excessive licking of the lips. Kids and babies will often lick their dry, chapped lips in an effort to moisten them. But instead of finding relief, lip lickers often end up with an irritation caused by the saliva. "This is known as 'lip licker's dermatitis' and it is a rash on the lips and around the mouth, which results from licking chapped lips," say Dr. Ansell.

If your baby's lips crack severely or bleed, they could then be at risk of infection. Using a baby-safe lip ointment may help reduce this risk.

Risks of Using Adult Lip Balm on a Baby

There are a few reasons why you should never apply adult lip balm to a baby's lips.

Camphor Poisoning

Lip balm is not safe for babies because it frequently includes camphor as an ingredient. "Even a tiny quantity can be lethal if ingested by a youngster," notes Dr. Chacon.

If ingested, camphor affects the digestive and neurological systems. Camphor poisoning can cause seizures, as well as nausea and vomiting.

If you put lip balm on your baby and it contains camphor, call Poison Control. They will walk you through what to do and ensure that your child is safe.

Skin Irritation

Infant skin is more sensitive than adults', and may react more strongly to added fragrances or "flavors" in lip balms. "These can surprisingly be quite irritating to baby skin and lips," says Dr. Ansell.

Any lip balm whose label doesn't specifically say that it is okay for babies to use has the potential to have added ingredients that can irritate your little one's skin. "Don't be fooled by balms that claim to be 'all natural,'" says Dr. Ansell. "These are still not likely safe for babies."

Unsafe Additives

Some lip balms contain medication, such as hydrocortisone, sunblock, or other additives that are not safe for babies. Even some child-friendly additives may be present in amounts that are too high or too concentrated for a baby. "A baby is likely to ingest some of the lip balm, so it's important to stay away from anything that could potentially be harmful," notes Dr. Ansell.

A Word From Verywell

Lip balm is generally not needed on a regular basis for babies. However, if their lips look red or chapped, it may be appropriate to use a baby-safe option to prevent dermatitis and infection.

Never use adult lip balm on a baby because it may contain irritating and unsafe additives. Many lip balms contain camphor, which can be lethal to infants. If you do decide to apply something to your baby's chapped lips, a small amount of petroleum jelly like Aquaphor or Vaseline is generally a safe option. Just make sure to check with your child's pediatrician or healthcare provider first.

8 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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By Elisa Cinelli
Elisa is a well-known parenting writer who is passionate about providing research-based content to help parents make the best decisions for their families. She has written for well-known sites including POPSUGAR and Scary Mommy, among others.