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Lip Balm Addiction: Are You in Recovery?

I've never been a lip balm user. This is because I tend to avoid things that my friends find addictive -- and I've had friends who have been, dare I say, addicted to lip balm since elementary school. After a few hours without it, they're clearly jonesing, twitching, and needing a fix. I won't name any brands here -- they seem to be pretty much the same, as far as I (a non-user) can tell. To me, lip balm just feels weird -- but apparently this weirdness turns into a necessary feeling after regular use.

Apparently other people have noticed this addictive* quality too -- there's a Lip Balm Anonymous website dedicated to documenting what might cause the pseudo-addiction of lip balms. Check out their Is Balm Addictive? page for some well-cited discussion of what addiction is, and whether it might apply to lip balms.

I also came across a well-written blog post about quitting lip balms as well as moisturizing lotions, entitled An Addiction. Here's a snippet:

The chapstick story starts a long while ago. Ever since middle school or so I can remember using chapstick every day. I would always carry a tube around with me and frequently reapplied it. This continued on through high school and college until the point where forgetting my chapstick was a horrible occasion. If I realized I wouldn't have chapstick for more than an hour or two I would have to borrow or buy a new one. (Thankfully I was usually with Joey who was a user too).

Finally, while working at Google, I was fed up. I decided that it was time to get rid of my addiction and of course starting searching the internet for advice. I ran into a bunch of articles about whether or not lip balm is actually addictive (it definitely is) but finally made it to one that described the process of withdrawal... Without that article I am sure I would have given up because it was hard. Because chapstick prevents your lips from exfoliating properly when you stop using it you have a lot of dead skin to get rid of. This results in a really gross set of lips for a while that are constantly shedding. Thankfully, vaseline was there to help. Vaseline is sorta like a midway drug. It is worse than not using anything, but a lot better than chapstick. Vaseline was able to slow down the exfoliation to the point where I didn't feel disgusted about going to work, and after a couple of months I was able to stop using it too and I am now lip product free.

I'm not sure that lip balms prevent exfoliation (see the links above at Lip Balm Anonymous for more discussion of this) but they certainly seem to have effects that make your lips feel super-weird when you stop using them. It seems that avoiding this feeling is more what drives users not to quit; though there's also the element of something tingly (mint, etc.) in some brands that gives a pleasant effect when it's applied. All I know is I don't want to get hooked on this stuff.

* = Lip Balm Anonymous has a very nice disclaimer at the bottom of their pages, saying: "While our pain and addiction do not obviously compare to the horrors our brothers and sisters suffering from alcohol or narcotics addiction are feeling, Lip Balm Anonymous supports those members of other 12-step programs and no harm or slight is intended by this page." I thoroughly agree.

Are You in Recovery?

Are you a lip balm user, or a recovering user? Share your story in the comments. I'm genuinely curious how widespread this possible balm addiction thing is.

(Photo by Westside Shooter, used under Creative Commons license.)

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Owning a Dog May Add Years to Your Life, Study Shows
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We've said that having a furry friend can reduce depression, promote better sleep, and encourage more exercise. Now, research has indicated that caring for a canine might actually extend your lifespan.

Previous studies have shown that dog owners have an innate sense of comfort and increased well-being. A new paper published in Scientific Reports and conducted by Uppsala University in Sweden looked at the health records of 3.4 million of the country's residents. These records typically include personal data like marital status and whether the individual owns a pet. Researchers got additional insight from a national dog registry providing ownership information. According to the study, those with a dog for a housemate were less likely to die from cardiovascular disease or any other cause during the study's 12-year duration.

The study included adults 40 to 80 years old, with a mean age of 57. Researchers found that dogs were a positive predictor in health, particularly among singles. Those who had one were 33 percent less likely to die early than those who did not. Authors didn't conclude the exact reason behind the correlation: It could be active people are more likely to own dogs, that dogs promoted more activity, or that psychological factors like lowered incidences of depression might bolster overall well-being. Either way, having a pooch in your life could mean living a longer one.

[h/t Bloomberg]

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Not Sure About Your Tap Water? Here's How to Test for Contaminants
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In the wake of Flint, Michigan's water crisis, you may have begun to wonder: Is my tap water safe? How would I know? To put your mind at ease—or just to satisfy your scientific curiosity—you can find out exactly what's in your municipal water pretty easily, as Popular Science reports. Depending on where you live, it might even be free.

A new water quality test called Tap Score, launched on Kickstarter in June 2017, helps you test for the most common household water contaminants for $120 per kit. You just need to take a few samples, mail them to the lab, and you'll get the results back in 10 days, telling you about lead levels, copper and cadmium content, arsenic, and other common hazardous materials that can make their way into water via pipes or wells. If you're mostly worried about lead, you can get a $40 test that only tells you about the lead and copper content of your water.

In New York State, a free lead-testing program will send you a test kit on request that allows you to send off samples of your water to a state-certified lab for processing, no purchase required. A few weeks later, you'll get a letter with the results, telling you what kind of lead levels were found in your water. This option is great if you live in New York, but if your state doesn't offer free testing (or only offers it to specific locations, like schools), there are other budget-friendly ways to test, too.

While mailing samples of your water off to a certified lab is the most accurate way to test your water, you can do it entirely at home with inexpensive strip tests that will only set you back $10 to $15. These tests aren't as sensitive as lab versions, and they don't test for as many contaminants, but they can tell you roughly whether you should be concerned about high levels of toxic metals like lead. The strip tests will only give you positive or negative readings, though, whereas the EPA and other official agencies test for the concentration of contaminants (the parts-per-billion) to determine the safety of a water source. If you're truly concerned with what's in your water, you should probably stick to sending your samples off to a professional, since you'll get a more detailed report of the results from a lab than from a colored strip.

In the future, there will likely be an even quicker way to test for lead and other metals—one that hooks up to your smartphone. Gitanjali Rao, an 11-year-old from Colorado, won the 2017 Young Scientist Challenge by inventing Tethys, a faster lead-testing device than what's currently on the market. With Tethys, instead of waiting for a lab, you can get results instantly. It's not commercially available yet, though, so for now, we'll have to stick with mail-away options.

[h/t Popular Science]

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