Would You Use Lip Balm With An Ingredient Found In

Targeted ads are the 2019 version of a poltergeist. They follow me everywhere, until I inevitably go mad. Are you seeing what I’m seeing?! One such example is UZ Unframe the Beauty’s Lip Treatment—its five shades greeted me each time I opened Instagram, for weeks. Eventually I started seeing the familiar teardrop-shaped, slim, lucite-esque bottle plastered on Little Italy scaffolding and large-scale billboards. Heck, a huge ad was recently put up on the west-facing side of the building housing Glossier’s New York flagship. But a conversation with Social Media Editor Eva Alt was my first cue that this magical balm didn’t, in fact, exist only in my head. “Have you tried the new UZ lip hydrator thing?” she asked, continuing, “It’s the first beauty product in a while that caught my attention for real!” Its promise sounded too good to be true: start using this lip balm, and teach your lips to moisturize themselves. You’ll never need another lip balm again. Are you sold? I was, too. I called them in that day.

UZ claims that what keeps lips hydrated over time is a trademarked ingredient called Multi Flora—a lactic acid-derived prebiotic. By keeping your skin’s microbiome healthy, they explain, lips stay hydrated for longer. But if you look for “Multi Flora” on its ingredient list, you won’t be able to find it. Instead, you’ll see the same ingredients found in your favorite lip balms (lanolin, wax and dimethicone), plus one Enterococcus faecalis. This, the brand informs me, is the scientific name for their Multi Flora compound. It’s also, uh, found in human poop.

E. faecalis (do you see the Latin root of feces in there now?) is naturally found in your gut and bowel. It’s fine and totally harmless there, but can cause problems if it enters places it’s not supposed to be. In fact, the CDC notes that E. faecalis is “responsible for approximately 80-percent of human infections.” Infections like UTIs, oral infections after root canals, and wound infections… So what the heck is it doing in a lip balm?

Luckily, E. faecalis actually has well-documented commercial use as a prebiotic for over 50 years. It’s often included as a fermenting agent in processing foods such as cheese and sausage, and in Europe, it’s prescribed to treat IBS. But all of that is ingested E. faealis—few studies exist on its use as a topical.

This study notes its potential as a treatment for acne, but your lips don’t get acne—they don’t have sweat glands or hair follicles, so you can’t experience clogged pores on them. (The lip line is a different story.) And if your lips don’t produce their own sebum, I’m left questioning what natural barrier a prebiotic lip treatment would actually strengthen. While UZ credits Enterococcus faecalis with increased glycerin and fatty acid production, I couldn’t find any scientific studies to support it.

While you’re totally fine using UZ’s treatment (E. faecalis is safe to ingest in small amounts), I’m not quite sure if it actually does what the brand claims it does. After two weeks of use, my lips feel moisturized, sure, but not any more than when I regularly use any other lip balm. So, poop lip balm? It might be too soon to tell.

—Ali Oshinsky

Photo via ITG

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