If you've ever sat with a friend and watched as he or she applied and then reapplied Chapstick or any other type of lip balm repeatedly, there's a scientific reason for it, according to Samantha Conrad, MD, a dermatologist at Northwestern Memorial HealthCare in Chicago. For starters, the ingredients in some products can end up being super drying, which prompt you to feel the need to keep reapplying in a vicious cycle. "In addition, the feeling of being 'addicted to Chapstick' is that the person has become very used to a textural feeling on his or her lips," she says. "When they don't have the product on, they feel that something is missing." Find out what really causes chapped lips.
It's one thing to use whitening strips regularly to remove red wine and coffee stains. It's quite another to be addicted to bleaching your teeth. There's even a term for it: Bleachorexia refers to being addicted to bleaching teeth, says Leslie Renee Townsend, DDS, of Jefferson Dental Clinics, in Dallas. "Overuse or misuse of whitening products such as lasers, strips, gels, rinses, or pastes can cause noticeable sensitivity, tooth pain, gum irritation, and weakened enamel, often temporary, but sometimes more permanent," Townsend says. "At worst, teeth begin to demineralize with time, since whitening products strip tooth enamel resulting in transparent-looking teeth."
If you tend to moisturize more than twice a day, quit it. Turns out, what you're doing is actually counterintuitive, and may make your skin addicted to that product. "There are some theories that constant use of thick moisturizers can make the skin lazy," says Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of cosmetic and clinical research in the department of dermatology at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. "By providing a false barrier to the environment, the skin does not have to work as hard as it normally would to maintain adequate hydration levels. If you were to quickly take away the moisturizer, your skin might end up dry and inflamed." In fact, it's a myth that everyone needs to use a moisturizer. "If you have skin conditions like eczema or if you experience dryness, visible scaling or flaking, redness, or itching, a moisturizer can help," he adds. "However, if your skin looks and feels normal, you do not necessarily need to use a moisturizer regularly." If you want to use a moisturizer, opt for a breathable product that's light and easy to spread. "The newest generation of moisturizers use technology that allow you to experience the benefits of traditional ingredients without a greasy, heavy feeling," Zeichner adds. Don't miss dermatologists' golden rules for using moisturizer.
If your eye allergies prompt chronic red eyes and you routinely reach for over-the-counter eye drops like Visine, you could get completely addicted to these drops. Visine "gets the red out" thanks to a few active ingredients such as Tetrahydrozoline, a vasoconstrictor, which constricts the conjunctival blood vessels so that they appear smaller and thus your eyes appear less red. "Some patients may find themselves increasing their frequency of use because Visine also has a known rebound effect," says Kelly Voltz, OD, an instructor in ophthalmology at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, Oregon. "For some percent of the population, extended use of Visine can cause redness and patients may find themselves in a cycle of using a product which initially helped the problem, but now contributes to it." Learning the causes of bloodshot eyes can help you avoid reaching for anti-redness drops.
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Plastic surgery can quickly become an addiction for some. "Patients seeking Botox often start out wanting to look 'natural,'" says John Layke, MD, a plastic surgeon at Beverly Hills Plastic Surgery Group in Beverly Hills, California. "But once they see how Botox smooths out fine lines and relaxes deep furrows, they notice small lines when they make expressions and they want those gone too. Pretty soon if the physician lets them, the 'natural' look becomes frozen." Other common "addictions" include facial fillers, especially in the lips and cheeks, and liposuction, adds Dr. Layke. "Procedural 'addicts' are usually unaware of their addiction and most often need to be turned away by their plastic surgeon," he says. "This type of patient literally skips from office to office until someone agrees to give them what they want. It is usually the surgeon or injector who makes the diagnosis of 'addiction.'" These are the secrets plastic surgeons won't tell you—but you'll want to know.
With 45 million Americans said to have at least one tattoo—and of that number, 32 percent say they're addicted—the question is why. "Addiction is psychosomatic," says Kirby Farrell, PhD, a professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, who has written frequently about the topic. "How you think about yourself affects your body. If you imagine that tattoos can change people's perception of you, you can believe that a new image on your skin will impress others, boost your self-esteem, and eliminate the need for more needlework." At the same time, that new ink may not be enough. "In searching for more images, you may be going around in circles, depressed or angry at yourself and not seeing a new, happier face in the mirror. That can feel—and trap you—like an abused substance." These are the questions to ask before getting a tattoo.
If you're perpetually in need of retail therapy, take note. Turns out there are as many reasons to becoming addicted to shopping as there are shopping addicts, says April Lane Benson, PhD, author To Buy or Not to Buy: Why We Overshop and How to Stop. "Some of the motivators include wanting to feel better about yourself or to feel more secure," she says. "Shopping can also be a way to soothe oneself, to feel more in control or to fill an internal void." How do you know if you're an addict? "You can be pretty sure you are if shopping is your equal opportunity all-purpose mood changer, if you've tried to stop and have been unable to, if you're hiding purchases or bills, and/or if you're lying about this to yourself and to others," Benson says.
Your shopping addiction, especially if it's mostly online, could be connected to a smartphone habit you just can't quit. Find out the 21 signs you're addicted to your phone.
Exercise addiction is well-established in the scientific literature and usually means that your day isn't complete unless you've gotten in a run, hit the gym, or hopped on a bike. "Exercise addicts tend to feel that exercise is the most important thing in their life," says Rachel Straub, an exercise physiologist in San Diego. "They also use exercise as a coping strategy to control emotions." How you know you're an exercise fanatic: "To check in with yourself, consider if you have to continually increase exercising to feel satisfied or if you experience irritability or depression when you suddenly reduce the exercise you're getting," Straub adds. These are the signs you're exercising too much.
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Tanning addiction is very common, particularly among young men and women between the ages of 18 and 30. In fact, a recent study conducted by the Georgetown University Medical Center concluded that 1 in 5 young white women who have used a tanning bed in the last year showed signs of dependence, says Deborah S. Sarnoff, MD, president of The Skin Cancer Foundation. Just how bad is tanning? More than 419,000 cases of skin cancer in the U.S. each year are linked to indoor tanning. How do you know if you're addicted? "There are a few telling signs," Dr. Sarnoff says. "UV light has been shown to trigger a release of endorphins, the feel-good hormone," she says. "You might find yourself craving that feeling of happiness. If you find you're going to the tanning salon more often or staying in the tanning bed longer, that could be a sign of dependence."
If it's as easy to find a date as it is to swipe left or right, it's easy to see how online dating could be very addictive. "People are addicted to online dating because so many of us have deep-rooted fantasies of finding Mr. or Ms. right who will change, rescue, or drastically improve our lives," says Isabel James, a matchmaker, relationship coach and the founder of Elite Dating Managers, a site on which many clients report checking for potential matches—and hoping to experience the excitement of finding a new love—over 20 times a day. "We like to believe one person can do this, and the media has lead us to believe so as well. Being in love can be one of the greatest things in life and dating app addictions trail this desire." Just make sure to avoid these online dating scams.