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Alfred Woelbing began experimenting with creating his own line of lip balm and other cosmetic products in the early 1930s. These were the beginnings of Carma Laboratories, Inc. After experimenting with his products, Woelbing created Carmex on his family's stove top. He began by selling the product from the trunk of his car. Popularity increased through word-of-mouth. During this time Woelbing and his wife poured their lip balm into the now well-known yellow-capped jars. Then in 1957, the family business moved out of the kitchen and into a rented facility in the Milwaukee suburb of Wauwatosa.
After doing business like this, in 1972 Woelbing discontinued making sales calls, which had mostly been in Wisconsin, Illinois and parts of Indiana. Woelbing's son Don joined the business in 1973 and introduced assembly lines to Carma Labs. In 1975, due to the product's success, a new production facility was built in the southwest suburb of Franklin; production at the same facility continues to the present day[when?].
Carma Labs began producing the product in squeezable tubes in 1988, then in 1989 the traditional stick form which had been the longtime domain of ChapStick and Blistex, Carma's major competitors in the lip balm market. After these expansions within the company's production, in 1993, it was estimated that 9% of the lip balm market was held by Carma Labs. Alfred Woelbing continued to drive to the offices every day until 1997 when he suffered a stroke. He continued to come into the office at least once a week after this, until he died in 2001 at the age of 100.
The company continued further expansion under the management of his son Don and his grandsons Paul and Eric. In 2002, mint-flavored Carmex lip balm (SPF 30) joined original Carmex lip balm in the product line, and Carmex lip balm became available throughout North America, Australia, Europe, Asia and Africa. During 2006, several Internet voters picked strawberry and cherry as the newest Carmex lip balm sticks. According to mycarmex.com the company employs about 100 people and remains under the ownership of the founding family.
In the United States, the active ingredients of Carmex lip balm are camphor (1.7%), menthol (0.7%), salicylic acid, and phenol (0.4%). The inactive ingredients, in order of greatest used to least used in the product, are beeswax, cetyl esters, flavor, lanolin, parafin wax, petrolatum, and cocoa seed butter. However, this formula varies slightly around the world. For example, phenol is not included in Germany. The use of phenol in cosmetics is prohibited in the European Union.
Salicylic acid is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) almost identical to aspirin. Much of aspirin's mechanism of action comes from being metabolized into salicylic acid. It is often incorrectly thought to be a drying agent; however, this is not true. Salicylic acid works as both a keratolytic and comedolytic agent by causing the cells of the epidermis to shed more readily, opening clogged pores and neutralizing bacteria within, preventing pores from clogging up again by constricting pore diameter, and allowing room for new cell growth.