“Wait, you’ve never beezed up before?” This is the last thing people hear before their lives are changed forever. It’s the refrain told by veteren beezers as they indoctrinate new parishioners into their minty-eyelidded cult.
The inquisitor’s hand reaches out through time and space with an offering: a stick of Burt’s Bees lip balm. But the stuff isn’t meant for the receiver’s lips. Rather, beezing is the practice of rubbing the peppermint-infused product above and below the eyes, jolting the beezer awake with a sharp tingle and, they say, a renewed focus.
For a moment, “beezing” was the frightening new teen trend to keep an eye on. Parents and the media clutched their pearls: “Are these kids getting high?” headlines asked. “But if it doesn’t do anything, why are they doing it?” wondered naive adults.
Just to get everyone on the same page: No, beezing doesn’t get anyone high.
But it does make your eyelids feel super fucking cold, which is the reason the Teens of Yesteryear built it up with more hype than it deserved — and why concerned adults reacted in kind.
And while beezin’ is no longer in the public eye as much as it used to be, there are still some bros who beez. The tradition of ironic indoctrination lives on.
The Secret Life of Beez
For the 24-year-old Boston native who asked to go by his Reddit username “Zwonch,” his first time beezing is a memory he’ll hold onto forever.
“[It] must have been second semester of my freshman year in college,” he says. “My three roommates and I had grown close enough to gather in our shared bathroom,” which had become a “smokers’ haven.” This was after his roommate “J$” — pronounced “J-money” — “brought back a Q [quarter, or 7 grams of weed] his then-girlfriend gave him.”
J$’s Q “opened the floodgates,” Zwonch says. He and his roommates decorated the bathroom with “abandoned folding chairs from across campus. … The Dixie cups meant for mouth rinsing were reimagined as cotton-mouth destroyers; the toilet paper holder doubled as a stash box for lighters, pipes and weed.”
Every night at 10 p.m., after Zwonch and his roommates finished their homework, they would squeeze into the bathroom and light up. “It was there that one of us suggested we try beezing,” he tells MEL. “Just like any other meme, its true instigator is unknowable. But through one grapevine or another, it reached us that night.”
Gregg, a 31-year-old now living in Indianapolis, has a similar tale of discovering the beez. It was back in 2013, while visiting a friend of a friend in another city. “We were chilling in his apartment, smoking a little bit and waiting for the night to get started,” Gregg explains. “My friend’s friend casually asked if we wanted to ‘beez.’ Confused with this proposition, I asked what beezin’ was, and he reacted as if I was some square missing out on the latest, coolest thing. He explained that it was rubbing Burt’s Bees wax around the eyelids and it was fun.”
Gregg says he was never under the impression that beezing resulted in a high, though he supposes the buzz “was sort of the implication when it was first introduced to me in a sort of over-selling manner… like, ‘Dude, you haven’t beezed?! Ah, man, you gotta try it!’”
Being familiar with Burt’s Bees as a lip balm, Gregg accepted the yellow tube from his friend. “I figured it would create an interesting sensation, which is pretty much exactly what it is — so despite a bit of apprehension, I said ‘fuck it’ and beezed it up.”
Joining the Club
How Beez Bros initiate the uninitiated is the perfect encapsulation for how dudes get other dudes to try things: Oh, you haven’t done this before? Wow, you’ve never lived. Something about it being conquered by one of your friends makes you want to do it even more, Plus, the fact that beezin’ produces a physical sensation offers a sense of risk and danger for those who haven’t tried it… only then to realize it’s pretty harmless and very fleeting.
According to the Beez Bros, this is when it becomes funny and a new secret beezin’ bond is created. The risk and danger built into “trying” a new drug is now packaged and bubble-wrapped in irony.
But, as Zwonch puts it, he and his roommates continued to “beez up” long after realizing its frivolity. “It lived on in irony, a unifying experience of tangible self-depreciation,” he explains. “We knew it was dumb and it hurt, but it was a sort of signal to the other guys that you were down for the dumb.”
For all the Beez Bros I talked to, beezin’ was a new sensation, both harmless and fun, but ultimately an ironic in-joke to solidify a bro kinship. Thus, Zwonch says, introducing new people to it became addicting. “Once you’re in the club,” he tells MEL, “you want nothing more than to enlist others.” Even their partners.
Gregg and Zwonch felt urges to ask their respective girlfriends about beezing. For Gregg, this was a bad idea. “Beezin’ might not be for everyone,” he tells me. “I convinced my girlfriend to try it. She only got one eye in when she decided it wasn’t for her and tried to wipe it off. Some must have gotten in her eye or something because she proceeded to sit there for the next 10 minutes with one watering eye, cursing me for making her do such a silly thing.”
Zwonch’s girlfriend, on the other hand, reports back that she also used to get beezed during “musicals at her church growing up.”
“She was just in the chorus so most of the rehearsal she had nothing to do,” Zwonch explains. “She said since drugs were illegal and [Burt’s] Bees was available, they would beez during the eight-hour rehearsals.”
Nothing like long rehearsals to make a teen so bored they’ll pass the time by putting lip balm on their eyes to feel something. Maybe it’s a good thing they’ve all got smartphones now.
What Does Beezin’ Even Feel Like?
It’s long been thought that beezin’ gets you high. Not true — but there is a physical sensation that might make people think they feel more alert.
In Zwonch’s case, beezing “burned and made your eyes water, but then it woke you up in the same way you jolt awake after slipping off the hand holding your head up in class.”
For Gregg, a thick layer of the lip balm will provide some feelings of alertness or wakefulness, “which is almost close to being a high.”
“But it’s just an interesting sensation,” he says, “and above that it’s an opportunity to do something silly with your friends and laugh about it.”
Gregg recalls his first time beezin’: “It gradually began to take effect, but soon enough, the three of us sat there with Burt’s Bees around our eyes giggling like school children. We just kinda remarked on the interesting sensation and laughed over the absurdity of it all. Ten or 15 minutes later, it had mostly subsided, and the night went on.”
Zwonch concurs. If anything, the chilly feeling around your eyelids is so fleeting it “debunked the myth of it being useful in any real sense. You’re left just as tired as before,” he says.
Is Beezin’ Harmful?
Dermatologist Fayne Frey is well aware of the fad. She says she couldn’t find any studies “that prove deleterious effects [of doing it],” but there are a few risks to note.
Back when beezing was at a fever pitch, some doctors warned that there was risk of spreading mouth germs (read: herpes). Frey adds that she can say with certainty that the peppermint oil that causes the beezin’ feeling “can be an irritant on skin, especially thin skin like the eyelids.”
That’s why beezers’ eyes feel the peppermint oil far more than they would on their lips or hands. The cooling sensation is irritation — it’s the same reason getting BenGay on your balls is pure torture. These irritants are also the reason for that tingly feeling toothpaste gives your gums. People got hooked on the “clean” feeling, which was literally just an irritated mouth.
As to why this sensation makes people feel awake, Frey says as far as she can tell there isn’t any science “that shows a ‘cool’ sensation around the eyes makes people feel more alert.” There’s plenty of anecdotal opinions and so-called-expert opinions on the matter, she says, “but there is little, if any science, proving these claims.”
Outside of maybe feeling more awake for 15 minutes and laughing at your friends, are there any benefits to putting lip balm on your eyelids? “It is a beeswax-based balm and as such, [it] most likely has occlusive properties yielding an increased water content of the skin to which it is applied — so yes, I would guess that the lip balm can increase water content of skin, and therefore [it could be] considered moisturizing.”
Huzzah! Now if your boss sees you beezin’ up during a boring meeting, just say you’re hydrating those eyelids. No one will be the wiser.
Could Beezin’ Make a Comeback?
Beezin’ hysteria mostly peaked in the spring of 2014, but is it due for a comeback? After all, there are still occasional posts on social media waxing poetically about beezing… or just wondering what it is:
“Hell yeah!” Gregg says, arguing it could ride the coattails of the increasing legality of weed. “It really does seem to be an activity for stoners. I don’t think I’ve beezed while sober,” he laughs. “The sensation and act of beezin’ just makes the whole situation that much more absurd and funny.”
“I would say beezing lives on the precipice of a comeback,” Zwonch tells MEL. “It was an underdog from the start and has the potential to become a dark horse at any moment.”
But more than the legality of weed, Zwonch has another idea to get the teens beezin’ again. “The infiltration of the Juul into highschools signals a degradation of our youth that might give beezing the audience it needs to catch on like hotcakes,” he says. “I’d say it shouldn’t be more than five years before Burt’s Bees is running PSAs educating parents on how to safely store the lip balm that will then be considered a controlled substance.”
As for Zwonch, he’s an adult now. If he’s so desperate to be awake, he says he’d just drink coffee. Plus, beezing with his bros is too close to his heart for him to ever do it again with anybody else.
“Seasoned by the years since that first beez, I would do it again,” he says, “but only with my original beez buds.”