On the list of winter unpleasantries — cold everything, snowpocalypse road conditions — dry, chapped lips rank pretty high up there. And there’s a clear reason the condition is so common:
The skin that compromises our lips is notably thinner and lacks the “firm barrier” that the rest of our skin relies on for protection from the outside world, says Dr. Robert Anolik, a board-certified dermatologist at the Laser & Skin Surgery Center of New York. This makes lips incredibly susceptible to external aggressors like dry winter air — and prevents them from holding onto moisture. But a few simple tweaks to your routine can make all the difference. Here, Dr. Anolik’s tried-and-true tips.
Like the skin on your face, your lips can benefit from a gentle sloughing off of dead skin cells to reveal a softer (smoother, healthier) layer underneath. But remember—your lips have got less dead skin cells to give, so adjust how— and how often — you exfoliate accordingly. Dr. Anolik suggests doing so about one to two times a week, though he notes that non-irritating forms of exfoliation — say, for example, rubbing with a warm washcloth — can be used more often if needed.
For a more vigorous weekly exfoliation, try applying a D.I.Y. mixture of two-parts coconut oil and one-part sugar using a damp toothbrush. In combination with the bristles, sugar granules provide exfoliation while coconut oil nourishes and softens lips.
Seal in Moisture
Naturally, moisture is essential for…moisturized lips. Dr. Anolik notes that lip balms made with occlusive agents are the most effective, as they “trap moisture and provide a barrier to the external environment.” Most conventional balms rely on either decidedly un-clean ingredients like petroleum jelly or animal-based lanolin and beeswax to do this. But sustainable palm wax, a key ingredient in the new Moisture Lock Lip Balm, gets the job done while being both nontoxic and vegan.
As for the bells and whistles, Dr. Anolik says that if your lips are easily irritated, you should skip flavored variants like zesty peppermint, as they may cause sensitivity (not ideal for chapped lips). He says flavored and fragranced balms may also be the likely cause behind the infamous phenomena in which people swear applying balm regularly actually causes them to need it constantly. It may be a desire to soothe the irritation caused by flavored formulas that creates a vicious cycle, notes Dr. Anolik.
Plump up the Volume
While those flavors we mentioned—like peppermint and cinnamon—can make lips look plumper by virtue of causing short-term irritation, says Dr. Anolik, those with sensitive or chapped lips should steer clear. Instead seek out formulas packed with hyaluronic acid, like Moisture Lock Lip Balm. The ingredient not only helps retain moisture, it can also make skin lips appear fuller and more supple.