Are you struggling with cracked and dry lips despite applying lip balm regularly? Well, it’s a common skin concern among people with all skin types. Although dry and chapped lips can be annoying at any time of the year, it’s more likely to occur during dry and cold winter months.¹ If it’s not harsh, drying air causing your lips to chap and flake, there can be several other reasons behind rough and dry lips.
Sometimes, your everyday lip balm may not be enough to treat and prevent these problems. Your lips may need a bit more to restore and retain moisture and make them plump and hydrated. If you’re looking for ways to take care of your lips, you’re in the right place. Let’s see what you can do to effectively treat and prevent dry and chapped lips.
Why do You Need to Take Care of Your Lips?
Let’s start by understanding why the skin on your lips requires special care and attention. We all know that the skin on our lips is unlike the rest of our face and body. It’s a lot more delicate, thin, and sensitive. A minor change in the external environment, diet, and daily habits can profoundly affect our lips, causing them to become dry, dehydrated, and even inflamed.²
Hence, paying more attention to your lips and providing them with ample nourishment and moisture to preserve healthy, moisturized, and plump lips are quintessential. Unfortunately, it’s common for most of us to neglect the delicate skin of our lips and not follow lip care as regularly as we perform other skincare rituals. The fact is that our lips, being a more sensitive part of our bodies, need even more intense care. Keep reading to find ways to take proper care of your lips.
Why are My Lips Dry?
As described above, the skin on your lips differs from your face and other body areas. Although the underlying structures of the skin on the lips are similar to the rest of the face, it’s still much softer, thinner, and more delicate. Therefore, the skin on the lips is more vulnerable to dryness, flaking, and inflammation.
The primary reason the skin on your lips differs from the skin that covers the rest of your body is that there are fewer sebaceous glands on the lips. Lesser oil glands mean a lower production of natural oils (sebum) to keep the skin moisturized and supple, leading to dryness and dehydration.
What Causes Dry and Chapped Lips?
Plenty of external elements can cause dryness on the lips. Managing and combating these factors can help to treat and prevent dry and chapped lips. Here are a few of the factors that can damage and dry out the skin on your lips:
- Weather: The air's humidity level declines with a temperature drop during the fall and winter seasons. Dry and cold air during these months can strip the skin on the lips of its moisture, leading to dryness and flaking. This is why you’re more likely to experience dry lips during colder months. Avoiding cold, drying air and protecting the lips can manage and prevent dry and chapped lips.
- Licking the Lips: It’s normal for most of us to lick our lips without even thinking about its adverse effect on our skin. This habit becomes more repetitive when the skin on your lips is dry. So, many lick it in an attempt to add moisture to the skin and relieve the feeling of dry and stiff lips. Licking your lips may temporarily add some hydration to them, but it can leave them even drier in the long run, making your dry lips worse.
- Drying Skincare Ingredients: Sometimes, your lip skincare products are formulated with ingredients that tend to make the skin dry, irritated, and flaky. Some compounds you need to watch out for in your lipsticks, lip balms, lip masks, and other products include menthol, phenol, camphor, propyl gallate, and other humectant compounds. Moreover, your skin may be allergic to certain skincare ingredients, such as fragrances, flavoring, and pigments. Hence, it’s crucial to avoid lip care products containing those agents.
- Sun Damage: You might be familiar with how damaging UV radiation can take a toll on your skin and trigger several skin issues.³ Sun damage is equally responsible for causing damage to the sensitive and delicate skin on the lips.
- Medications: Medications that accelerate the removal of bodily fluids, such as diuretics and antihistamines, can lead to dry and cracked lips. Some acne medications, particularly those containing salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide, can also cause chapping and dryness on the lips.
How to Take Care of Dry Lips?
Now that you're familiar with why you need to pay more attention to the skin on your lips and what can cause dry and flaky lips let’s move on to the ways to manage and prevent these problems.
- Exfoliate: When the skin on the lips becomes dry and dehydrated, it starts to peel off and become flaky. Exfoliation can help slough away peeling skin and remove dead skin cells, revealing smoother, firmer, and plumper lips. You can gently exfoliate your lips with a soft wet washcloth or toothbrush. Doing it once a week is enough to lift dry and flaky skin off and keep the skin healthy. Exfoliating the lips can also enhance the efficacy of your lip balm, providing deeper moisturization and nourishment.
- Moisturize: It’s imperative to opt for lip balms and other moisturizing products for lips tailored with moisturizing compounds that penetrate the skin and work on a deeper level to moisturize and heal the lips. Some excellent ingredients to add moisture and essential nutrients to the skin are hemp seed oil, shea butter, castor seed oil, petrolatum, cocoa butter, ceramides, and dimethicone. Don’t forget to use a moisturizing nighttime lip care product to fight dryness and rejuvenate the skin.
- Protect: Just like the skin on your face and other exposed areas of the body, lips are also regularly exposed to detrimental external agents, such as UV rays, grime, germs, and free radicals. A daytime lip product with sun protection can help to combat skin damage and dryness caused by these factors. It’s recommended to choose a lip product with SPF 30 or higher and apply it, even while wearing a protective face mask. Many lip products have sun-protective components like zinc oxide and titanium oxide.
- Reapply Lip Products: One of the most significant steps toward protecting the skin from drying and damaging external agents is to apply and reapply your moisturizing and protecting lip care products throughout the day. More than one application of lip balm or other moisturizing product is needed to provide moisture, hydration, and protection throughout the day. So, keep your lip care products in your handbag and reapply them every two or three hours to maintain their effectiveness. Remember that there is no such thing as applying your moisturizing lip balm too often.
- Hydrate: You know the importance of drinking water throughout the day to preserve the skin's suppleness, radiance, and health. Hydration is as crucial for the skin on the lips as the skin on other parts of your body. When your skin is hydrated, you’re less likely to experience dry and chapped lips. As mentioned earlier, there are not as many oil glands on the lips as on your face and body, so drinking lots of water can help retain more moisture and maintain a healthy lipid barrier. Furthermore, using a humidifier at home can also provide additional hydration during the drying, cold weather. So, next time you sense the urge to lick your lips to reduce dryness, try drinking some water instead.
Lips are one of our face's most notable and defining features that need as much care as any other part of our bodies. Unfortunately, however, many of us make the mistake of neglecting lip care, which leads to dry and dehydrated lips. Some reasons behind dry, chapped, and flaky lips include harsh weather, licking your lips, drying skincare ingredients, sun damage, and medications.
No matter the cause behind the flaky and dry lips, you can reverse and prevent skin damage by following a proper lip care routine that encompasses deeply nourishing, moisturizing, and soothing products, along with a proper diet, healthy lifestyle, and some other preemptive measures.
- S. Brooklyn. (2022). ‘Winter Skincare Tips’, Sundree, Accessed February 8, 2023. Available at: https://sundree.com/blogs/news/winter-skincare-tips
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022). ‘Healthy Eating for a Healthy Weight’, CDC.gov, Accessed February 8, 2023. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/healthy_eating/index.html
- Metrus, Lindsey. (2022). ‘I Asked for a UV Photo of My Skin, and the Results Were Shocking’, Byrdie, Accessed February 8, 2023. Available at: https://www.byrdie.com/sun-damage-skin