Before we can master the latest lip trends like blurred lips, glitter lips or dark lipstick, the first order of business is dealing with chapped lips. As much as we love lip color, the last thing we want is to further irritate flaky, dry lips. Not to mention that a cracked pout is not a solid foundation for any #flawless lipstick look.
What causes chapped lips?
Dermatologist Dr. Dendy Engelman, M.D. says there’s a legitimate reason why many of us are constantly plagued by chapped lips. The lip area has a lower density of oil glands and it’s almost always exposed to the elements, she says. Most of us know that the cold weather and wind can steal moisture from lips, but heat, sun and even saliva can cause chapping. Dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner, M.D. says these disruptions of the skin barrier result in dryness, peeling, flaking and itching. It typically begins with the outer skin layer developing microscopic cracks, with more severe cases causing lips to crack and split. Ouch.
Prevention is key
Of course, preventing chapped lips in the first place is key. “It’s best to help protect lips before damage happens rather than try to repair it afterward,” says Sage Lehman, founder of Love + Sage. To ensure kissers stay hydrated, nourishing lip balms with thicker formulas containing wax or natural emollients are ideal, says dermatologist Dr. Marnie Nussbaum, M.D. And don’t forget about sun protection when going outdoors. Keep lip balms with SPF handy for touch-ups and drink plenty of water to ensure you (and your lips) stay hydrated.
Your lipstick could be making chapped lips worse
Sorry lipstick lovers, but matte formulas could be the cause of your dry lips. According to Zeichner, ingredients like camphor, menthol and salicylic acid should be avoided if lips are chapped. They may initially seem like they’re improving chapped lips, but in the long run, they typically cause more irritation and inflammation. Additionally, licking lips is a no-no as the pH of saliva is acidic, which is more irritating than hydrating, adds Nussbaum. Chapped lips could also be due to a contact allergy, in which case a patch test would be needed to identify the cause (e.g., fragrance, dye, lanolin, etc.).
How to heal chapped lips
If lips do become chapped, a good lip balm combined with some occasional exfoliation is often enough to heal lips, according to the experts. For exfoliators, a soft-bristled toothbrush, washcloth or sugar scrub will buff away dry skin without causing irritation. Just remember to be gentle as lips are delicate. Use a scrub a couple of times a week at most. Never forget the all-important lip balm finish as Engelman says flaking means a lack of hydration, not just exfoliation.
Click through the gallery above to see the top-rated products for treating dry, chapped lips.