If there’s one body part that suffers most during winter, it’s our lips. No matter how well we take care of our skin, some of us feel like we’re continually plagued with dry, irritated chapped lips. They hurt, they’re unsightly, and they’re a real nuisance when trying to apply a festive red lipstick. So once and for all, let’s figure out how to keep them from getting chapped before the damage begins.
“Your skin is much more sensitive in cooler weather, and the skin on your lips is especially thin, meaning it’s more delicate, sensitive, and susceptible to irritation and sunburn,” says Dr. Jill Waibel, founder of Miami Dermatology & Laser Institute. “The winter air wicks moisture from the skin so to avoid chapped lips, it’s important to keep the right products on you to moisturize whenever you’re feeling them dry out.”
One of the biggest problems is that some of us are turning to lip balms or chapsticks that we think are going to be helpful, but that actually contain ingredients that only create more damage. “Stay away from products with Phenol, an ingredient in many medicated lip balms that is very drying,” says Dr, David E. Bank, founder and director of The Center for Dermatology, Cosmetic & Laser Surgery. “Once you apply the balm, the dryness prompts you to reapply and so on and so on. As an alternative, look for lip balms that contain moisturizing ingredients such as petroleum, lanolin, cocoa butter, aloe vera or panthenol.”
Bank also cautions against licking dry lips, which has the opposite effect of keeping them hydrated. You should also be cautious of over-doing it when it comes to exfoliating chapped lips (a soft bristle toothbrush or washcloth is adequate) or using products that contain drying agents such as alcohol, salicylic acid, camphor, or citrus.
While you’re at it, it might be safer to skip chapstick altogether, says Adriana Martino, skincare expert and founder of SKINNEY Medspa. “Over using chapstick can cause more chapping,” Martino says. “Use a lip balm instead. La Mer The Lip Balm is definitely a splurge, but very hydrating. On a budget? Use Rosebud Salve or Lypsyl Intense Protection.”
Waibel’s lip protection product suggestions include Aquaphor, which she says is a moisturizer that is sure to bring your lips back to life. “It’s thick and creamy and provides an immediate and soothing relief and improved look to the lips,” Waibel says. “I also recommend Dr. Dan’s CortiBalm, which was developed by a dermatologist and is medicated with hydrocortisone that can provide relief to the most severely chapped lips.”
If you’re shopping for a new lip balm, Waibel recommends looking for products that contain lanolin, which treats cracked, dry, irritated skin. “Of course, it’s important to remember that the sun can penetrate clouds and still cause harm even in the winter months,” she says. “Make sure your chapstick has SPF to protect from harmful UV rays. I recommend EltaMD Lip Balm UV Broad-Spectrum SPF 31 as this will provide relief for cracked lips and also protect them from further damage and irritation.”