It's Chapped Lip Season—Here's How to Treat Them

Winter is here, and with it has come the perennial emergence of our archnemesis, chapped lips. This might actually be the most annoying skincare woe that can befall anyone's face. The cracked, irritated mess can crop up from seemingly nowhere, causing a painful and utterly unattractive situation we are forced to wear like a scarlet letter painted across our pouts. And if it seems like your lips are more prone to chap during the colder months, you're not imagining things. We consulted two of our favorite dermatologists, Loretta Ciraldo, MD, FAAD, and Dendy Engelman, MD, FACMS, FAAD, and they both agreed that the brutally cold winter weather can have just as much of an effect on lip health as anything else.

"Chapped lips occur when the lip barrier becomes compromised and results in dryness, redness, cracks, and irritation," Dendy says. Many of us know this discomfort all too well. So what can we do to treat and prevent chapped lips? Thankfully, there are plenty of options. Our duo of doctors gave us all the tips we'll need to keep our lips smooth, hydrated, and perfectly kissable this winter and beyond. Keep scrolling for the goods.

The Most Common Causes of Chapped Lips

Chapped lips can occur for a number of reasons, but according to both Ciraldo and Engelman, the root causes tend to be pretty specific. "Lips are primed to be chapped because they have a lower density of oil glands, are in daily contact with saliva that contains alpha-amylase (a digestive enzyme that can break down skin), and are always exposed to the elements, so they take a beating from the sun, the cold weather, wind, and heat," Engelman says. 

Additionally, Ciraldo adds that a significant amount of water loss in the body can cause dryness in the lips, meaning that on those days when you ingest too much salt or don't drink as much water as you should, you're running the risk of chapped lips on top of the myriad other health issues dehydration can cause. "Start to address chapped lips as soon as they start. If you wait until your lips become uncomfortable, it can be very difficult to resolve," she adds.

The Treatment Plan

"If you are a lip licker you have to stop! Although this seems to give temporary comfort, it actually makes chapped lips even worse," Ciraldo explains. "It's very helpful to keep your lips coated with Aquaphor Healing Ointment to prevent water loss from lips."

#2: Scan Your Oral Hygiene Products for Possible Irritants
Marvis Amarelli Licorice Toothpaste

Ciraldo also points out that irritation from some lip and even some oral hygiene products can be the underlying cause of severe chapping. "Lip stains, some matte lipsticks, and mint or cinnamon flavored toothpaste or dental floss [can cause chapped lips], she says.

"Traditionally, the longwear formulas tend to be drying, as they’re not formulated for moisture. Stains also don't provide great moisture," Engelman explains. "If a plain balm doesn't excite you, there are tinted lip balms that have great staying power and offer protection from wind burns that can often result in an infection," she adds.

We love this tinted lip balm by Kosas, because it offers a nice flush of color on a variety of skin tones, while also delivering a hydrating dose of hyaluronic acid to the lips.

It should come as no surprise that SPF is just as crucial for your lips as it is for the rest of your face. Especially when your pout is compromised and more sensitive to the elements, our experts agree that coating the lips in sun protection will help you on your healing journey. Ciraldo points out that prolonged outdoor activities in the cold are an especially important time to load up on protectants.

Engelman says that exfoliating is also a good idea for treating chapped lips. "If your lips are peeling or flakey, try an at-home exfoliation method with sugar and honey, which has healing and soothing benefits," she says. Be gentle, though! And be sure to use a soothing ointment or salve to keep the freshly exfoliated skin moisturized and protected.

Shop more chapped lip treatments:

This dense, waxy balm is perfect for sealing moisture into the lips and preventing them from drying out in cold weather.

This jumbo lip balm is packed with moisturizing ingredients like organic coconut oil, organic cocoa butter, candelilla wax, and organic rosemary leaf extract. It feels comfortable on the skin, and we love that the formula is housed in a biodegradable paper tube.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: This medicated salve is a fix-all product everyone needs to own. Whether you're soothing chapped lips, crispy cuticles, or parched elbows, this stuff gets the job done.

This OG Australian salve is beloved for its multipurpose moisturizing capabilities. This tinted version helps add a little flare to soothing chapped lips.

Supergoop! is one of our favorite brands for clean, highly efficacious sun care products, so it's no surprise that their lip balm is also a winner. We'll even give it extra brownie points for the added sun protection.

This exquisite combination of coffee grounds, raw sugar, and macadamia oil vigorously exfoliates the skin, leaving behind a light layer of oil and the softest lips you've ever felt.

Engelman mentioned that topical antioxidants like beeswax are great for repairing chapped lips, so this scrub by Burt's Bees offers a double dose of healing.

Super-fine volcanic stones gently slough away dead skin as organic shea butter, sunflower seed oil, and sesame oil moisturize and rejuvenate the lips. The best part? No hands required!

Rid your lips of dry, flaky skin with this granulated sugar scrub. Jojoba and grapeseed oils deliver intense moisture.

This dense mixture of brown sugar crystals, shea butter, and jojoba oil buffs away dead skin while also imparting intense moisture.

This intensive lip conditioner pushes vitamin C and an antioxidant berry blend into the skin to heal and hydrate them while you sleep.

Spreading this jeju green tea-infused balm onto the lips is like coating them in this molasses. Even after a full night's sleep, you'll wake with product still intact and any inflammation calmed.

"I love this hydrator because it contains natural hydrating oils as well as a proprietary blend of lip plumping peptides," Dendy says.

In the same way that sheet masks push moisture and nutrients into the skin, this cute pout-shaped gel mask sits on top of the lips to plump and hydrate them with collagen, hyaluronic acid, and rose flower oil.

We love a multi-tasking products, and this buff-mask hybrid from Kari Gran is a prime example of a one stop shop for all your lip care needs. It's also non-toxic, which is a major plus.

Dendy swears by this thick formula to help heal the lips while also protecting them from the sun.

Ciraldo called out this tinted SPF 15 lip balm because it's fragrance-free and hypoallergenic.

This no-frills balm stick is perfect  for easy, on-the-go sun care. 

The cult of EltaMD extends to lip care with this transparent zinc oxide lip balm.

Up next: These will be the biggest beauty trends for 2020.

Related Stories