Winter is nearly here, and with it comes 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."
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 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.
This story was published at an earlier date and has been recently updated.