Flaky lips? We feel you. This time of year, dry lips are practically an epidemic, sweeping the nation faster than we can fumble around in our handbags for that lip balm we could have sworn we had in there.
Really, though, what would it help anyway? When things get really bad, it can often feel like not even the thickest, butteriest lip balms make a difference. And that's simply because you need more of a multi-pronged approach if you’re ever going to get your lips back to their smooth glory. With the help of a handful of experts, we’ve compiled the ultimate guide on how to treat dry lips once and for all.
Step one: Work out what's making lips dry in the first place.
The first step to correcting a problem is to understand it. “The skin of your lips, like the skin around your eye area, is different from the rest of your skin because it doesn't have oil glands,” says celebrity esthetician Natarsha Bimson. “Unlike the eye area, which draws the oil from your face in, the lips do not.”
That partially explains why lips get dry, but hardly tackles the peeling and cracked condition. Bimson attributes that to a combination of lip licking and mouth breathing. “Excessive lip licking can cause a form of dermatitis (skin inflammation) commonly referred to as ‘windburn,’ which is inflamed, sore, extremely chapped lips.” Even if you don’t consider your lip licking “excessive,” pro esthetician Susan Ciminelli says adding weather conditions like harsh winds and the sun’s drying rays creates a recipe for disaster.
The problem could also lie in your coffee cup. “Alcoholic beverages and coffee dehydrate the skin,” Ciminelli says, “so don’t let artificial ingredients from food or beverage ever touch your lips.” Just like the rest of your skin, your lips react to the chemicals. But since the skin on your lips is more delicate than the skin on your face and body, dehydrating chemicals affect your lips faster. The solution is to use a straw—but make it biodegradable, mind.
Step two: Remove the offending flaky skin.
It’s a common misconception that simply plying dry lips with tonnes of lip balm will be enough to sort them out—that’s not how to treat dry lips at all. Yes, they need hydration, but first, you’ve got to get rid of the layer of dead skin cells (otherwise known as flakiness) so that moisture can actually penetrate the skin.
Here’s where a good lip scrub comes in (and we’ve picked out the ones we really rate for your reference). For this, you’re looking for a grainy balm that is chunky enough to chip away at the chapped skin but won’t leave lips red raw—a good place to start is with the Apa Beauty Lip Loofah (£16).
Step three: Douse lips with moisture.
Now you can turn to your trusty friend lip balm, but make sure you’re paying particular attention to the ingredients list.
Many lip products contain petroleum, which is fine if your lips are soft and smooth already, but it’s not ideal if they’re chapped. “Petrochemical lip products are great at preventing moisture loss, but not so great at moisturizing lips that are already dry,” Bimson says. “Castor oil is similar—it’s great at drawing oil, so it can also have a drying effect.”
Ciminelli recommends finding products that are loaded with skin-nourishing vitamins, minerals, and essential oils (try something natural like Burt’s Bees Beeswax Lip Balm, £4) and applying them as regularly as possible. But there’s also no reason not to use the skincare products you use on your face on your lips too, as long as they don’t contain harsh ingredients like acids.
Ready to battle your dry skin problem? Give this three-step approach, and we swear you’ll have your soft lips back in no time.
This post was originally published at an earlier date and has since been updated.