For people who live in colder climates, winter brings great benefits: cozy days by the fire, snowy slopes with friends and endless parties. But there are some annoying drawbacks that tend to accompany this colder, drier time of year, like chapped lips.
"The skin on the lips is particularly prone to dryness and chapping during the winter compared to other parts of the body because the skin on the lips has a low water retention capacity and is a weak skin barrier," explains a board-certified dermatologist. Elaine KungMD.
When it comes to chapped lips in the winter (or at any time), many people apply lip balm as their remedy of choice. We wouldn't be at all surprised if you have a bunch of balms scattered around your house and belongings that you reach for whenever your lips need a moisturizing boost - we're right there with you. But some people say that after using lip balm, their lips feel drier. That's obviously not the point, so we reached out to dermatologists to know if the balm can actually contribute to chapped lips. Their answer? It's possible, but it depends on several factors. Coming up, find out how and why certain lip balms make your lips more chapped, as well as several effective ways to retain moisture this winter.
Meet the expert
- Elaine KungMD, is a board certified dermatologist and founder of Future Bright Dermatology in New York. She regularly shares her best tips with the press as well as with her followers on social networks.
- Dylan Alston, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist. In addition to working with patients in Salt Lake City, Utah, he shares his skin expertise and debunks common myths on his Instagram.
Why do we use a lip balm?
Lip balm is a necessity for many people, even those with the simplest beauty routines tend to use it. Lip balms can vary greatly from product to product, but the ultimate goal is usually to moisturize your lips and protect them from moisture loss. Given Kung's argument that the skin on the lips is more prone to drought, it makes sense that so many of us are filling up on in hopes of keeping our lips comfortably moisturized.
Does lip balm make your lips more chapped?
If you feel like your lip balm is drying out your lips, it probably is, but that doesn't mean all products will do the same. Many lip balms with the right ingredients-think moisturizing oils, butters, and vitamins-will help moisturize as intended, though some options also include ingredients that can make your lips more chapped, like menthol and salicylic acid. Many of these drying ingredients may seem to help at first as they exfoliate parched skin (more on that later), but to be really effectiveA good lip balm should get to the root of the problem by providing deeper nourishment and helping your lips retain moisture.
For this reason, it is essential to look at the formula to find a product that gives your lips the moisture they need. Below, our experts break down the ingredients to look for, as well as those to avoid.
The most effective ingredients in lip balm
The next time you buy a lip balm and look for one that actually moisturizes your lips, keep an eye out for ingredients like beeswax, shea butter, sunflower oil, coconut oil, jojoba oil, olive oil, squalene, vitamin E, and hyaluronic acid. These types of ingredients will attract and retain moisture, while stimulating the skin barrier to protect and repair chapped lips. Specifically, plant oils and butters (such as coconut, jojoba, and olive oil) treat dry lips, while beeswax and other wax-like substances protect your lips from dry air, wind, and cold temperatures, says Kung. Vitamin E acts as an antioxidant, strengthening the health of the skin barrier.
Another common lip balm ingredient with moisturizing properties is petroleum jelly, which is hypoallergenic and used in many lip balms and skin care products. "Vaseline is often considered one of the most effective moisturizing ingredients because it reduces transepidermal water loss (TEWL) by 98 %, while mineral oil, silicone and lanolin only reduce TEWL by 20 to 30 %," Kung explains. Her top recommendations for effective lip balm products to try include Vaseline's Lip therapy line (2 $ +), Kiehl's Lip Balm #1 (10$), and Avene's Cicalfate Lip Repair Cream (18 $).
Lip balm ingredients to avoid
Depending on the product you use and the ingredients it contains, it's entirely possible that lip balm can make your lips more chapped, which is a pretty problematic result if you want to moisturize. Often, lip balm contains ingredients that improve the smell or texture of the product, or leave your lips feeling cool or tingly, but our dermatologists confirm that some of these ingredients can leave your lips dry and chapped.
"Some ingredients I recommend avoiding include menthol, benzocaine, salicylic acid and phenol," says a board-certified dermatologist. Dylan AlstonMD. "While these can provide an immediate cooling or medicated sensation, they typically exfoliate the outer layers of the skin, leaving your lips unprotected and susceptible to damage."
If you have chapped lips, Kung also recommends avoiding lip balms labeled as medicinal. "These "medicinal" lip balms contain camphor, menthol or phenol, which can cause irritation, redness and burning if used on already chapped skin," she says. "Phenol, in particular, is an exfoliant that can further dry out lips."
If you have lip eczema or a rash around the lips and mouth called perioral dermatitis, Kung suggests avoiding flavored, colored or medicated lip balms. And for people with very sensitive skin, she also recommends avoiding products containing citral, peppermint oil, geraniol, fragrance blend and cinnamaldehyde.
Other ways to moisturize lips
In addition to frequently applying lip balm and other lip care products, there are several other things you can do to give your lips some care this winter or any other time they feel parched.
- Stay hydrated: Our sources say this is one of the best ways to keep your lips hydrated and happy. "Make sure you consume enough water. to provide your skin the moisture you need to protect your skin," says Alston.
- Use a humidifier: Using a humidifier in your bedroom at night is a simple way to add moisture to the air, which helps prevent moisture loss from the skin and lips.
- Pay attention to what you eat: contact with certain foods can affect the condition of your lips, so pay attention to what's in your favorite meals and snacks if you're having trouble keeping your lips moisturized. "I suggest avoiding irritants that can break down the skin barrier of the lips, such as salty, spicy, acidic and sauce foods," says Kung.
- Use lip products with SPF: "In hot or sunny climates, always look for an SPF for lips of 15 or higher," Alston says. "The sun typically causes burning, chapping and critical moisture evaporation."
- Don't lick your lips: "Excessive lip licking will lead to a vicious cycle of moisture and evaporation," Alston tells us. "This common habit will invariably leave lips looking worse than before."
The last takeaway
Some lip balms can certainly leave your lips dry and chapped, but as long that you pay attention to the formulas and use the right productslip balm can be a great tool for keeping your lips moisturized, hydrated and happy. When shopping, dermatologists recommend looking for ingredients like vegetable oils, vitamin E, squalene and beeswax, as well as avoiding ingredients like menthol, benzocaine, salicylic acid and phenol, which can leave your lips dry and uncomfortable. You can also care for your lips with alternative methods such as avoiding irritants and staying moisturized, so your options are open to discover what works best for you.