This winter is a little different than winter's past. We’re all doing our best to stay healthy and keep those around us healthy more so than usual. This calls for constantly wearing a face mask which, while it may feel like a nuisance, is a simple step to help shift the world back to normal. Even though maskne is a bummer, and doing cardio can feel suffocating, face masks have their perks. They keep our faces warm in the cold winter months, and if you’re dealing with flakey chapped lips, hey, look on the brightside, no one will even know.
Well, no one except for you. Chapped lips may not look pretty, but the worst part is the tedious, cyclical pain that comes along with them. So even if your mask is hiding the cracks from the world, here’s some more information on what may be causing chapped lips and how you can help heal them. That way you can alleviate the pain, and when the mask comes off you can flaunt your smooth, hydrated lips.
Reasons lips get chapped
There are several factors that can cause chapped lips. Like the rest of our skin, our lips rely on moisture to stay healthy and soft, and since there aren’t any oil and sweat glands like on the rest of our face and body, our lips dry out easily and require outside sources of hydration.
The reason you’re more prone to chapped lips in the winter months is because there is less humidity in the air to feed moisture to your skin and lips. Wind and direct sunlight are also a burden on your lips, so if you're living in a dry, windy, sunny climate (Californians beware) chapped lips will most likely make themselves at home on your face during the winter months.
Health problems causing chapped lips
Health issues like the common cold can also lead to chapped lips, and they can also be a side effect of taking certain medications.
Nutrient deficiencies may also be the root of the problem. Try tracking your food intake and make sure you're getting enough of every vital nutrient, or have your doctor do some blood work to narrow down any nutrient deficiencies. A varied, nutritious diet is essential for healthy skin and lips.
If your chapped lips never seem to go away regardless of the weather and the care you take, you may be suffering from Cheilitis, a condition that causes dry cracked skin, particularly in the corners of the mouth. If you think this is the case, contact a dermatologist for a proper diagnosis and treatment path.
There’s also a chance that you have an allergy to one or more of the ingredients that are going on or near your lips. Mint is one of the most common allergens and many lip balms as well as a majority of toothpastes contain mint. Artificial fragrance and flavors are also a common culprit. If your chapped lips are also swollen and itchy, an allergy may be the root cause, so seek out an allergy patch test to find answers to a deeper problem.
Does licking your lips make them more chapped?
It’s instinctual to lick your lips when they’re chapped, but this only makes the issue worse. When your saliva evaporates off your lips, it will suck even more moisture directly from your lips. So keep your tongue in your mouth and read on to see some remedies for chapped lips that will actually work, and not just make the problem worse.
Remedies for chapped lips
- Apply lip balm throughout the day - The purpose of a lip balm is to act as an occlusive which means it locks in moisture. When heat, wind, and other drying factors try to pull out moisture, lip balms act as a barrier. Most lip balms contain a wax ingredient that will help it stick to your lips, but after eating or drinking you’ll need to reapply for continued protection.
- Use a lip scrub - If you have a layer of dead, dry skin covering your lips, then the healing ingredients in your lip balm can’t work their wonders, so use a gentle exfoliant to slough off the dead skin.
- Drink plenty of water - The Cleure Advice by Concern Blog is starting to sound like a broken record with the constant repetition of this tip, but that’s for a reason. If you’re dehydrated, your body will start to pull water from other parts of your body to give to your cells. This includes your lips. Water is vital for all aspects of health and our lips are no exception, and sometimes we all need a reminder to get in our 8 cups a day.
- Use a humidifier at home - You can’t control the humidity of the air outside, but you can create a more suitably moist environment in your home with the help of a humidifier.
- Don’t smoke - Smoking can irritate the skin around the mouth and further dry out lips.
- Avoid certain ingredients that may be irritating
Ingredients to avoid for chapped lips
According to dermatologists with the American Academy of Dermatology you should avoid lip balms with these ingredients:
- Camphor, phenol, and menthol - These ingredients are often found in medicated lip balms and are meant to ease the pain of chapped lips, and they give off the cooling, tingly sensation. However, they can cause irritation, inflammation, damage to the skin barrier, and even more dryness, which leads to the cycle of constantly feeling like you need more lip balm.
- Eucalyptus - Essential oils are all the rage, but they have been known to cause all kinds of problems and allergic reactions when applied topically. Read more about why you should avoid essential oils.
- Flavoring - Cinnamon, citrus, mint, and peppermint flavors can be especially irritating to dry, chapped lips
- Fragrance - One of the most common allergens in skin care products is fragrance, so even though it’s nice to have a sweet smell under your nose, if fighting chapped lips is really your goal, you may have to sacrifice fragrance.
- Lanolin - This ingredient is the grease from sheep’s wool, and not only is wool a common allergen, but even though it does go through a refining process, studies have found that lanolin in skin care products contains traces of pesticides. Pesticide ridden animal grease is not exactly what you want on your mouth is it?
- Octinoxate or oxybenzone - If your lip balm has SPF, make sure it’s from a mineral sunscreen ingredient like zinc oxide of titanium dioxide. Chemical sunscreens like octinoxate and oxybenzone are not only known irritants, but they also have negative effects on ocean environments (which you can read more about here).
- Sulfates - Often found in toothpaste, shampoo, cleansers, and anything that foams and lathers, sulfates are harsh detergent ingredients that are common culprits for irritation and stripping the skin of moisture. You'll probably never see a lip balm or lipstick that contains sulfates, but your toothpaste likely does.
- Propyl gallate
- Salicylic acid
If anything you put on your lips makes them itch or burn, it’s a good indicator that you have an allergy to one of the ingredients, and you should contact a doctor or dermatologist for a patch test to narrow down the problem.
Ingredients that can help
On the other hand, there are many ingredients found in some lip balms that are great occlusives that will lock in moisture and aren’t common irritants.
- Castor seed oil
- Hemp seed oil
- Mineral oil
- Shea butter
- Sun-protective ingredients, such as titanium oxide or zinc oxide
- White petroleum jelly
Obviously these ingredients are not foolproof because you could still have an allergy to one or more of them, but generally speaking, they all have the moisturizing factor that is necessary for caring for your chapped lips.
Products to Try
If you’re looking for lip balms and lipsticks that will help hydrate and heal chapped lips try these fragrance and flavor free options with shea butter for hydrated, healthy lips (shea butter allergies are rare so you’ll likely be safe using it as your hydrating ingredient).
And don’t rule your toothpaste out as the issue. If you’ve updated your lip balm, but still have irritated lips, try a sulfate and mint free toothpaste.