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How To Avoid and Treat Chapped Lips: Woman putting on ChapStick

How To Prevent And Treat Chapped Lips

Winter has its perks: curling up to a fireplace, sipping hot tea, and making crock pot stews, to name a few. But the season also has some downsides. Dry hands and dull hair? Wag your finger at the moisture-zapping cold, windy air. And let’s not forget chapped lips.

Medically known as “cheilitis,” chapped lips are uncomfortable, and in worst cases, outright painful. 

“Chapped lips are the result of dry, cracked skin on the lips due to dry weather, sun exposure, frequently licking your lips, or dehydration,” says Dr. Anna Chacon, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist, in Florida. Some medical conditions like allergies and thyroid disorders, as well as vitamin deficiencies, can also cause chapped lips, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

But why, exactly are our lips so sensitive?

As you’ve probably noticed, the skin on your lips is thinner than it is on the rest of your body, Chacon explains. Also, your lips don’t contain any oil glands, which puts them at a higher risk of becoming dry and chapped, especially when they’re exposed to elements like cold, windy weather, and the sun. 

Read More: 7 Winter Skincare Tips To Lock In Moisture 

Here are six expert-approved tips for keeping your lips moisturized this winter.

1. Pay attention to the ingredients in your lip balm 

If your lips burn or tingle when you apply a lip balm, you may think it’s a sign that there are active ingredients working to moisturize your lips. But actually, this is a telltale sign that the product is irritating your lips. 

“A common mistake when it comes to chapped lips is choosing the wrong lip balm,” says Dr. Cheryl Rosen, M.D., director of dermatology at BowTied Life. “Some lip balms contain ingredients that can actually make your lips worse.”

Lip balm ingredients to avoid, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AADA), include camphor, eucalyptus, menthol, lanolin, octinoxateor oxybenzone, and salicylic acid. 

On the flip side, ingredients that are great for helping heal your lips include castor seed oil, ceramides, dimethicone, hemp seed oil, mineral oil, shea butter, and petrolatum. Dermatologists also give a thumbs up to sun-protective ingredients such as titanium oxide or zinc oxide.

If your lips are extremely dry and cracked, go beyond a balm and apply a thicker ointment, such as white petroleum jelly, which can seal in moisture longer than waxes, according to the AADA.

2. Protect Yourself From The Elements

In addition to keeping your lips moisturized with balms or ointments, you’ll want to protect your lips from the elements when you go outdoors in the winter. A thick scarf can provide a barrier when you’re outside in the cold weather, suggests Rosen. Protecting your lips from the cold, dry air and wind will help fend off some of the chapping, she says. Also, when you’re outside, reapply lip balm every couple of hours.

Even in colder months, it’s important to wear a balm with SPF 30 or higher. The sun can burn dry, chapped lips more easily, the AADA points out, and this can trigger cold sores. 

Read More: What Your Fingernails Say About Your Health

3. Drink Plenty Of Water

Ultimately, chapped lips are dry lips and if you’re dehydrated they can get worse. Drinking lots of water throughout the day can help you prevent chapped lips, Rosen says. You’ll also want to avoid licking your lips, she says, because it creates a vicious cycle of dehydration and chapping. “Saliva contains enzymes that break down lipids and proteins in the skin, leading to further drying and cracking,” she explains.

4. Make An At-Home Lip Mask

During winter, spa directors see lots of people who want moisturizing treatments on their lips as part of a facial. In between visits, though, you can make your own lip mask treatment at home, says Cristina Cascio, the Well Spa Director at Miramonte Resort & Spa in Palm Springs, California. Apply some olive oil to your lips, which will condition them and give them a plump, healthy shine, she says. After that, you can combine coconut oil with a bit of honey and dab it on your lips before bed for extra healing power, she says.

5. Use A Humidifier

In addition to drinking lots of water and applying lip balm throughout the day, dermatologists and skin-care experts recommend having a good nighttime routine in place that can help restore the skin on your lips. The AADA recommends using a humidifier in your bedroom, especially if you breathe through your mouth at night.

6. Avoid certain foods

If you’re prone to chapped lips, avoid spicy, salty, or acidic foods (think citrus) that can irritate your lips, Chacon says. And avoid picking the skin from your cracked lips as that can complicate healing, she says. We know it can be a pesky habit to break. Still, it’s well worth ditching this practice ASAP to keep your lips in tip-top condition.

Chapped lips are uncomfortable, but with a little self-care, they usually heal within two to three weeks. However, if you have persistently chapped lips, consult with a board-certified dermatologist to identify any potential underlying issues.

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