From crusty to plushy: How to deal with criminally chapped lips + top recos

Whenever people see how many lip balms and ointments I own, I get odd looks - most likely because I only have one pair of lips and can’t possibly go through all of my stash successfully. But my secret love affair with lip balms is not baseless. Not only do I buy them because they look pretty on the vanity (kidding); I have Sahara-dry all year round lips! Aside from being in an air-conditioned room almost all day every day because of work, I have a bad habit of constantly chewing on my lips, especially while I'm thinking. My lips are often chapped and flaky, so I've definitely dependent on lip balm to save them!

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Why do lips dry out?

Compared to the rest of the body, our lips have a thinner layer of skin and are pretty much on their own as they don’t have oil-producing glands that could keep them hydrated and moisturized. This is mainly why they are the most prone to drying out and getting damaged. Exposure to extreme weather conditions (too cold, too hot, or too windy) and various external factors such as eating too much citrus or salty food can zap your lips of moisture. In some cases, you can get dry lips when you’re feeling a little under the weather, are lacking in vitamins, or are dehydrated and need to drink more liquids. Finally, constantly licking your lips is not only useless - it actually worsens the situation! 

What can you do for your lips?

Your lips require the same TLC you give to your skin: I’m talking about following the same cleansing, exfoliating, moisturizing, and sun protection routine! Gently scrubbing with a clean toothbrush or face sponge, a sugar and honey mix, or an actual lip scrub product gets rid of the dead skin cells, which can lead to unsightly flakes. Frequently applying lip balm and applying treatments is also crucial, as your lips don’t have natural oils to keep them hydrated. You can even do a simple lip mask by placing thin slices of cucumber over the area to soothe and plump them!

Because they're also part of your skin, lips are also prone to experiencing sun damage. Keep them protected with balms that contain SPF and make sure to reapply regularly. Of course, the body’s condition can have an effect on the lips, so stay healthy and drink plenty of water.

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What are your best lip-saving options?

Before you go around hoarding lip balms, it's important to remember that there are certain ingredients that you should look out for and avoid when possible. Try to stay away from:

  • Fragrances and flavorings - Though my heart breaks a little to say so, fragrances and oils such as peppermint, camphor, and artificial scents and flavors (like my favorite berry mix) are one of the common culprits of dry, chapped lips. Scents and flavors make lip balms more enticing to lick off, which we've already discussed as a major no-no. The unnecessary additions can also trigger sensitive skin and cause allergic reactions.

  • Humectants - Glycerin and hyaluronic acid are usual favorites when it comes to provide extreme hydration but they aren't always the best option for chapped lips. Surprised? Humectants work by clinging to or sucking water, so having it in your lip product can mean that these ingredients are actually removing the very little moisture remaining. You CAN safely use them though if there are also occlusive ingredients (those that trap and prevent water loss, such as beeswax and shea butter) present to seal in the applied moisture.

There are great ingredients that provide some extra pampering for your lips as well:

  • Oils such as almond, jojoba, and coconut oil contain fatty acids that provide more intense hydration.

  • Shea butter is powered with vitamins A and E, and is known for its ability to soothe and moisturize skin. 

  • Cocoa butter contains antioxidants that can heal and moisturize cracked and dry lips.

  • Petroleum jelly is a bit of a controversial ingredient because it's a by-product in oil rigs but they ARE properly refined and formulated to be safe to use. As yet, there are no clinical studies that substantiate claims linking it to cancer. Petroleum jelly is a good option for saving chapped lips because it's an occlusive emollient, so it's able to hydrate and seal in the moisture at the same time!

The PV team has a list of our favorite lip balms but here are some more options!

  • A good friend who supports my addiction supplies me with Burt’s Bees Nourishing Lip Balm (P225, Beauty Bar), which I love because they don’t feel too waxy on! They come in a variety of flavors but some personal favorites are Pomegranate (which has pomegranate oil that has antioxidants that nourish the lips) and Coconut and Pear (which has coconut oil for deep moisture). Burt’s Bees balms all have a good base of ingredients with coconut oil and shea butter that are both hydrating.  

  • Nivea Lip Butter (P129, department stores) has a blend of shea butter, almond oil, and vitamin E so it feels really soothing. It’s a bit thick but the lips absorb it nicely and it keeps the lips soft and moisturized.

  • Palmer’s Lip Butter (P495 for 2, Rustan’s) is one of the best smelling lip balms you could ever own as the cocoa butter smells like chocolates! This lip butter is a bit of a balm-gloss hybrid, and works well both under and over lip products.

  • Lucas Papaw Ointment (P500, BeautyMNL) is a heaven-sent ointment that works wonders for when my lips are the absolute worst. It has Australian papaws, an antimicrobial ingredient that can relieve chapped lips. I use this when the flaking and bleeding are just so severe, and it keeps the little wounds protected from bacteria.

Whatever lip balm you do decide to buy, the key thing to remember is that you need to use it regularly to see results. Keep it in your pocket, in your purse, at your desk - anywhere that allows you to have easy reach so you can apply and reapply as needed. There’s no miracle balm to suddenly transform lips from crusty to plushy, but making sure to include your lips into the rest of your regimen is definitely a step in the right direction.

Have you built in lip care into your routine? What are your favorite lip balms?

Sources: Common SenseStyle Caster