Chapped lip season is here, which means you’ve likely been reaching for your favorite chapstick.
But not all lip balms are made the same, and some can even make a dry lip situation worse, experts say.
“Lips do not have oil glands like the rest of our skin and the skin is thinner. For this reason the skin on our lips tends to be drier and more sensitive,” explains Dr. Caroline Robinson, dermatologist and founder of Tone Dermatology.
She recommends avoiding ingredients like methanol, alcohols and fragrance to prevent potential irritation.
Dr. Samer Jaber, a dermatologist at Washington Square Dermatology in New York, adds “while balms and chapsticks can temporarily soothe irritated lips, they often have chemicals that may cause further irritation… (including) flavors, fragrance and preservatives that can dry and irritate your lips.”
He also recommends avoiding salicylic acid, menthol and camphor when your lips are dry as those ingredients can also irritate lips.
A rule of thumb from the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) is, “if your lips burn, sting or tingle after using a lip product, stop using that product.”
So, what should you use?
“The best way to keep your lips moist in the winter is to moisturize frequently with thick healing ointments,” Jaber says. “I always recommend using thicker moisturizing ointments like Vaseline or Aquaphor in colder weather. Lighter lip moisturizers like balms or chapstick are generally better suited for warmer, more humid months when lips are less prone to drying and cracking.
He recommends looking for lip balms with the following ingredients: petrolatum (also called petroleum jelly), mineral oil, lanolin, honey, beeswax, shea butter and glycerin.
But for those with sensitive skin skin allergies, a “plain 100% petrolatum ointment is ideal,” he adds.
Robinson agrees that fragrance-free lip products with petrolatum, glycerin, dimethicone, ceramides or shea butter are the way to go.
“It is also very important to protect your lips from the sun using a lip balm with SPF 30 or higher. Both of these steps can help combat dry, rough and cracked lips in the winter.”
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She also says it’s safe to reapply a fragrance-free, hypoallergenic lip balm throughout the day. In fact, she recommends this for “persistently dry lips.”
It doesn’t hurt to change things up though.
“It is always a good idea to rotate your lip products because the skin on our lips changes with each season and with age,” she says.
Still struggling with dry lips this winter? Jaber suggests using a humidifier at night to add moisture to the dry air.
Don’t pick dry skin off your lips either, since “that just makes it worse,” he explains.
So does licking them. “When your lips feel dry, it may feel natural to wet them by licking them, but this can worsen the problem. As saliva evaporates, your lips become drier,” according to the AAD. So when you catch yourself licking your lips, apply your lip balm instead.
Also skip lip gloss and lipstick while your lips are dry, as “that can worsen your dryness and irritation,” Jaber says.
Lastly, the AAD recommends staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water.