How to fix your dry, flaky chapped lips once and for all
You might notice them more in the winter because the dry winter air and the indoor heaters do a pretty good job of sapping out moisture from your skin.
While you might associate chapped lips with winter, you can get them at any time. That's because your lips chap when they're not exposed to enough moisture, which dehydrates them and ends up drying them out, says Shereene Idriss, M.D., a dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology. You might notice them more in the winter because the dry winter air and the indoor heaters do a pretty good job of sapping out moisture from your skin.
You might be tempted to lick your lips as a quick fix—that's moisture, right?—but resist the urge. Your spit dries quickly, which can leave your lips drier than before. That can make chapped lips even worse.
If your lips are prone to chapping, you need the right tools to deal with it. First, that means prep work. You don't want to slather on any kind of lip balm or ointment right on top of the flaky skin, since that can block the product from absorbing in, says Dr. Idriss.
That's why you need to exfoliate your lips first. Your lips are very delicate, so you don't want to use a rough exfoliant like you would with thicker skin, she says. Try a lip exfoliating ointment with natural fruit acids instead, says Tsippora Shainhouse, M.D., a dermatologist in Beverly Hills and Clinical Instructor at the University of Southern California.
Then, you're ready to bring on the balm. Look for lip products with natural ingredients like cocoa butter (say, Palmer's Cocoa Butter Formula Lip Balm), shea butter, argan oil, coconut oil, or avocado oil, which will help moisturize the dry skin on your lips, says Dr. Shainhouse. You can also reduce the pain and flakiness by putting Vaseline on around once an hour, says Dr. Idriss.
If your chapped lips are really bad, you can get an over-the-counter steroid cream like hydrocortisone. But keep this to a minimum, because it could thin your lips, leaving them vulnerable to fungal infections, says Dr. Idriss. Another option is to ask a dermatologist for a prescription cream if the pain gets unbearable, says Shainhouse.
You should also be wearing sunscreen on your lips, even during winter. “Lips have thin skin and very little melanin, so they have minimal innate protection from aging and damaging UV rays,” Dr. Shainhouse explains
As for prevention? Don’t rinse your mouth with alcohol-based mouthwash, which can make the dryness worse, and avoid licking your lips, she adds. You can also consider placing a humidifier in your bedroom, which will help keep the air in your room moist as you sleep.
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