While there are lots of things to love about winter, chapped lips aren’t one of them. Dry, cracked, peeling painful lips hurt, and they keep you from doing important things like smiling or taking a big bite of something yummy or kissing your sweetie.
Causes of chapped lips
- Dry environment (humidity drops just about everywhere in the winter due to cooler air)
- Sun – sunburned lips are the worst
- Wind-also drying
- Licking your lips
- Certain medications that have dehydration as a side effect like antihistamines, diuretics, chemotherapy drugs
- Certain ingredients in lip balms, think menthols and camphor
The skin on your lips is different
You’ve probably noticed your lips are more prone to chapping than other areas of your face. The natural oils secreted by your skin protect it from dryness and damage. Not so on your lips. They have very few oil glands.
Plus, your lips have thinner skin.
And because they’re nearly always out in the sun, wind, and cold, they get more exposure. All these factors add up to make your lips more likely to become dehydrated and start to peel or crack.
The sad irony is that once this happens, the temptation to pick at or lick your lips make the situation even worse.
As with most things in life, prevention is way better than cure
A good lip balm seals in moisture. It forms a protective layer to keep sun, wind, snow, heat and cold from sucking the moisture out of your lips.
PRO TIP: It’s a really good idea to apply lip balm before bed. Just like we add a good face cream or oil to seal in moisture while the skin repairs itself, your nightly lip balm will do the same for your lips.
But, not all lip balms are created equal. Some feel good going on but actually are more drying. Let’s avoid those.
Menthol or mint lip balms are the old stand by and still popular. The problem is that menthol, camphor, and phenols are actually quite drying. So they feel good going on, but end up making your lips worse.
I’m not a fan of petroleum products on my lips, and chemical sunscreens are also really drying.
But…sun burned or damaged lips are bad. If your lips are already damaged (dry or chapped), sun exposure can trigger fever blisters (cold sores). So, you definitely want to use a lip balm with SPF.
The good news is that zinc oxide sunscreens protect your lips from sun damage and other environmental insults. Zinc helps reduce inflammation and heal the skin.
Lots of great natural ingredients will help prevent chapped lips and make them healthier, smoother, and plumper. Look for lip balms that contain some of these:
- Olive Oil
- Cocoa butter
- Aloe vera
- Coconut oil
Hydrate from the inside
Drink plenty of water. This is sometimes hard to do when it’s cold out. You don’t feel as thirsty. Do it anyway. Your skin and lips are the first place dehydration shows up. If you’re flying or traveling to high elevation, this is even worse. Drink more water. Your skin will thank you.
Hydrate from the outside
In addition to applying products to your skin, using a humidifier when you’re sleep can have huge benefits to your ski and lips. Heat and colder temps mean that the air in your house is drier in the winter. Lower humidity means more water loss from your skin. A humidifier will help offset this.
How to remedy those hurting smackers
If you’re active outdoors in the winter (and we hope you are), chances are you’re going to have chapped lips at some point. Here’s how to get rid of them pronto:
Don’t lick them! This is the most natural reaction to dry lips-deliver some moisture straight from your tongue. And it does bring relief. Until the saliva dries and pulls even more moisture out of your lips.
Try these instead:
Drink more water.
Keep putting the lip balm on.
Try a gentle sugar scrub. You can make one at home in a jiffy:
Mix one teaspoon of honey with two teaspoons of sugar
Massage the mixture into your lips and leave for 10 minutes or so
Wash off with warm water
Sugar is a natural exfoliant. Honey is a natural moisturizer and anti-bacterial.
The operative word here is gentle. It may be tempting to have a nice hard scrub to remove dry and peeling skin but this will only damage your lips more. Gently scrub then moisturize and seal with lip balm.
Or, even easier and more gentle:
Soak a bag of green tea in warm water and gently rub it over the lips to soften and remove excess dry skin.
The green tea will help reduce inflammation and the natural antioxidants and mineral will help soothe and heal your lips.
Don’t overdo exfoliation. This is a once or at most twice a week thing. Otherwise, you’ll end up making your lips even drier.
If your lips are chapped, be sure to keep protecting them:
- lip balm (SPF if you’re going to be outdoors)
- use a humidifier
- use a scarf or neck gaiter help protect your lips from wind and cold
They should be much better in a day or two.
When it might be more than simple chapped lips
If your chapped lips simply won’t heal or are very inflamed, you should see a doctor, preferably a dermatologist. An area on the lips, one lip, or both, that seems constantly chapped or dry and flaky should also be checked out. These can sometimes be a precancerous condition called actinic chelitis that your dermatologist needs to treat. Allergic reactions, yeast infections, and other medical conditions can cause dry, peeling lips.
Winter can be fun and your lips don’t need to suffer. You can have smooth, plump, comfortable lips in even the worst winter weather.
SunWindSnow has a wonderful SPF 15 lip balm that goes on clear and is super moisturizing. It’s made with non-nano zinc oxide which helps to protect and heal your skin and provide UV protection. Soothing calendula, yarrow, plaintain, and lavender and healing comfrey are infused in organic extra virgin olive oil, then added to organic beeswax, a hint of tangerine, and vitamin E to make a protective, healing, and moisturizing lip balm that you and your family will love.