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How to Prevent Chapped Lips in Any Weather

woman applying moisturizing balm to her lips
Africa Studio/Shutterstock

Lip balm advertisements often seem to focus on the drying effects of winter’s icy winds. But for some people, keeping lips smooth and happy is a chore even in the balmy summer heat.

It’s not just you—there’s a reason your lips tend to get dry and chapped easily, even when the rest of your skin is doing just fine. And it is possible to prevent chapped lips all year round, with the right products and a few smart techniques.

We’ve put together this comprehensive guide to dealing with chapped lips to make your life just a little easier. Here’s how to keep your lips healthy and ready for selfies, lipstick, kisses, or whatever else the year brings your way.

Why Lips Get Chapped

Have you ever wondered why lips are often a slightly different color from the rest of the body? It’s because the skin on your lips is so thin, your blood vessels can easily show through.

This means the skin of your lips is more delicate than the skin elsewhere on your body. Not only that, but the rest of your skin has sebaceous glands, which produce oil to moisturize your skin naturally. However, those glands aren’t present on your lips—so your lips have no way to stay moisturized, other than what you apply externally.

Your lips aren’t like other skin on your body and require extra care.

To make it worse, your lips also lack melanin, the skin pigment responsible for tanning when you’ve been in the sun. Melanin helps naturally protect your skin from sun damage. Without it, your lips can get sunburned more quickly than the rest of your body, which can also leave them dry and chapped.

This means that while some people are more prone to chapped lips than others, everyone’s lips are, compared to the rest of their skin, predisposed to dryness. And everyone should take steps to protect their lips from sun damage, as well as chapping.

How to Choose Lip Products That Work

Your first line of defense in preventing chapped lips is lip balm. Of course, lip balm-like products can also be labeled and sold as chapstick, lip gloss, or any number of other lip care titles. However, the most important thing is that you shop based on ingredient.

Here are some moisturizing ingredients that you should look for in your lip care products:

  • Beeswax
  • Lanolin
  • Plant butter and oils (shea, coconut, olive, almond, etc.)
  • Glycerin
  • Hyaluronic acid

There are also some ingredients to avoid. Some of these may surprise you, but they can all be drying or irritating to your lips:

  • Menthol
  • Camphor
  • Phenol
  • Peppermint
  • Cinnamon or cinnamaldehyde (the chemical compound responsible for cinnamon flavor)
  • Salicylic acid and other chemical exfoliators

It’s also usually best to avoid added colors, flavors, and fragrances in your lip balms, which can all be irritating. Even if you sometimes like colored or scented lip products, try to have a bland, utilitarian lip balm on hand for everyday wear.

Use This Trick to Pick Great Lip Balms

tin of bees wax lip balm surrounded by chunks of bees wax

Some lip balms contain humectants, a type of moisturizer that draws in moisture from the surrounding environment. Salicylic acid and alpha-hydroxy acids are actually humectants, but they tend to be too harsh for your lips. Glycerin and hyaluronic acid are gentler humectants that are more lip-friendly.

However, some lip balms also contain occlusive moisturizers. These ingredients trap existing moisture in place. Beeswax and shea butter are examples of occlusives you might find in lip products. Many occlusive moisturizers are also emollients, which means they have skin-softening properties. (Beeswax and plant-based oils and butter, for example, are humectants and emollients.)

The best lip balms tend to contain both humectants and occlusives. If they have skin-softening emollients too, even better.

Without an occlusive, humectants can pull moisture out of your lips, onto the surface, where it will evaporate and leave them drier than before. But when paired with an occlusive, humectants help the moisturizing properties work even better.

So if you want a great lip balm, look up the main ingredients and see which categories they fall into. If you have at least one humectant and one occlusive, the product will probably work very well.

Lesser-Known Secrets to Keeping Lips Happy

With a high-quality lip balm that offers the right mix of ingredients, avoiding chapped lips should be easy. But you can also use these lesser-known techniques to boost your results.

Try Lip Scrubs

Even though the skin of your lips is delicate, a gentle scrub can work wonders to get rid of dry, flaking skin.

Make sure not to scrub too hard, and avoid ingredients that have jagged edges, such as crushed walnut shells. You can easily make a lip scrub at home by mixing brown sugar with plant-based oil. Massage it gently onto your lips to create a smoother surface.

Stay Hydrated

If you’re not well-hydrated, your chapped lips can get even worse. Staying hydrated is always a good idea for your health, but it’s a nice bonus that it can help your lips stay moisturized.

Add Sun Protection

Finally, make sure your lip balm has SPF. Sun damage contributes to chapped lips, and it can also contribute to more severe problems like skin disease. And it’s much easier to prevent sunburned lips than it is to heal from the painful aftermath.

If you try these ideas out and still have chapped lips, you should see a doctor to rule out any underlying conditions. But for most people, these steps will give you healthy, unchapped lips all year round. Don’t forget to give the rest of your skin the same attention, too—check out our guide to soft, healthy skin next.

Elyse Hauser Elyse Hauser
Elyse Hauser is a freelance and creative writer from the Pacific Northwest, and an MFA student at the University of New Orleans Creative Writing Workshop. She specializes in lifestyle writing and creative nonfiction. Read Full Bio »
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