Whether you’re making a beeline for the mistletoe or the dessert table, establishing lip care as a priority during the dry winter months can ensure your mouth stays in tip-top shape all season long. And, although the weather may be partially to blame for less-than-soft kissers, chapped lips are the result of other hectic holiday season habits, too. (Poor food choices, anyone?)
Your lips are red for a reason: The skin and moisture barrier isn’t as thick or strong as other parts of the body. So pay attention when they tell you they’re damaged and follow these natural lip tips.
LIP TIP #1: FOCUS ON PREVENTION
Don’t wait until it’s too late to start moisturizing; it’s much more difficult to repair chapped lips than to keep dry skin at bay, according to dermatologist Margarita Lolis, MD. She recommends applying pure natural oils daily for upkeep.
“You want to protect the lips and use some form of prep treatment before lipstick. Oils are a great bet because they’re natural and really soak in quickly.”
Try grapeseed, jojoba or almond oils, which are rich in vitamins and fatty acids. Other go-to lip moisturizers include emollients such as shea butter and coconut oil, or castor oil and vitamin E. (Note: The last two are good for some people but not for others, so give products with those ingredients a test run to make sure you’re not sensitive.)
LIP TIP #2: CARE FOR YOUR PERSONAL CARE
Made a makeup switch lately? Ingredients in everything from lipstick to toothpaste can irritate lips, so proceed with caution.
“Fragrance,” for example, can contain hundreds of mystery ingredients, and “flavors,” though they may taste lip-smacking good, may not be good for sensitive lip skin. Regardless of whether these ingredients are synthetic or plant-based, if you don’t know what’s in there, you won’t know if you’re allergic; allergies can enhance dryness, leading to a vicious cycle. The Environmental Working Group also recommends avoiding forms of vitamin A—including retinyl palmitate, retinyl acetate, retinoic acid and retinol (when used in the sun)—because of allergy and irritation risk.
LIP TIP #3: B DILIGENT ABOUT SUPPLEMENTS
Severely chapped lips may be a sign of nutrient deficiencies, particularly of B vitamins, including vitamins B2, B3 and B6, as well as zinc, according to Lolis. Beyond harmless dryness, B deficiency can cause angular cheilitis—a condition that leads to bleeding, cracking and flaking on the corners of your mouth.
LIP TIP #4: BREATHE IN …
… and when you do, take notice of whether it’s through your mouth.
“People with allergies or sleep apnea who breathe through their mouths while sleeping have lip dryness and chapping,” says Lolis. Making adjustments will be a challenge, especially when it comes to how you sleep. Start by cranking up a humidifier, which can alleviate symptoms of a dry mouth, including chapped lips.
LIP TIP #5: DITCH THE SALTY, SPICY SNACKS AND THE BOOZY DRINKS
“Noooo!” you may plead. But, sadly, these foods and bevs can exacerbate dehydration and irritation. Also avoid excess citrus and other acidic foods such as tomato sauce.
LIP TIP #6: CREATE A MOISTURE BARRIER
Your first line of defense starts from the inside out and, yes, we’re telling you again: Drink tons of water. In addition to nurturing your lips, this will also help your complexion look supple and fresh. From there, try topical treatments that contain ceramides (waxy lipid molecules that maintain skin hydration) and hyaluronic acid (known as nature’s moisture molecule), as well as supplements containing these ingredients, to create a moisture barrier on the skin itself. According to the International Journal of Cosmetic Science, the ceramide profile of lips is directly related to the roughness of the skin. Load up!