It is officially winter! As we curl up by the fireplace on a cold winter night there is nothing that could possibly ruin this moment, right...que chapped lips. When the cooler months approach chapped lips come into play like clockwork. The lips are one of the moist delicate areas of the skin and only have 3-5 stratum corneum layers, whereas the rest of our body has up to 16 layers. In addition to being thin, the skin on our lips also doesn’t contain melanin meaning they need more help when it comes to protecting them from the elements. Bad weather and exposure to the outdoors can cause lips to crack and become dry, but diet and medications also play a major role in their health.
- Make sure you have a balanced diet. Who would have thought what you eat could play such a major role in the health of your lips? For example, a diet high in vitamin A and citrus can cause dehydration in lips. On the flip side, vitamin B, zinc, and iron are known to keep the lips hydrated. Vitamin deficiencies play a huge role in lip dryness so make sure to know which vitamins to eat enough of and which ones you may want to cut back on. Everyone’s body is different but a great generic way to make sure you are consuming enough and the correct amount of vitamins is to take a daily multivitamin and eat as healthy as you can.
- Try not to lick your lips. When you notice your lips feel dry it is only natural to lick them. It immediately relieves the dry feeling we all dread. Although the relief is only temporary, we don’t realize that long term it does more harm than good. Our saliva contains digestive enzymes that break down the skin on our lips causing them to become dry. If lip licking becomes a habit, it also can cause a chronic condition called lip licker’s dermatitis. One way to avoid this is to keep a good lip balm on hand ensuring your lips are moisturized.
- Keep a good quality lip balm on hand. When using a lip balm, it is crucial to be aware of the ingredients in it to make sure it is helping instead of hurting. Avoiding ingredients like menthol, fragrance, petroleum jelly, and mineral oils are better options. Ingredients to look for that are great for aiding and preventing chapped lips include shea butter, cocoa butter, ceramides, and beeswax.
- Avoid petroleum-based products. Just like the name insinuates, petroleum jelly is a derivative of petroleum. Petroleum is a highly toxic crude oil that is not eco-friendly or sustainable. When refined properly petroleum jelly is said to have no health concerns, however it is often not fully refined in the US. This means that it can be contaminated with toxic chemicals. Due to its unique ability to absorb and lock itself into our skin it is commonly used in lip balms. Manufactures of these products advertise that it will moisturize your lips all day long, but that isn't true. While the petroleum jelly does remain on the skin all day and has a greasy texture, it does not have any moisturizing properties. Petroleum jelly absorbs in the lipid layer of our skin between cells, trapping any bacteria, dirt, or sweat in with it. If you already have dry lips all it does is put a greasy barrier over them. The barrier it creates on your lips will deter moisture and any beneficial ingredients from reaching your skin. Since it is not water soluble it also will not wash off easy, meaning over time it will build up in your system. One way to tell which skincare products contain petroleum jelly is to avoid any products containing mineral oil, paraffin, and formaldehyde. These ingredients are all derived from petroleum. Natural alternatives to petroleum jelly that will hydrate your lips are coconut oil, olive oil, beeswax, shea butter, mango butter, and cocoa butter.
- Apply a good SPF. Although the sun is a great source of vitamin D, it can be very damaging on your skin. Your lips are just as susceptible to sun damage as the rest of your skin is so protecting them year-round is very important. If you must be out in the sun a great way to make sure you protect your skin and lips is to apply a good SPF. The FDA recommends using an SPF of at least 30 to ensure your skin is protected from the UV rays of the sun. Sunburn is one of many causes of chapped lips so eliminating the possibility of this will get you one step closer to a chapped lip free winter!