Dry lips are par for the course during winter months and some habits and products can take lips from merely parched to cracked. Here’s how to avoid making dry lips worse:
Keep your toothpaste in your mouth.
Toothpaste can be a source of lip irritation and, eventually, dryness for some people, says Sejal Shah, MD, board-certified dermatologist in New York, thanks to preservatives, flavoring, coloring and other ingredients. Sensitivity varies, but messy teeth brushers are more likely to get toothpaste on their lips, making them more likely to notice chapped lips. You might consider switching to a natural toothpaste which tends to have fewer potentially irritating ingredients. Another tip: try applying a barrier like Vaseline to lips before brushing your teeth to keep stray paste off.
Exfoliate—but not with your face scrub.
Getting rid of dead skin allows moisturizing lip products to do their job more effectively. Your lips are more sensitive than the skin on your face, though, and don’t require the same intensity of exfoliation (they don’t have oil glands or hair follicles, so there’s less buildup to clear away), so face scrubs with large particles are generally too rough. Instead, use a clean toothbrush to gently brush over lips before bed once a week.
Stop licking. Do not lick your lips. Saliva won’t cause allergic or irritant dermatitis, but it does leave lips drier as it evaporates. Apply a moisturizing lip balm instead.
Pick the right lip balm and apply liberally. Your choice of product can be the solution or the problem. Some lip balms contain could-be irritants like salicylic acid (often added as an exfoliant), menthol and camphor. Fragrances and artificial colors may also be problematic, as are hydrators like lanolin and beeswax, which can trigger an allergic reaction. A few safer hydrating ingredients to look for: petrolatum, glycerin and dimethicone. If you use lipstick, put the balm on over your go-to shade to prevent excessive drying due to ingredients in the formula. Long-wear varieties of lipstick can also be particularly drying.