5 Tips to Prevent Chapped, Irritated Lips
Plus, what to do if it's too late for preventative measures.
Dry lips are par for the course during winter, thanks to lower humidity outside and Sahara-level pumped-in heat inside. Certain habits and products can take lips from merely parched to cracked—or cause some women to have allergic or irritant dermatitis, which may look like chapped lips but won't be cleared up by lip balm alone. Here's how to avoid making a dry situation worse.
What to do at Night
Let facial products thoroughly sink into skin before bed.
The lip connection: Unless you sleep on your back with nary a movement side-to-side, unabsorbed products can end up on your pillowcase. And as you move around throughout the night, ingredients like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide (both of which you find in acne products) or retinoids (found in both acne fighters and anti-wrinkle products) can end up on your lips and lead to irritation, says Doris Day, MD, clinical associate professor of dermatology at NYU Langone Medical Center, in New York.
Keep your toothpaste in your mouth.
The lip connection: 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 chapping. You might consider switching to a natural toothpaste, which, Shah says, tend to have fewer potentially irritating ingredients. Another tip: try applying a barrier like Vaseline to lips before brushing to keep stray paste off.
Exfoliate—but not with your face scrub
The lip connection: 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, Shah recommends using a clean toothbrush to gently brush over lips before bed once a week.