5 Tips to Prevent Chapped, Irritated Lips
Photo: Tetra Images/Getty Images
What to do During the Day
Pick the right lip balm and apply liberally.
The lip connection: Your choice of product can be the solution or the problem. Some contain could-be irritants like salicylic acid (often added as an exfoliant), menthol and camphor, says Shah. Fragrances and artificial colors may also be problematic in a small subset of people, 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 your daily look involves lipstick, put the balm on over your go-to shade to prevent excessive drying due to ingredients in the formula (long-wear varieties can be particularly problematic, says Day).
The lip connection: You've heard it before, and you're about to hear it again: 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 product instead.
For When Your Lips Are Already Chapped
First, figure out exactly what type of dryness you're dealing with. If applying hydrating, non-irritating moisturizing products and being aware of how often you lick your lips does the trick, it's likely a normal case of chapped lips and you should keep your application (and no licking) regimen rolling.
If the dryness persists, try to identify the cause by running through the tips above. Does it improve once you become a little more careful with your toothpaste or leave ample time between nighttime product application and lights out? Then it's likely a dermatitis reaction to something in the paste or the product—keeping it off your lips and using a good moisturizer should help. If it still doesn't clear up or you can't pinpoint a cause, ask your dermatologist about it; they may suggest an anti-inflammatory topical cortisone cream for a few days or a short course of a prescription-strength topical steroid once they've made a diagnosis.