Dry Lips? Blame These 10 Mistakes You Didn’t Realize You Were Making
Dry, chapped lips can drive us to distraction, but some of the things that we rely on to keep them hydrated may actually be doing more harm than good.
Dry lips are more than a cosmetic problem
Dry, chapped lips do more than mar an otherwise picturesque smile; dry lips can be painful, especially when they crack and bleed. They tend to occur more often during the cold winter months, but sun exposure can also dry out a pout. “Lips are unbelievably thin [and] unlike other areas of the skin, the lips have no oil glands so they tend to dry out easily,” says Sam Rizk, MD, a New York City facial plastic surgeon Sam Rizk, MD. “The lip borders may become cracked and peel from excessive dryness caused by the weather, cold air, dry air, indoor heating, or exposure to chemicals, and from certain medications.” Some of your habits and choices may be making matters worse, even those that you think are good for lip health. Read on for the biggest lip mistakes, and find out what else causes dry, chapped lips.
Lip-drying mistake: Licking your lips
It may seem counterintuitive but licking your lips dries them out. “Saliva contains enzymes that dry out and irritate the skin of the lips,” adds Neil Sadick, MD, founder and director of Sadick Dermatology in New York City. Break the habit by choosing and using a moisturizing lip balm whenever you feel the urge to lick.
Lip-drying mistake: Your frequent flyer miles
The air on planes is known to be seriously dehydrating. Between the low humidity and the high altitude, moisture is sapped from the skin including the lips, resulting in chapped lips upon arrival. Make sure you pack a lip balm, and drink ample amounts of water throughout the flight to hydrate your lips from the inside and the outside. Here are other ways to stay healthy while flying.
Lip-drying mistake: Your love affair with lipstick
Don’t worry, you can still wear your signature lipstick for long stretches of time, says Dr. Sadick. “As long as you first apply a coat of moisturizing lip balm, such as Carmex Original Lip Balm Stick before applying your first layer.” Find out tips on how to make your makeup last all day long.
Lip-drying mistake: Your toothpaste
Yes, brushing your teeth regularly will keep cavities at bay and is essential for oral hygiene, but the wrong toothpaste choice can mess with your lips, says Gervaise Gerstner, MD, a New York City dermatologist. “Make sure your toothpaste isn’t irritating your lips,” she says. “Sometimes tartar control versions can be irritating.” If you suspect your choice of toothpaste is the culprit, try another brand with an ingredient list that looks as different as possible. Find out the other common tooth brushing mistakes you may be making.
Lip-drying mistake: Your choice of lip balm
Unlike lip plumper, lip balm shouldn’t make your lips sting, tingle or swell, the American Academy of Dermatology states. Instead, choose a lip balm that feels good. Dr. Sadick agrees: “Avoid lip balms that contain drying ingredients, like artificial fragrances and make sure your lip balm contains moisturizing ingredients including cocoa butter or colloidal oatmeal such as Carmex Comfort Care.” Dr. Gerstner is a fan of Korres Lip Butter and RMS Lip Skin Balm.
Lip-drying mistake: Your penchant of hot showers
“Hot water washes away the skin’s protective oils, leaving it dry, tight, and itchy,” says Dr. Sadick. Instead, “opt for lukewarm water when taking a shower instead to avoid drying out your skin.” Find out the other showering mistakes you’re probably making.
Lip-drying mistake: Not using sun protection
“One of the biggest mistakes is not protecting your delicate lip skin from UV rays,” says Dr. Rizk. “To maintain healthy lip skin, using emollients while indoors and outdoors, and apply SPF 30 during the day,” he says. “In addition, people who have exposed their unprotected lips to cumulative sun damage are at a higher risk for skin cancer of the lips including basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.” Lip pre-skin cancers are common, Dr. Gerstner adds. She recommends any of the Coola lip products including Firecracker. “Spots on lips that keep flaking must be seen by dermatologist,” Dr. Gerstner says. “I biopsy [precancerous] actinic keratosis on lips all the time.” Now, learn how to decode that bottle of sunscreen lotion.
Lip-drying mistake: Your mouth-breathing habit
Dry lips are caused by a lack of hydration, which can also be caused by breathing through your mouth instead of your nose, Dr. Rizk says. “Use a nasal saline spray or a neti pot to keep your nasal passages clear, and sleep with a humidifier to reduce dryness in the air,” he says. “Nose breathing may be impaired when your nasal passages don’t provide enough space for adequate air to pass through,” he explains, adding that surgery may be necessary if the situation worsens.
Lip-drying mistake: Your cozy, warm bedroom
Indoor heating during the winter is a major cause of chapped lips since there is loss of humidity especially when sleeping in warm-regulated temperatures overnight, Dr. Sadick says. “Make sure you apply a thick layer of lip balm as part of your nightly routine.” Find out how to set up your bedroom for the best night’s sleep.
Lip-drying mistake: Medication
If a medication can cause dry mouth, it can cause dry, chapped lips, experts warn. The list is long and includes many over-the-counter and prescription medications including anti-depressants, antihistamines, anti-anxiety medications, decongestants, muscle relaxants, and pain medications, according to the Mayo Clinic. Ask your doctor or pharmacist whether your meds may be causing your dry, chapped lips. He or she will likely recommend coping strategies including the use of a moisturizing lip balm.