The best scrubs, balms, and treatments to keep your lips hydrated all season long.

By Samantha Driscoll
October 29, 2020
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This is part of our weekly Test Drive series, where our team of beauty experts demystify products and tools, and explore new techniques IRL.

It’s that time of year again. Pumpkin spice lattes are back in season, the air is crisp and we can finally wear sweaters. Fall is absolutely my favorite season, but with the colder weather usually comes dry, chapped lips. It seems like no matter what I try, there’s no way to avoid them.

There are many causes for chapped lips. To keep your lips hydrated and plump, experts say you need a regular lip care routine.

The weather actually plays a big role in lip health, says Dr. Gretchen Frieling, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of GFaceMD. “Lips lack the oil glands that the rest of the skin has. Cold air pulls moisture from the lips, leading them to be dry,” she says. Not only does cold weather increase the risk for chapped lips, but wearing a face mask (while necessary) can cause extra dryness. “Wearing a mask causes irritation from lack of fresh air, moisture, friction and retention of saliva around the lips and mouth,” Frieling says. To help prevent irritation, she advises always keeping your lips hydrated under your mask by applying a balm or ointment. Before putting on my mask, I like to use the Vaseline Rosy Lip Therapy Stick ($3, Target) to keep my lips soft and hydrated.

Several other factors also contribute to chapped lips. Sun exposure, diet and repetitive licking can actually strip the moisture from the lips, Freiling says. “Chapped lips can also be caused by applying irritating skincare products like retinoids and acne cream on the lips or near the corners of the mouth,” says Dr. Rosemarie Ingleton, a dermatologist and founder of Ingleton Dermatology.

To prevent chapped lips, use products with SPF and moisturizing ingredients like Vitamin E and aloe vera daily. Ingleton recommends washing your lips with a gentle soap-free cleanser and then applying a lip balm before heading outside and at bedtime. “Lip balms will hydrate the lips and provide a protective barrier against the environmental elements,” she says. When your lips are dry and have visible built-up layers, exfoliating the lips with a scrub one-to-two times per week can help remove the dead, dry layers of skin. After exfoliating, always be sure to follow up with a lip balm to hydrate and protect the newly revealed skin.

In addition to a regular lip care regimen, you should also maintain a well-balanced diet and drink plenty of water to help keep your lips healthy, Freiling says.

If you’re like me and are already suffering from dry, chapped lips, I recommend getting one (or all) of the following lip care products. Between masks, balms and scrubs–you’re sure to find one that works for you.

Credit: Courtesy of Kiehl's

Freiling advises using SPF 30 or higher on lips to prevent excess dryness and burning. That’s why I love using this nourishing lip balm every morning. It leaves my lips feeling smooth, soft and hydrated all day long. It also has SPF 30, so it protects against sun damage. I like to use the tinted variety to add a little bit of color.

Buy It: Kiehl’s Butterstick Lip Treatment SPF 30 ($24, Kiehl's)

Credit: Courtesy of CVS

Sometimes I wake up with dry, flaky lips, and I want to exfoliate while also leaving my lips hydrated. That’s when this two-in-one exfoliating scrub comes in handy. The plant-derived grains in this scrub exfoliate and buff away dry skin while Vitamin E and aloe vera nourish and rehydrate the lips. The grains will dissolve after you rub your lips together, so there’s no need to wipe the product off after using it. This scrub is gentle enough to use every day, especially during fall and winter when lips tend to be extra dry.

Buy It: NIVEA 2-IN-1 Lip Balm & Scrub ($5, CVS)

Credit: Courtesy of Ulta

Similar to a lip scrub, this lip brush gently exfoliates dry, dead skin. You can use it in combination with a sugar lip scrub or lip oil, but I like to use it after applying a hydrating lip balm. After applying the balm (or scrub/oil), massage the brush onto your lips in small, circular motions. I used to use a toothbrush to exfoliate my lips, but the bristles were too harsh. The silicone bristles on this scrubber are soft and gentle on my lips, leaving them soft and smooth after every use.

Buy It: Daily Concepts Daily Lip Scrubber ($5, Ulta)

Credit: Courtesy of Sephora

This lip balm is incredibly rich and hydrating. Because it’s so rich, I like to use it as an overnight lip mask. “Lips repair themselves overnight,” Ingleton says. “Applying an extra rich balm at bedtime will allow the product to be more effective since you won’t lick the product off or remove the product inadvertently.” After just one use, I woke up with lush lips that felt moisturized and healthy. A little bit went a long way, so I know this tube is going to last a while.

Buy It: Summer Fridays, Lip Butter Balm ($22, Sephora)

Credit: Courtesy of Physicians Formula

I don’t typically wear lipstick, especially since I’m wearing a face mask every time I step outside. But, for days when I want a little extra color for an important Zoom meeting, I reach for this creamy liquid lipstick. It’s formulated with Hyaluronic Acid and anti-aging peptides that are wonderful ingredients for the lips, Freiling says. It also contains avocado oil, which hydrates and nourishes. I love how plump this lipstick makes my lips look and feel!

Buy It: Physicians Formula The Healthy Lip Velvet Liquid Lipstick ($6, Physicians Formula)

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