In chilly temperatures, blood vessels in your lips constrict to minimize heat loss. The super thin skin in this area becomes drier as the amount of fluid decreases, causing skin to crack and flake. We turned to Kathleen Sawada, a dermatologist in Golden, Colorado, to find out how to heal your pout.
1. Prep For moisture to penetrate delicate lip tissue, you must first remove the layer of rough, dead skin. Pick up a lip scrub or make your own. Mix 1 tsp. olive oil with 1 Tbsp. brown sugar and use the paste to—very gently—slough off visible flakes. Wipe off with a tissue or a damp washcloth. The olive oil left behind will infuse skin with softening essential fatty acids. Repeat once a week.
2. Heal After exfoliating, generously coat the area with a lip ointment that contains petrolatum. If you're experiencing serious discomfort, try a medicated version that's also infused with camphor or menthol. "Petrolatum is the real star here," Sawada says. "A thick layer will trap the lip skin's own moisture and prevent it from evaporating into the dry, cold air." Camphor and menthol will work on your nerve endings to cool and soothe irritation. Apply frequently, especially before bed, until you're feeling better.
3. Protect Because continued use of camphor and menthol can dry lips over time, switch to a nonmedicated, wax-base balm for every day. "There is no perfect formula," Sawada says. "Just find something you like and will want to apply and reapply until the temperature climbs." On days you'll be exposed to the sun for an hour or more—say if you're hitting the slopes—go for a version with sunscreen. Important: Unless you're a mad hand washer, skip potted balms, which are easily contaminated by germy fingers, during cold and flu season.
4. Prevent Apply balm early and often. Practically speaking, this means you're going to have to stock and stash. Buy multiples of your favorite balm and keep one in your glove box, one in your coat pocket, one in your purse. Avoid licking your lips (keeping them coated will help); the enzymes in saliva can actually break down delicate lip skin. Finally, if you can't seem to kick chapped lips, try swapping your toothpaste for an all-natural version. The irritation around your mouth might be due to a sensitivity to sulfates, the sudsing agent found in many oral products.
Kiss of Color
Stick to clear balms when lips are severely chapped and play up your eyes instead. In prevention mode? A tinted balm will provide moisture plus a pretty hue.
The Lip Scrub by Sara Happ relies on grapeseed and jojoba oils to soften skin, while sugar crystals eliminate flakes. $24; sarahapp.com
Sulfate-free Weleda Calendula Toothpaste freshens your mouth with organic fennel oil. $8; usa.weleda.com