Lip Care: How To Safely Protect Against And Care For Chapped Lips

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With Valentine's Day just around the corner, kissable lips are a hot commodity. But cold temps and dry air are a disastrous combination for the sensitive skin that makes up your lips.

"The lips are an area where our skin is thinner, so it's more vulnerable to damage than other parts of the skin. And unlike other areas of the body, the skin on the lips also lacks oil glands," says Jungho Kwon, M.D., a dermatologist at Henry Ford Health System.

Lip Protection Basics

When it comes to achieving a youthful appearance, lips are key. Not only are they one of the first areas of the face people see, they're also prone to wrinkle and accumulate sun damage.

Unfortunately, it's not uncommon for lips to be left out of a standard skin care regimen. To keep your kissers soft and plump, try these five strategies:

  1. Hydrate. Suffering from dry, scaly or cracked lips? You may not be drinking enough water. Your exact water needs depend on your age, gender and activity level. In general, aim to drink 0.5 to 1 ounce of water for each pound you weigh. Space out sipping throughout the day for the greatest impact.
  2. Apply balm. Just like the skin on your face benefits from daily moisturizing, so do your lips. To keep the skin on your lips soft and smooth, apply an oil-based lip balm a few times each day. Lip masks may help, too. Like a face mask, these masks help heal and soften dry, cracked lips.
  3. Wear sunscreen. Like the skin on your face, your lips require a layer of protection from the sun's harmful rays. Choose a balm with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. "If you have dry, irritated lips, choose mineral sunscreens that contain titanium and/or zinc," Dr. Kwon says.
  4. Avoid licking your lips. Licking your lips, particularly in cold, dry air, can further dry them out. To avoid chapping, keep them moisturized and consider a lip scrub to help remove dead skin and promote skin cell regeneration (sugar, petroleum jelly and olive oil is a great scrub combo).
  5. Use a humidifier. If the air in your home is dry and if you're using a furnace or heater to stay warm, consider using a humidifier. That will help keep the circulating air in your home moist — and prevent your lips from drying out.

Lip Care Product Ingredients

While there's nothing addictive about lip balm, the sensation of smooth, wet lips can become habit-forming. It's important to choose balm that feels good, but also one that’s effective.

When it comes to sensitive lips, oil-packed products are best. Key ingredients may include:

  • Castor seed oil
  • Ceramides
  • Lanolin
  • Mineral oil
  • Petrolatum
  • Shea butter
  • Sun protective ingredients, such as titanium and zinc

Unfortunately, some common lip balm ingredients can irritate sensitive lip skin. "Many people mistake tingling, stinging and burning sensation as a sign that the product is working," Dr. Kwon says. "In reality, ingredients like menthol, eucalyptus and peppermint may be further irritating already chapped lips."

It's All About The Lips

Most of the time, consistently hydrating, wearing lip balm and protecting your lips with SPF will heal dry, cracked lips within a week or two. If you continue to struggle with chapped lips, visit your dermatologist. Chapped lips can result from something more serious than cold, dry weather. Possibilities include a yeast infection, allergic reaction or even skin cancer.

"The lower lip protrudes outward, so it gets more direct sunlight," Dr. Kwon says. "Unfortunately, cancers that affect the skin on the lips tend to be more aggressive." Three key culprits behind these cancers: alcohol, smoking and sun exposure.

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To find a doctor or dermatologist at Henry Ford, visit henryford.com or call 1-800-HENRYFORD (436-7936)

Dr. Jungho Kwon is a dermatologist who sees patients at Henry Ford Medical Center — Troy and Henry Ford Medical Center — Farmington Road in West Bloomfield.

Categories: FeelWell