Why Are My Lips So Dry? The Answer Will Surprise You

Somewhere between spooky season and ‘tis the season is a much less festive spot on the calendar: dry lip season. When the temperature starts to cool, the wind picks up, and the air gets dry (right around late fall), leaving home without a tube of lip balm is not for the faint of heart.

But even those of us who are avid lip salve swipers experience it — the flaking, the crusting (ew), the all-around chapped, dry feeling. The question is — why?! We chatted with skincare pros to dive into why this happens, what we can do, and which products to load up on.

What causes dry lips?

So many things can cause dry, wrinkled lips. “Dehydration, weather changes, certain lip balm ingredients (like menthol, camphor, phenol, and salicylic acid), vitamin deficiencies (specifically iron, zinc, and Vitamin B12), sun damage, and lip-licking can all cause dry lips,” explains Jennifer Weiss, a PA at Marmur Medical.

Add to that list: sun exposure, mouth breathing, and wearing face masks (because, COVID), says Dr. Purvisha Patel, board-certified dermatologist and founder of Visha Skincare.

Aside from external factors, “the skin on your lips is thinner than the rest of your body,” says Janna Ronert, esthetician and founder of IMAGE Skincare. “Your lips don’t have any oil glands, so they become more susceptible to dehydration and dryness,” she explains.

How can I do to prevent and treat dry lips?

A simple but important tip: “Aim to drink at least eight cups of water a day to prevent dehydration,” says Weiss. “This will ensure your body has enough resources to protect your skin when it needs it the most,” Ronert adds. And if you’re someone who enjoys coffee (um, hi) or alcoholic beverages (hello again), try to offset the dehydrating effects by amping up your H2O intake.

As mentioned above, dry lips could be caused by vitamin deficiencies. So of course, aiming to eat well-balanced meals (or supplementing with a multi or specific vitamins) could help prevent a chapped situation too.

Be mindful of ingredients when purchasing lip products. “It’s best to avoid menthol, camphor, phenol, and salicylic acid,” Weiss explains. “These can only make your lips more chapped.” Check the ingredients list of your favorite lip products for these sneaky ingredients — many “hydrating” lip products contain them!

Stash tried-and-true balms in your purse, pocket, car cup holder, and wherever else you might need them. “Make sure to apply lip balm (with SPF 30 or higher) throughout the day and before you go to bed,” Weiss adds, noting that “a thicker ointment such as petroleum jelly instead of waxes and oils will seal in moisture longer.” (Think of this as the slugging skin care trend, for your lips.)

If your lips still don’t seem to be staying quenched, Dr. Patel suggests stepping things up with a weekly lip mask. “The best option would be to use a lip mask that has ingredients like hyaluronic acid (which helps you retain moisture), glycerin, aloe vera, and propylene glycol,” he explains.

Prefer a DIY solution? Weiss tells clients to use a hydrating homemade honey mask, to apply aloe vera (preferably straight from the plant!) to soothe inflammation, or to soak a green tea bag in water, then use it to calm irritated lips.

What are the best products for soft, hydrated lips?

The experts agree: Plain petroleum jelly. “It acts as a protective seal,” Weiss explains. “Vaseline and Aquaphor are always recommended,” agrees Dr. Patel.

You can also opt for quenching and protective balms. “I personally like La Roche Posay Nutritic Lips, which contain seed oil and glycerin,” says Weiss. “My favorite hydrating lip balm is Supergoop Lip Screen, which also contains seed oils and SPF 40.”

Lip masks and scrubs can slough a way dead skin cells and flakes for a smoother appearance, too — and following up with a nourishing lip treatment will give you the softest lips ever. “The IMAGE Skincare ORMEDIC lip enhancement complex is perfect as a lip mask at night. As a bonus, the emollient polypeptide formula makes your lips look naturally full,” says Ronert. “Pair with a lip scrub like Fenty Beauty by Rihanna Pro Kiss’r Lip-Loving Scrubstick to allow your lip care to penetrate into the skin.”

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