Some easy TLC will ensure your kisser is always ready to pucker up
Think of your lips as a sponge. "When exposed to moisture, they absorb water and plump up. When dehydrated, they dry out and shrink," explains Bruce Bart, M.D., a dermatologist at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis. And, because they're always exposed, they're prone to dehydration, particularly during the cold, windy winter months.
The skin on the lips is also unlike skin anywhere else on the body: It's thinner (allowing the blood vessels to be visible, making the lips look red) and has no oil glands (oil acts as a barrier for skin, helping to protect it from the elements). The result can be red, rough, sometimes painful, chapped lips that couldn't hold lipstick color if you spray-painted it on.
Luckily your lips can be perfect in no time with a little loving care.
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Consuming at least 9 cups of fluids daily will keep your body, skin, and lips hydrated.
Saliva contains digestive enzymes that can break down lips’ protective barrier and dry them out, says Robert Brodell, M.D., a dermatologist in Warren, Ohio. Resist the temptation to lick and instead regularly apply lip balm like La Mer The Lip Balm ($50; cremedelamer.com).
Look for hydrating ingredients such as beeswax, shea butter, vitamin E, and almond, jojoba, or coconut oils in lip balms. Good old petroleum jelly (think: Vaseline) works well too. Women with sensitive skin should use camphor-based medicated lip balms sparingly since they can be irritating and are better off with something like Aésop Rosehip Seed Lip Cream ($13; Aesop.com) with shea butter. Others can use ChapStick Medicated lip balm ($1.69; at drugstores) with camphor and menthol.
A humidifier can replace moisture in dry indoor air, keeping your lips and skin hydrated. Try using a Homedics Ultrasonic Cool Mist Humidifier ($80; Homedics.com) while you sleep. It lets you control the flow of the mist and rotates so it moistens the entire room.
Just like face and body exfoliators, ones for your lips that contain fruit-acid-based alpha or beta hydroxy acids slough of dead skin. “But if you have sensitive skin or your lips are severely chapped or cracked, use these products no more than once weekly, as they can irritate skin and cause stinging or persistent redness,” says New York dermatologist Dennis Gross, M.D. Try Ava Anderson Sugar Lip Scrub ($13; avaandersonnontoxic.com) with shea butter and spearmint leaf oil.
Lips are susceptible to sunburn since they lack melanin, the pigment that helps shield skin from the sun. Apply a layer of a sun-protective product daily like Neutrogena Revitalizing Lip Balm SPF 20 ($9; drugstores).
One reason matte lipsticks stay put for so long is that they are drying—so if your lips are extremely chapped, use them sparingly. Alternate with sticks featuring vitamin E or glycerin, such as MAKE Silk Cream Lipstick ($18; Birchbox.com), which also boasts moisturizing rosehip, soybean, and safflower oils and lasts all day. Or layer a hydrating lip balm underneath your matte lip color. We like Prescriptives Lip Specialist ($16; prescriptives.com).