The Best Lip Balms to Rescue Your Chapped Lips
'Tis the season for chapped, dry lips. Thanks to winter weather triggers like dipping temps outside and dry heat inside, chapped lips are more or less inevitable this time of year. Thankfully, there are some workarounds, starting with using the best lip balms for chapped lips, all expert-vetted below. Here, experts share their best advice for dealing with chapped lips plus tips, tricks, and ways to keep your lips from getting super-dry, cracked, and, you know, nasty.
What Causes Chapped Lips?
A lot of winter factors contribute to dryness on your lips, but lip skin is already sensitive and prone to dryness. "Unlike the rest of our skin, lips don't have sweat glands, so they're not able to produce their own sweat and oil," says Nkem Ugonabo, M.D., NYC-based board-certified dermatologist at Union Derm. "They also have an overall decreased water content, which makes them more susceptible to becoming dry and rough." Because they can't produce their own oils or hold in moisture for very long, Dr. Ugonabo recommends patients always give their lips a little extra TLC by regularly reapplying balms or ointments.
There are also things you should avoid doing to your lips when they're already chapped, including one that might seem counterintuitive: licking your lips to wet them. "Licking your lips can actually make them drier," explains Dr. Ugonabo. "After saliva evaporates, the lips are often even drier than when it started." Also, please don't peel off any flaking lip skin, since this habit is also damaging to sensitive lip skin. "It doesn't always peel off evenly. You could be exposing even more of the lips and causing even more dryness." (Related: These Are The 10 Best Lip Plumping Glosses, According to Reviews)
Potentially Irritating Ingredients to Avoid Using on Angry Lips
When it comes to picking the best lip balms for chapped lips, a good rule of thumb is to avoid anything that could be irritating, such as fragrances, harsh essential oils, or flavoring. Chapped lips can crack, so if something could irritate a paper cut, you probably shouldn't slather it onto your mouth either.
According to Dr. Ugonabo, basic is usually better, at least when it comes to healing chapped lips. "You want to be sure [lip balms] don't have fragrances, menthol, camphor, or salicylic acid. If you're using a product and you feel like it's not getting better, you should generally consider switching to something more bland." Bland, in the beauty balm world means, essentially, boring: no scent, no tint, and fewer ingredients.
- Flavorings such as cinnamon, citrus, mint, and peppermint flavors
- Octinoxate or oxybenzone
- Phenol (or phenyl)
- Propyl gallate
"If your lips burn, sting, or itch after using a lip product, stop using that product," adds Dr. Maiman. Not all of the ingredients listed above will irritate everyone, but if you are prone to irritation or chapped lips, you may want to avoid them. Finally, a quick tip that both derms suggest is seeking out hypoallergenic and fragrance-free products, which will keep a number of those potentially irritating ingredients off your lips.
What Ingredients Work Best for Chapped Lips?
"For dry lips, you want something that is moisturizing and occlusive, meaning that it's actually going to seal in the moisture," says Dr. Ugonabo, who recommends occlusive ingredients such as petroleum jelly, shea butter, mineral oil, and ceramides. Dr. Maiman also recommends looking for humectants, ingredients that draw water from the lower layer of the skin (the dermis), into the upper layer of the skin (the epidermis), helping to moisturize the the outer layers of skin to help heal and prevent chapping.
SPF is also key, even in winter. "Lip balms with mineral sunscreen ingredients, like titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide, are typically the most optimal choice for those with chapped lips and should be reapplied every two hours while outdoors," advises Dr. Maiman. (BTW, yes, you should still wear SPF every day, even if you're staying inside.)