As the cold winds blow, lips tend to dry out. Weather extremes of any kind, hot or cold, can lead to chapping and cracking. Surprisingly, vitamin deficiencies and even some kinds of toothpaste can contribute to dryness. Here are some smart ways to protect your pucker:
- Take a multivitamin/mineral that includes vitamin A, B vitamins including B2 (riboflavin), vitamin C, vitamin E, and iron, as well as essential fatty acids. Deficiencies in any of these can cause scaling and cracking in the corners of lips. Vitamin A is especially important for skin health (including the skin on your lips). Make sure your diet includes vitamin A-rich foods such as carrots, tomatoes, green leafy vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Also, take a high-quality omega-3 supplement with DHA and EPA.
- Stay adequately hydrated. Water is the best choice. The lips are often the first place you'll see signs of dehydration.
- Don't smoke. Smoking not only dries out your lips, but also can lead to unattractive lines surrounding your lips due to repeated puckering and free-radical damage from the toxic smoke.
- Wear a lip balm or cream that contains an SPF of at least 15 if you are going to spend any significant amount of time outdoors. It's possible for the sun to damage your lips even on overcast days.
- Use natural lip and skincare products. Allergic reactions to cosmetics and skincare products are common, and often, commercial brands containing chemical ingredients can aggravate the very condition they are designed to cure. In fact, says Kat James, author of the award-winning book The Truth About Beauty, ingredients such as mineral oil and petrolatum, common in many commercial brands, can dry out the lips further by interfering with the skin's natural lubrication process and actually impede healing.
- Avoid “medicated" balms that contain camphor and related compounds. "These dry out the lips and cause lip balm ‘addiction' and dependency," says James. "Amazingly, these products actually leave the lips dryer after use than they were before."
- Avoid licking your lips-it will dry them out more. Instead, slather them with a natural balm, cream, or lipstick rich in natural emollients and oils such as olive oil, avocado oil, and almond oil.
- Use a natural toothpaste and alcohol-free mouthwash. Many people are allergic to artificial flavoring agents found in popular brands, and alcohol is a big contributor to dry lips. "My winter lip-saver trick is to apply natural lip balm before brushing your teeth," says James. "It will dramatically reduce lip drying from exposure to water and foaming surfactants in toothpastes."
- Use a humidifier at night.
- Sometimes, unconscious drooling at night can contribute to chapping. If this is the case, protect your lips before bed with a think layer of zinc oxide ointment. James adds that doing what you can to avoid mouth breathing due to sinus congestion will have an almost immediate effect on lip dryness. "Using saline and/or xylitol-based nasal sprays, such as Xlear Nasal Spray, will help keep sinuses both clear and hydrated so you don't need to breathe through your mouth," she says.
Flaky Lip Fix
Use a soft, dry toothbrush over lip balm (not water) to gently slough away dead skin cells, then rub a slice of cucumber over lips or apply a thin layer of aloe gel.
Related: Kiss Dry Lips Goodbye
Anti-Agers for Lips
Look for creams and balms that contain antioxidant ingredients such as pomegranate extract, vitamin E, green tea, grapeseed, and cocoa extracts.
Hyaluronic acid dietary supplements may also add cushioning, not only to the lips, but also to your overall skin and even dry winter eyes and joints, by holding water like a sponge, says James. "This-in concert with drinking the copious fluids needed for hyaluronic acid to do its job, as well as a potent, natural anti-aging skincare product applied to the skin under a natural balm-can help reduce lines on the lips and surrounding areas, which could otherwise add years to your appearance."
Buzz About Beeswax
"Beeswax-containing balms make a great top barrier layer over more penetrating, natural plumping or anti-wrinkle treatments, which increase lip hydration," says James. Artificial waxes and chemicals, on the other hand, can actually contribute to dryness by disturbing natural moisture barriers and retention in the skin.
James recommends applying a beeswax-containing balm both on the lips and even on the cheeks and chin before exposure to the elements. "The difference between beeswax and some other emollients is that the beeswax acts more like a ‘wind-breaker,' creating a barrier from moisture loss and windburn," says James.
James also recommends less waxy emollients such as shea butter, cocoa butter, and emu oil. "Others, including aloe vera, calendula, and allantoin (comfrey), can contribute to skin healing."