How Often Should You Be Exfoliating Your Lips?

Most of us skincare enthusiasts are no strangers to the importance of exfoliating our faces. Exfoliation is a way to slough away dead skin cells, soften and brighten skin, and amplify the effectiveness of topical products through increased skincare penetration, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. By the same token, buffing away dead skin cells from the neck down with body scrubs also makes your skin feel softer and look brighter. Another area that also needs good exfoliation yet always seems to be neglected is the lips. Like the rest of the skin, your lips can also use some deep-cleansing service every once in a while.

The epidermis is protected by a protective layer known as the stratum corneum. Beneath the epidermis lies your dermis — the inner layer of the lip skin. Hydration-wise, your lips are left to their own devices. The reason is your lips have no sebaceous glands to keep them moisturized. Besides, your lips' stratum corneum is thinner than it is on any other part of your body. Due to such an inadequate barrier function, your lips can easily get dry and chapped if they're not regularly cared for. Lip exfoliation is crucial to slough away dead skin cells, soften lips, and prevent chapped lip skin in addition to evening out lip tone. Here's often you should be doing it.

How often should you exfoliate your lips?

Like your face, your lips won't react well to over-exfoliation. Over-exfoliation can cause cracks in the skin and make your lips dry out even more, says dermatologist Dr. Ife J Rodney. "Gentle exfoliation can be performed as often as once a week," Dr. Rodney explains to Byrdie. Meanwhile, SkinKraft recommends working your way up from once to three times per week if your lips allow. If possible, exfoliate your lips at night so they have more time to recover before being exposed to daytime cosmetics and potentially harmful elements like wind, dust, and UV rays. Between sessions, take good care of your lips so they don't have to wait until after exfoliation to look smooth and hydrated. 

When shopping for lip balms, look out for those formulated with sun-blocking properties like titanium dioxide and zinc oxide as well as humectants like glycerin and hyaluronic acid. Before going out, always wear a fragrance-free and paraben-free lip balm with an SPF of 25 or more and reapply as necessary throughout the day. When indoors, drink plenty of water, use a humidifier, and limit your showers to below five minutes in lukewarm water to prevent your lips from drying out. No matter how tempting it is, refrain from licking or picking at your lips, since doing so will only lead to additional dryness. If you have severely dry lips, using a lip mask daily will give your lips an extra burst of moisture and suppleness.

How to exfoliate your lips at home

You can exfoliate your lips with a variety of products, from organic ones to store-bought variants. According to Foreo, some good natural lip exfoliators include granulated sugar, honey, coconut oil, jojoba oil, and shea butter. Alternatively, you can mix sugar with honey or coconut oil for a hydrating combination. The general rule of thumb is to mix your preferred exfoliating chemical — like sugar, ground coffee, or cinnamon — with an emollient like coconut oil, shea butter, or Vaseline.

Before you start, make sure the lips are completely clean of lipstick. Then, coat the lips with a thin layer of homemade or store-bought exfoliator of your choice. In a circular motion, gently rub your finger or a pad saturated with the mixture against your lips for about a minute to remove dead skin cells. To avoid irritating your lip skin, try not to exfoliate for too long or go about it harshly. 

Once you're done, remove the scrub off your lips, wipe them clean, and rehydrate them with a lip balm. If your lips are already cracked, avoid scrubbing them since this will cause additional sores. Before heading out, don't forget to slather sunscreen all over your freshly exfoliated lips. Since lips lack melanin and are often neglected when it comes to sun protection, they are very vulnerable to sun damage, says dermatologist Kristina Collins (via Ipsy). "I recommend titanium dioxide or zinc oxide-based sunscreens for the lips, as chemical-based sunscreens could cause irritation," Collins explains.