The Best Ways To Banish Chapped Lips, According To An Expert

As winter once again refuses to release its vice grip on several regions across the United States, one under-discussed skin conundrum rages along with the icy cold weather: chapped lips. Technically known as cheilitis, chapped lips are typically the result of dry, cold air or sun exposure. Since the thin, sensitive skin of the lips does not contain any oil glands, they aren't able to replenish their own moisture the way other parts of the human body can (via Cleveland Clinic).

Unfortunately, your efforts to ease the discomfort of your chapped lips can sometimes contribute to the root cause of the issue. In order to get to the bottom of how to banish chapped lips once and for all, we spoke to Monina Wright, a licensed esthetician, professional makeup artist, and CEO of Moderne Beauty & Esthetics. Here is her expert advice for keeping lips supple and moisturized all year long. 

Underlying causes of chapped lips

While exposure to harsh outdoor elements like wind, cold air, and sunlight may be the most common causes of dry, chapped lips, they aren't the only factors that can contribute to the condition. According to Monina Wright, one often overlooked cause of persistently chapped lips is nutritional deficiencies. "A lack of iron can decrease the microcirculation around the lips, making them vulnerable to further dehydration," she explains. "If we have low levels of zinc, it can impair the skin's healthy barrier, which helps protect the skin from becoming dry and chapped. This increases dryness and irritation and even increases inflammation on the sides of the mouth."

Once lips become chapped or irritated by any combination of internal or external factors, Wright advises, their condition tends to be exacerbated by peoples' tendency to lick them. "Although licking your lips offers temporary relief," she elaborates, "what ends up happening is the saliva evaporates and strips the lips of moisture which dehydrates the lips even more." 

Ingredients to look for

It may seem like the answer to treating chapped lips should be simple since there are so many products on the market that promise to rid you of dry lip skin and prevent it from returning. However, it isn't quite as easy as grabbing the first balm or gloss you see in the checkout lane as you wrap up your next grocery shopping trip. The ingredients in the products you choose matter, Monina Wright insists.

"Using hydrating skin ingredients, like ceramides and shea butter, or a creamy lip balm made with nourishing and emollient-rich oils and butters will keep lips moisturized," Wright advises. "Also," she continues, "look for lip products that have water-binding ingredients like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, salicylic acid, lactic acid, propylene glycol, and honey." Water-binding ingredients hold onto water molecules, allowing the skin on your lips to absorb more moisture and maintain it for a longer period of time. 

Ingredients to avoid

Have you ever felt like the more often you apply lip balm to attempt to soothe your chapped lips, the more chapped they become? As it turns out, you likely weren't just imagining this phenomenon. According to Monina Wright, some of the ingredients found in certain lip products can actually make dryness and irritation worse. Wright advises everyone to "avoid lip products that have drying ingredients like methylparaben, alcohol, lithium, retinoids, and phenol" to prevent increased levels of dryness.

She also recommends avoiding products with potentially irritating ingredients such as menthol, cinnamon, or titanium dioxide and warns that any product designed to cause a stinging sensation can equal skin irritation or inflammation. For your best chances at healing your lips and preventing future dryness, Wright encourages you to stick to products with all-natural ingredients. "Skip anything with synthetic flavors or fragrances," she details. "Look for lip balms with all-natural ingredients and essential oils." It appears that when Mother Nature unleashes weather conditions that leave you with dry, chapped lips, the best way to respond is with products that feature her own natural medicines.