With the summer months only just behind us, our lips are more than likely feeling dry, flaky or they could even be sore, making lipstick looks dull and patchy.
Many of us liberally apply balms to heal really dry lips but they only get worse – why?
Warmer weather means we spend more hours outside, attend more parties and crank up the air-conditioning, causing our lips to become intensely dehydrated. Some people end up suffering from very dry lips all of the time.
More than ever, we need to focus on ensuring our skin receives optimum hydration and moisture. Plastering on potions that provide a protective barrier is not a sustainable solution for really dry lips as it doesn’t deeply moisturise and penetrate outer dermal layers.
With health experts quibbling over how many glasses of H2O our bodies need daily, it can be confusing to know how much hydration our skin requires to give it that radiant glow.
Here at lük beautifood, we have studied the science that proves how to prevent chronic chapped lips in summer – as well as dry lips in winter – depending on where you are in the world – so you can sail through the seasons with the ultimate polished pout.
The biology: Why lip skin differs from body skin
Have you ever wondered why your lips look different from the rest of the skin on your body? The majority of our exterior has a three-tiered covering including a top layer (stratum corneum) overlaying the epidermis and deeper dermis tissue.
Lip skin is much thinner and doesn’t have such a thick upper layer. Its rosy colour comes from healthy blood flowing close to the surface. Our lips look blue when we are cold because vessels constrict, blood rushes to vital organs and less oxygenated blood remains in the facial area.
Lips are also sensitive because they contain little to no melanin – the pigment that contributes to skin colour and protects against the sun’s damaging UV rays. Add to this the fact our mouths are constantly facing the effects of the weather plus eating, drinking, talking, breathing and chemicals in toiletries (toothpaste) and cosmetics and you have a routine for redness and dehydration.
5 top tips for preventing dry lips
1. Don’t lick your lips.
The number one ‘no-no’ when it comes to keeping lips luscious is trying to avoid licking to moisten them. Saliva is full of enzymes designed to digest food in your stomach, not hydrate a parched pout.
Once on dry lips, it quickly evaporates causing a constant cycle of licking which further damages the delicate area and stops it healing.
The best way to break this habit is to use a lip product day and night. It should combine an all-natural, anti-allergenic emollient, such as avocado oil (to minimise soreness and maximise moisturisation) and a natural, water-resistant barrier (eg. beeswax) to lock in lip-quenching goodness and combat additional cracking.
Tempting, chilli-infused dishes can trigger allergies and inflammation while indulging in alcohol or salty snacks encourages skin irritation and dehydration.
Take preventative steps by choosing a nourishing lipstick that combines natural moisturisers and anti-inflammatories (eg. avocado and sesame oils/cocoa seed butter). Sesame oil, rich in copper and zinc, is proven to reduce inflammation.
3. Try to avoid stress which causes quickened, lip-drying breathing and induces unattractive cold sores.
Rather than using skin-thinning steroid creams to get rid of sores, studies have shown lemon balm can reduce the incidence of the dreaded herpes virus.
Seek out a lip salve containing cold pressed, citrus oils, such as those at luk beautifood. People who use them rave about their therapeutic, anti-viral effects on cold sore breakouts.
4. Research shows people deficient in essential fatty acids often have dry lips. So it makes sense to boost your EFA intake.
Consuming nuts, seeds, avocados and oily fish can help resolve this. Also, embrace lipsticks containing EFA-rich avocado (Vitamin E), walnut and flaxseed oils (linoleic acid) that are scientifically proven to heal and hydrate.
5. People are attracted to buying products with pleasant smells and flavours – but this can do more harm than good.
Synthetic fragrances and flavours are known to irritate and further dehydrate really dry lips. Don’t get trapped into putting on a protective petroleum-based barrier without treating the root of the problem and moisturising first.
The best balms and lipsticks combine natural wax (beeswax) and emollients to hydrate and protect.
When very dry lips mean you need to see a doctor
While it’s unusual for moisture-sapped lips to be a serious medical concern, there are times when they warrant seeing a health professional. If your symptoms worsen or do not resolve after a few weeks, inflammatory issues may be to blame.
These include actinic cheilitis – pre-cancerous lip lesions triggered by too much sun – thyroid disease, psoriasis or lupus, which causes photosensitivity on the lips. It goes without saying you should always wear sunscreen on your entire face to avoid skin cancer.
One study from Western Australia shows lip cancer represents around half of all oral cancers with 81 per cent of new cases occurring on the lower lip. Research shows men are more likely to suffer than women who use more lip products and sunscreen.
But females who apply lip protection once a day or less have twice the risk of developing the disease than women who apply it more regularly. Consequently, it’s easy to see why lips are so vulnerable and prevention is better than cure.