So we’ve finally waved goodbye to winter, and welcomed spring with a big happy smile, just to find that those smiling lips are starting to feel just a little bit uncomfortable, as they become somewhat dry and tight. After the extremities of winter, we would have hoped that spring would be kind to our lips, but unfortunately the fluctuating temperatures and more intense UV rays can have an adverse effect on the skin, and in particular the sensitive skin of the lips.
The skin on the lips is thinner and more delicate than on others parts of the body, and as it does not contain any sebaceous glands, the absence of sebum means that the skin dehydrates very quickly. Unfortunately this skin also takes longer to heal. Whatsmore, unlike other parts of the face where make-up can help to conceal any blemishes, adding lipstick or gloss to the lips just accentuates the problem.
So why are lips so prone to dryness, chapping and cracking? Dry air, irritation caused by lip cosmetics and plumpers, severe thirst, saliva and even the things we eat and drink are just a few factors which can cause dehydration:
UV rays can drastically drastically dry up our lips, as well as reducing the elasticity of the lips and increasing wrinkles, which also gives an increased surface area from which to lose even more moisture.
Excessive Licking of Lips
Licking the lips is an instinctive reaction to bring relief to dry or chapped lips. But stop! Whilst this may bring temporary relief, in reality it is actually exacerbating the problem and making them dry out even more. Saliva evaporates quickly and possibly draws out further moisture with it. Worst still, those digestive enzymes it contains to break down the food which we eat, is now going to work on the lip skin. Whereas the mouth has a thin layer of mucus to protect it from these enzymes, in much the same way that the stomach protects against acid and bile, the lips do not have this protective layer, and the enzymes literally start to eat away at the fragile skin of the lips, causing splitting and bleeding.
We are designed to breathe through our noses but seasonal allergies in Spring can mean that we are forced to breathe through our mouths, which has a drying effect on the lips.
Citrus fruits, salty snacks and spicy food can drastically dry out the skin on our lips. Citrus fruits are extremely acidic, and can chemically burn or damage the layers of skin on your lips. Although it is only temporary and will not cause permanent damage, it can inflame the lips. Salty snacks or foods can leave some salt on the outside of our lips which draws the moisture out of them. Meanwhile, spicy food often irritates the skin which results in dryness. All of these foods are best avoided when the lips are already dry, chapped or split.
Dehydration is one of the top reasons for chapped lips. Despite seasonal changes we simply don’t drink enough water, and one of the first places to suffer is the lips since they have no sebum to protect them.
Lip stains are very popular right now, however whereas lipsticks contain wax and often an emollient and thus can help to moisturise the lips, lip stains are made from gel and typically contain alcohol which can cause the lips to dry out.
Before reaching for that store-bought lip balm, check out the ingredients first. Parabens, alcohol and fragrances can be a source of irritation and may actually exacerbate the problem it’s supposed to be fixing. Always avoid camphor, peppermint and cinnamon as these are known to irritate the lips. Meanwhile lip plumpers often include ingredients to irritate the skin to cause inflammation and get that plumper look. Unfortunately it’s also almost guaranteed to dry the lips up.
Chemotherapy drugs, plus oral prescriptions for acne, high blood pressure and nausea can negatively impact on moisture levels in the lips. If treatment is needed long-term and painful lips just don’t seem to be improving, consult with your doctor for alternative medications.
OK, so now we know the major culprits for causing dry, chapped or split lips. What can we do to treat the lips and prevent this happening?
Adding a quick daily lip regime into our everyday routine can certainly help to overcome most of these, or at the very least limit the damage.
Step One: Exfoliate
A lip scrub can help to gently loosen and remove dead skin cells from your lips which can be preventing balms and moisturisers reaching the skin underneath. Never pick at dead or loose skin, as it will only end in tears! It is more than likely that you will end up ripping off connected skin, causing bleeding and pain, and putting you in an even worse position.
Try this easy natural DIY lip scrub:
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil (to hydrate and heal).
- 2 tablespoon brown sugar (for gentle exfoliation).
- 1 tablespoon honey (to heal and soothe).
To make: Combine the coconut oil and honey and mix well. Add the sugar ensuring that it is evenly distributed. Spoon into a glass jar and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
To use: Remove from the fridge approximately 5-10 minutes before use, to allow it to soften slightly. Take a small amount with your fingertips and apply to the lips in a gentle circular motion. Allow to sit on the lips for a minute or two, before gently removing with a warm damp cloth.
Note: The coconut oil can be substituted with another carrier oil such as almond oil if preferred. Brown sugar is used as it is gentler than white sugar, but can be substituted for white. You can add more oil or sugar to change the consistency to one which works best for you.
Step Two: Hydrate
Once you’re lips have been exfoliated they are now in a perfect position to receive and absorb moisture. Applying a natural oil will keep the lips nourished, and will help them look and feel softer, smoother and plumper. Try almond oil or jojoba oil which are full of fatty acids and vitamins to reduce fine lines and add intense moisturisation.
Step Three: Protect
Use shea butter as a natural lip balm to keep your lips in optimum health. Its the perfect accompaniment to your lip regime as it’s a natural emollient, meaning that it creates a barrier on the skin and seals in the moisture. Moreover it is a strong antioxidant, and has a natural SPF of approximately 6-10 which can help to give some protection against damaging UV rays during incidental exposure. Shea butter is rich in fatty and oleic acids, as well as vitamins A, E, F and K. It accelerates wound healing and also promotes and restores elasticity for soft, supple lips. Carry some with you in a small pot so you can reapply. Simply pay attention to your lips and apply as required throughout the day.
Why not also try the anti-ageing butter for a thicker night-time lip mask. Made from shea butter fortified with jojoba oil, argan oil, olive oil, carrot seed oil, clove oil, wheat germ oil, and essential oils, it can offer enhanced benefits.
Step Four: Beauty comes from inside
It is essential to drink enough water to keep the lips naturally hydrated and plump. Experts regularly advise that we should drink 8 8oz glasses a day – approximately two litres. Ensuring that our diet also contains healthy fats with the use of natural plant-based oils, nuts and fish will add nourishment to your skin and lips.
The final say:
Lips are equipped with little natural protection against factors which can cause excessive drying. Just taking a few minutes a day to incorporate a care regime for your lips into your usual beauty routine can make dry, chapped, flaky or painful cracked lips a thing of the past. Give your lips a little TLC to keep them feeling and looking their very best.