Dry Lips: No more, please
Time To Floss!
I love croissants, but I hate that feeling of having a puff pastry stuck to my could-be beautiful lips. So why do so many of us fight a perpetual battle with uncomfortable, dry lips? Let's dig in!
Why do lips dry out faster than other parts of my body?
Our lips don’t have oil or sweat glands – glands that regulate warmth, hydration, and moisture – like other areas of our body. Unfortunately, as a result, our lips are much more prone to drying out.
The stratum corneum (our outermost skin layer) is thinner on the lips than other areas of our body. Our stratum corneum has only 3-5 layers on our lips. In contrast, the stratum corneum on our face has up to 16 layers. This also explains why our lips are red. The stratum corneum is so thin that we can see the capillaries beneath the skin.
Ouch, dry lips. Why are our lips so sensitive?
Our lips (along with our hands) have amongst the highest concentrations of touch receptor cells in our body, so our sense of touch is heightened. Further heightening our sensitivity, more brainpower is spent interpreting sensations of touch from the lips and fingers than from other areas of our body.
How do I fix my dry lips?
Before you hydrate your lips, you should remove the surface layer of dead skin. Here are a few easy and economical ways to exfoliate:
- Wet a soft toothbrush with a little warm water (and optional, moisturizing oil), and gently brush your lips until they feel smooth and soft.
- Create a mix of sugar and water. Rub this mixture on your lips until your lips feel soft and you can gently scrub off the dead, dry skin.
- Wet a soft washcloth with warm water and gently exfoliate your lips.
2. Hydrate, moisturize and lock it in
Choose a lip balm that both restores your skin's moisture and locks moisture in.
- Choose a lip moisturizer that is rich with emollients and/or humectants to hydrate and soften your dry lips.
Humectants are agents that attract water. When applied to your skin, humectants attract water from the deeper layers of your skin (the dermis) to the surface layers (epidermis). In humid environments, humectants can also attract water from the atmosphere into your skin. Glycerin is a popular humectant in moisturizing lip balms (for instance, it's inYu-Be).
Emollients are agents that help maintain the soft, smooth and pliable appearance of skin by filling in the crevices between our skin cells, the corneocytes, in the stratum corneum. Coconut oil, jojoba oil, hemp oil or shea butter are powerful emollients. These oils are readily absorbed below our skin's surface to improve skin smoothness and soothe dry lips.
Lock moisture in:
- Most lip balms include occlusive materials such as Petrolatum that form a protective layer on the surface of our skin and seal in moisture. While these materials protect your lips, these materials do not treat dryness. Thus, if you have dry lips, it’s important to ensure that your lip balm also contains hydrating ingredients or to apply a separate hydrating moisturizer, first.
- Licking your lips
- Licking your lips exacerbates dryness and irritation. Normally, our lips have a very thin oil surface that prevents moisture loss. When we lick our lips, we remove this surface and our lips are more likely to dry out. Digestive enzymes in our saliva may also irritate our lips. Don't lick to avoid dry lips!
- Camphor, phenol, menthol
- These ingredients may create a nice cooling sensation, but over the long run, they can be irritating and further exacerbate dry lips.
- Artificial fragrances
- These can be irritating and drying to your skin.
4. Water yourself
Make sure you're drinking enough water. The skin is an organ and like any other organ, it's composed of cells. Skin cells contain up to 30% water. We need to replace the water that's naturally lost from our bodies each day. If your skin is not getting enough water, the lack of hydration can make your skin dry, tight, flaky and more prone to wrinkling. Stay hydrated to prevent dry lips.
Bonus: Why do we have lips?
(for the extra-curious)
All mammals have lips. Our lips are one of the most sensitive areas of our body. Since they are extra sensitive, they enable us to determine when food is safe to eat (hot, spicy, prickly etc.). They enable us to suckle, which helps us to drink, breastfeed and manipulate food. Furthermore, they allow us to create a wider range of sounds and facial expressions in communication. What would we do without our precious lips?