lips 2

Like it or not (I don’t) summer is gone and putting on scarves and gloves will soon become part of our daily routine.  And with the onset of cold, dry  weather, we are also putting on more lip balm to soothe dry, chapped and cracked lips.  But be careful of what you’re using because the lip balm that feels so soothing when you put it on could be making your problems worse!

Here’s a few things you should know about your lips:

  • The outermost layer of the skin of the lips is very thin.  Most facial skin has up to 16 cellular layers but the lips have only  3-5 layers.


  • The lips have no oil or sweat glands, so unlike most of our skin they do not have the usual protection  of sweat and body oils to keep the lip skin moist, inhibit pathogens, and regulate warmth.  Because they are not self lubricating, the lips can quickly become dry and chapped. Lips rely on moisture in the air, the water we drink, saliva and the products you put on them to hydrate and protect from the sun.
  • Lips have no melanin, the pigment that gives skin color and protects the skin from the harmful rays of the sun.  The color of our lips comes from blood vessels that are visible through the skin.

So what’s wrong with your lip balm? Well, there could be a number of issues, let’s start with some ingredients found in popular lip balms:

PETROLEUM JELLY (petrolatum, or mineral oil)

  • If you care about the environment, you probably already know that petroleum products are a byproduct of the oil industry and because they are  a nonrenewable resource are not eco-friendly.   And who wants to eat oil every time they lick their lips? Yuck!
  • It’s occlusive, meaning it traps in anything already on the lips (like bacteria) and keeps anything from penetrating (including moisture).
  • Petroleum products have no moisturizing properties. When you use petroleum based lip balms, your lips only feel hydrated, but the truth is, they are still dry.


  •  Does the skin on your lips constantly peel off.  It could be phenol, an ingredient  also found in some facial skin peels. Phenol works by causing the top layer of skin to slough off.  On your lips, that  top protective layer of skin holds moisture, and by causing the skin to peel off, your lips become dry, chapped and cracked.  So, to make them feel better, you apply lip balm, which causes them to peel and dry and crack, so you apply more lip balm because it makes them feel better.  It’s a viscious cycle.  If you think you’re addicted to lip balm, phenol could be the reason. Hmm…do you think the makers of Carmex know this?


  •   Cosmetic manufacturers add these ingredients to create a “tingling” sensation to make you think they’re “working”.  For many people, camphor and menthol can be extremely irritating and drying.


  •   All are known to be skin irritants and allergens.


  • Beware of products containing lanolin and carmine. Lanolin comes from sheep’s wool and carmine is a coloring made from ground insects.

So what can you do to keep your lips healthy this winter? 


  • Choose an organic or plant based lip balm,  and make sure it has an  SPF of at least 15.
  •  Try applying coconut or olive oil to soothe and hydrate your lips.
  •  Drink plenty of water to add moisture to your lips.
  •  Keep your lips covered with a scarf  in cold weather.
  •  Don’t lick your lips. Although saliva can be a source of lip hydration, it has digestive enzymes that can be irritating for some people, and saliva evaporates quickly which can also cause dryness.
  •  If your lips do peel, don’t pick. It will only make them worse and could lead to infection.
  •   Long lasting lipsticks can be extremely drying so save them for special occasions.
  •  Avoid breathing through your mouth as the air passing over your lips will contribute to dryness.
  •  Check the ingredients in your toothpaste.  Most contain sodium lauryl sulfate which can both irritate and dry your lips.
  •  Use a humidifier in your home to maintain good moisture levels in the air.
  •  Some medications can also contribute to dry lips, especially ones for treating acne.  Check with your doctor.
  • Allergies and illnesses can also contribute to lip problems so again, check with your doctor.

The skin on your lips is fragile, and taking care of them can be challenging.  I hope this information will help you make good choices when it comes to lip care and maybe you’ll get through this winter with happy healthy lips.



4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Joni
    Oct 30, 2013 @ 19:50:15

    I love this post, Judy! Although I can not give up my 16 hour lipstick, I can at least protect my smoocher for the other 8 hours 🙂


  2. Trackback: 5 Tips For Kissable Lips | CITRUS RAIN

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