If there’s a universal experience we’ve all shared, it’s having chapped lips at some point. According to UpToDate, chapped lips, also known as cheilitis, is a type of inflammation that causes the lips to be red, dry, flaky, cracked, swollen, itchy, sore, and/or burning. Lips, the skin at their edge, and the lips themselves can all be impacted.
Chapped lips can be annoying and there are many reasons for their appearance. The good news is that you can find relief, and it could be within your reach.
Read on to learn how experts treat dry, cracked, and bright red lips.
1. Reconsider using lip balm
According to Vancouver-based dermatologist Katie Beleznay, MD, who is board-certified in both the US and Canada, there are numerous reasons why your lips could get dry. Cold or hot weather, forced interior heat and air, lip licking, and contact dermatitis are only a few possible contributing factors.
However, using drugstore lip balms—believe it or not—is frequently a trigger for chapped lips. These products may cause lips to produce less of their own natural lubricant, leaving lips feeling dryer rather than softer. According to Kavita Mariwalla, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in West Islip, New York, “you then require more lip balm, establishing a chronic cycle.”
Doctor Beleznay concurs. She claims that in addition to fragrance, many widely used lip balms also contain potentially irritating chemicals like menthol, camphor, or phenol.
Additionally, flavoring, eucalyptus, and salicylic acid should be avoided, advises the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).
One tip, according to Dr. Mariwalla: If your lip balm has flavor and tingle, that may be a sign that it will irritate your lips.
When your lips become dry, you should undoubtedly take care of them, but be careful not to overdo it by applying lip balm all the time. Lip balm is beneficial for use in cold and outdoor environments, but to some extent, your body must manufacture its own oils, according to Mariwalla. According to the AAD, while using lip balm, look for components that are kind to your lips, such ceramides, dimethicone, petrolatum, and shea butter, and stay away from scents.
2. Select Products with Petrolatum as the Base
Beleznay specifically suggests Aquaphor Lip Repair and Vaseline Lip Therapy Advanced Healing for treating dry lips (target.com).
According to her, “Vaseline and Aquaphor serve to establish a barrier from the environmental components that contribute to chapped lips.” Your preference will determine whether you apply a petrolatum-based ointment or a product designed specifically for lips.
If you have petrolatum jelly on hand, you can just dip your finger into the container and apply it to your lips. (While there are several generic versions available at retailers like Walgreens, Vaseline is just one brand.) The same is true for an Aquaphor Healing Ointment tub.
3. Before bed, try “Lip Slugging”
According to the skin-care company CeraVe, “slugging” is the practice of slathering your skin with a petrolatum-based product that works as an occlusive, sealing hydration into your skin. This practice gained popularity on TikTok.
The gunkiness that a slug might leave behind inspired the name of this moisturizing trend, but in a good way, of course. Beleznay advises applying a moisturizer or hyaluronic acid serum to your lips in this situation, followed by a layer of Vaseline or Aquaphor.
4. When outside, choose SPF for your lips
Your lips might suffer damage from heat and ultraviolet (UV) solar rays. Because of this, it’s crucial to use lip balm with an SPF when you’re outside. EltaMD UV Lip Balm BroadSpectrum SPF 36 from dermstore.com or SunBum Mineral SPF 30 Sunscreen Lip Balm are two recommendations from Beleznay (sunbum.com).
5. Indoors, especially during the winter, use a humidifier
In connection with heat: If you have forced air heating (i.e., the heat is on because it’s cold outside), you might want to think about using a humidifier at night. With less dry air moving in the bedroom thanks to a humidifier, your skin, particularly your lips, may stay more hydrated.
6. Keep Your Lips to Yourself
Finally, refrain from practices like peeling your lips with your fingers or teeth, which aggravates chapped lips. According to Mariwalla, removing dry skin reveals young, fresh skin that isn’t quite ready to show itself.
Avoid lip washes as a result, she advises, as they can abrasively remove skin from the lips, inhibiting healing.
7. Lipstick gently removed
If you use matte or long-wear lipstick, be aware that it dries out the skin on your lips, says Mariwalla. It might be a good idea to switch up what you’re using, at least temporarily, if you have cracked lips or discover that some lipsticks exacerbate lip dryness. Perhaps a lip gloss would be preferable. She claims that while lip gloss isn’t precisely nourishing, it isn’t drying either.
Instead of touching your lips, use a soft makeup remover to remove lipstick. Micellar water, such as Dickinson’s Micellar Witch Hazel Makeup Remover, is advised by Mariwalla (amazon.com). Even the most intensely red lipsticks adhere to it like a charm, she claims.