At this point, you might be asking yourself whether you really need a lip moisturizer at all. The answer to that question has to do with the unique nature of lips. For one thing, the skin on your lips is very thin. The blood supply is very close to the surface, which is why lips appear pink or red. In addition, your lips don't contain any oil glands, so they don't produce any natural oils like the rest of your skin does [source: Begoun]. As a result, lips tend to become dehydrated and chapped more quickly than the rest of your skin would.
To make matters worse, you might think you're adding moisture when you lick your dry lips, but the relief is only temporary. Once the saliva dries, it takes with it any natural moisture on your lips, leaving them even drier than before -- so the more you lick your lips, the drier they become [source: Gibson]. An effective lip moisturizer needs to do what sebum, your skin's natural oil, does for the rest of your skin: Keep moisture in and protect lips from any drying environmental conditions.
In addition to these natural causes and your environment, dehydrated lips can also be caused by certain medications. For example, the acne medication isotretinoin is known for being particularly drying, so lip moisturizers can help counter that side effect [source: Begoun].
Choosing a lip moisturizer is an important decision and worth a little effort to help keep your smile soft and supple. For more information on lip care, visit the links below.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- Begoun, Paula. "Dry, Chapped Lips -- Not a Pretty Picture." Paula's Choice. (Accessed Oct. 8, 2009)http://www.cosmeticscop.com/skin-care-facts-treating-dry-chapped-lips.aspx
- Blistex. "Are Lip Balms Addictive?" (Accessed Oct. 8, 2009)http://www.blistex.com/lip-care/faqs#1
- Duffill, Mark. "Emollients and Moisturizers." New Zealand Dermatological Society. Sept. 3, 2009. (Accessed Oct. 8, 2009)http://dermnetnz.org/treatments/emollients.html
- Feldmeier, Julia. "Hot-To Get Over Your Lip Balm Addiction." The Washington Post. Dec. 14, 2008. (Accessed Nov. 10, 2009)http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/12/11/AR2008121103195.html
- Gibson, Lawrence E. "Chapped Lips: What's the best remedy?" Mayo Clinic. Oct. 4, 2008. (Accessed Oct. 20, 2009)http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/chapped-lips/AN01440
- MedlinePlus. "Lip Moisturizer Poisoning." National Institutes of Health (NIH). July 17, 2009. (Accessed Oct. 8, 2009)http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002723.htm
- Weil, Andrew, MD. "Chapped Lips." Prevention Magazine. Nov. 11, 2008. (Accessed Oct. 20, 2009)http://www.prevention.com/cda/article/ask-dr-weil-lip-balm/ea3bc521a0a8d110VgnVCM10000013281eac____/health/health.experts/andrew.weil.md