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How to Moisturize Your Lips

Lips are especially susceptible to chapping in cold, dry winter air.
Lips are especially susceptible to chapping in cold, dry winter air.
©iStockphoto.com/Andresr

You may not think about it often, but your lips are lacking a few things that the skin on the rest of your body has -- oil glands, sweat glands and pigment [source: Indiana Public Media]. You're probably thinking, "Hey, what about that pinkish or reddish tint most mouths have?" The hue is due to how thin the skin near your mouth is, which makes blood vessels more visible. These characteristics make lips unique when compared to the rest of your body, and they need special care that other areas of skin don't require.

Hydration is important for your lips. Drinking plenty of water each day is a simple way to maintain healthy skin. During the winter, use a humidifier to combat dry indoor air and keep dehydration at bay. Your lips won't handle dehydration any better than other parts of your body, and chapped lips are often a result of a lack of fluids [source: Gibson]. Your lips also won't react well to harsh weather, including cold air, sun exposure or wind, so it helps to protect them. A scarf or a lip balm with sunscreen can keep the cold, the hot sun and blustery winds from wreaking havoc on your lips [source: American Academy of Dermatology].

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If you have a habit of licking your lips, now may be the time to think about holding back. Not only does the evaporating saliva dry out your lips, but the enzymes in saliva can break down the skin's protective barrier [source: Latona]. Dry lips might feel better momentarily if you lick them, but temporary relief probably isn't worth the long-term effects.

If you are taking care of your lips but you've had a chronic problem with extremely chapped or dry lips, see a dermatologist. You may have an allergy or another problem that requires medical attention.

Read on to learn what works best for moisturizing extremely dry lips.

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You don't need pricey formulas to fix extremely dry lips. In fact, you can probably get the job done after a quick look through your kitchen cupboard or bathroom cabinet.

Exfoliation isn't just good for your body -- it also can help your lips. To exfoliate, gently rub your lips with a washcloth morning and night. Mix together a small amount of olive oil and sugar, and then rub the concoction on your lips. If you'd rather not go the natural route, head to your drug store and look for a lip exfoliator.

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Once you've exfoliated, follow up by applying a lip balm or lip treatment. Products with beeswax, shea butter, vitamin E or oils such as jojoba, olive and coconut can provide your lips with an adequate amount of hydration [source: Latona]. Reapply your lip balm often. Inexpensive petroleum jelly can also work as a lip moisturizer. However, save it for times when the sun is starting to set, or use a lip product with sunscreen on top of it. Lip products should have a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. Also make sure that your lip balm's SPF offers broad-spectrum coverage from both UVA and UVB rays.

Sunscreen is vitally important for your lips. Remember, your lips don't have melanin (pigment). That means that they are extremely susceptible to the sun's damaging rays, which can cause skin cancer. Sunburned lips can be uncomfortably dry, and in some cases they'll also peel. Finally, if you want to keep the signs of aging at bay, sunscreen can reduce any wrinkles or cracks in skin.

Read on to learn more tips for moisturizing your lips, including why it's important to select the right kind of lipstick.

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Matte lipstick has many convenient qualities. After putting it on, your lips will look the same for longer periods of time, and you probably won't have to break out a compact mirror to constantly reapply. The problem with matte lipstick, however, is that the ingredients that are helping your lips stay colorful and fresh can also dry them out. To avoid having your lips look like they're too dried out, look for lipsticks with hydrating formulas that contain glycerin or vitamin E. When you do use a matte lipstick, you also can dab on a bit of moisturizing balm to keep your lips moisture-packed [source: Latona].

If you use lip gloss, your lips are also at risk -- not for dryness, however, but for sun damage. Lip gloss provides your lips with a little extra shine. Although it may make your lips sparkle and draw attention to them, it may also attract the sun more than you need. Sunlight can increase signs of aging around your lips, and lip gloss may absorb harmful rays from the sun. In a worst-case scenario, this might mean an increased risk of skin cancer. Skin cancer of the lips is almost always squamous cell carcinoma, which is rarely fatal, but it can sometimes be difficult to treat. Other less serious concerns are noncancerous skin conditions and premature aging. A good precautionary measure is to make sure that your lip gloss contains an SPF of at least 15. And make sure to apply it generously and often [source: Dahl].

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Hydration, a good lip balm, sunscreen and protection from the elements are the basics to keeping your lips moisturized. See the links on the next page to learn more about taking care of your lips, along with the rest of your skin.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

Sources

  • American Academy of Dermatology. "Dermatologists' Top 10 Tips for Relieving Dry Skin." 2008. (Sept. 8, 2009)http://www.skincarephysicians.com/agingskinnet/winter_skin.html
  • American Academy of Dermatology. "How to Select Sunscreen." 2009. (Sept. 8, 2009)http://www.skincarephysicians.com/skincancernet/selecting_sunscreen.html
  • Brown, Bobbi. "Chapped Lips Solution." Prevention Sept. 20, 2008. (Sept. 8, 2009)http://www.prevention.com/cda/article/chapped-lips-solution/89da9c4e1de7c110VgnVCM20000012281eac____/lifelong.beauty/makeup
  • Dahl, Melissa. "Not Just Lip Service: Gloss Can Invite Skin Cancer." MSNBC. May 30, 2008. (Sept. 8, 2009)http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/24190829/
  • George, Rebekah. "The Beauty of Honey." Prevention. May 1, 2007. (Sept. 8, 2009)http://www.prevention.com/cda/article/the-beauty-of-honey/acf28169c1903110VgnVCM20000012281eac____/lifelong.beauty/anti.aging.arsenal/facial.care
  • Gibson, Lawrence E., M.D. "Chapped Lips: What's the Best Remedy?" Mayo Clinic. Oct. 4, 2008. (Sept. 8, 2009)http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/chapped-lips/AN01440
  • Indiana Public Media. "Why Lips Go Dry." (Sept. 8, 2009)http://indianapublicmedia.org/amomentofscience/why-lips-go-dry/
  • Janes, Beth. "Beauty Q & A." Shape. March 2003. (Sept. 8, 2009)http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0846/is_7_22/ai_97875689/?tag=rbxcra.2.a.22
  • Latona, Valerie. "7 Tips for Beautiful Lips." Shape Magazine. March 2002. (Sept. 8, 2009)http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0846/is_7_21/ai_82823101/
  • Prevention. "The Smartest Tip for Beautiful Lips." March 26, 2008. (Sept. 8, 2009)http://www.prevention.com/cda/article/the-smartest-tip-for-beautiful-lips/212c12b73d8e8110VgnVCM10000013281eac____/lifelong.beauty/teeth.smile

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