Does Lip Balm Worsen Chapped Lips

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This post is written by Mia Barnes, Editor-in-Chief at Body+Mind.

Winter is one of the harshest seasons on your lips, causing them to dry out, crack, flake, and become sore over time. Many people can’t leave the house without lip balm for comfort and moisture, but it may not be as effective as it seems. Here’s why you should forgo your lip balm for a better alternative and tips to prevent chapped lips from the start.

What Causes Chapped Lips?

As New York City-based dermatologist Rachel Westbay points out, lips don’t have sebaceous or oil glands like the rest of your body, so they lack a natural moisturizer. Likewise, your lip’s outermost skin layer doesn’t retain moisture well.

Most people notice dry, cracked lips when the weather gets cold. Other causes include:

  • Allergens and irritants
  • Dermatological problems
  • Licking your lips repeatedly
  • Vitamin deficiencies
  • Dehydration
  • Sun damage

Surprisingly, applying lip balm negatively affects chapped, sore lips if it includes the wrong ingredients.

Does Lip Balm Help Or Worsen Chapped Lips?

You may think you’re doing yourself a favor by soothing your lips with lip balm. However, while menthol, phenol and salicylic acid-based lip products offer temporary relief, they can make them even drier.

If you’re experiencing lip eczema or perioral dermatitis—a rash around your mouth—avoid lip balms with added flavors, colors, or medications. Additionally, for those with highly sensitive skin, steer clear of products containing citral, peppermint oil, geraniol, fragrance mix, and cinnamaldehyde.

The key is using items with hydrating oils, butters and vitamins for healthier, more supple lips. For instance, beeswax, squalene, coconut and jojoba oils and shea butter are all effective. Hyaluronic acid and vitamin E are also safe for your lips. These ingredients are known for relieving and repairing wounds. Vitamin E oil, especially, has antioxidative properties for fighting bacteria and viruses.

5 Lip Balm Alternatives

You can look for lip balms with the perfect formula for healing or turn to organic alternatives with a greater effect. Here are five simple ingredients beyond lip balm to soothe chapped lips.

1.   Aloe Vera

Aloe vera is a centuries-old remedy for mending wounds, burns, itching, and other irritations. Many people apply it to their lips due to its many polysaccharides. Studies show one polysaccharide — acemannan — stimulates tissue regeneration and cell growth, and is antiviral.

Apply a small amount of aloe vera to your finger and smear it around your lips in circular motions. You may want to use it twice daily to see its positive effects.

2.   Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is among the most potent healing ingredients for your skin and lips, containing lauric acid to fight off microbes and bacteria like Staph infections. It’s so powerful research shows it may effectively heal diabetic ulcers.

The study analyzed how 50 diabetic Wistar mice with ulcers responded to various conventional therapies. Topical virgin coconut oil and 14 hours of air exposure significantly impacted wound recovery.

You can usually find lip balm containing coconut oil at the store. However, remember to check the other ingredients to ensure they don’t worsen your lips’ condition.

3.   Hemp Seed Oil

Although hemp seed oil derives from the same Cannabis sativa plants as marijuana, it contains little to no CBD or THC. Nowadays, you’ll encounter several beauty and skin care products with hemp.

Dermatology studies have demonstrated the positive effects of hemp seed oil for treating chronic skin conditions, including eczema and psoriasis. Some use it to diminish acne because of its anti-inflammatory compounds. Hemp seed oil contains ample vitamins and minerals — including vitamin E — and polyunsaturated fatty acids, which protect the skin and relieve dryness.

4.   Shea Butter

Shea butter is made entirely from vitamin A — a critical component of skin health and rejuvenation. According to recent research, vitamin A improves plasticity during regenerative processes, accelerating wound healing.

If your lips are cracked from dry or cold air, shea butter will stimulate the skin’s natural ability to repair itself. It also prevents collagen loss, leaving behind fuller, healthier lips.

You might also consider applying shea butter to the rest of your body as a moisturizer. Many even enjoy its subtle, smoky aroma.

5.   White Petroleum Jelly

Do you remember your mother rubbing Vaseline under your nose when you were sick as a child? People have used the stuff — white petroleum jelly — for healing chapped, inflamed skin for over 150 years.

White petroleum jelly may be better for locking in moisture than rehydrating your lips, but its excellent absorption deeply penetrates cracks and bleeds for optimal healing. You can also use products like Vaseline with other lip balm alternatives. For example, apply coconut or hemp seed oil first, then seal it using white petroleum jelly.

Additional Tips for Relieving Chapped Lips

Dehydration is one of the most common reasons for chapped lips. In the winter, the dry air wreaks havoc on your mouth, while the hot summer months cause you to lose fluids. As such, you should drink plenty of water, preferably eight glasses of water to prevent your lips from drying out and cracking.

Cucumbers may also be an effective alternative to lip balm due to their high fluid content. In fact, they’re 95% made up of water — one cup of raw cucumbers equates to a half cup of water. In addition to eating them, rub a slice over your dry lips for a cooling effect and added moisture.

Unlike some cooling and hydrating foods, salty, spicy, and acidic foods may irritate chapped lips even more. Consume fewer of these items until you’ve repaired your lips’ skin barrier.

Staying out of the sun at peak hours and always applying SPF is also best for preventing and healing chapped lips. Ultraviolet rays may cause actinic cheilitis — a precancerous condition affecting your lower lip, most prevalent among individuals with fair skin and those who spend ample time outdoors. Look for a dry, scaly, cracked, and discolored appearance around your lips, and seek medical attention for any concerns.

Of course, cold weather isn’t conducive to healthy, smooth lips. Utilize a humidifier during winter nights to add moisture to the air, which in turn helps prevent water loss from the skin and lips. Wearing a scarf is another way to block some cold air from hitting your mouth. Whatever you do, avoid biting or picking at dried lips to prevent further damage.

Healed Lips Are Possible With Lip Balm Alternatives

Depending on the type of lip balm you use, it may not be the best option for chapped lips. Opt for safer, more nutrient-rich ingredients to heal cracks and dryness. Supple, healthy-looking lips are possible, even during the even during the coldest months.

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