8 common mistakes that could be making your dry lips worse

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8 common mistakes that could be making your dry lips worse

Having dry lips is not fun. They sting whenever anything even remotely salty passes them and crack at the corners when you’re chatting. And that’s before we’ve even got into the more superficial gripes, like the fact that rough, flaky lips can be unsightly and stop your lipstick from gliding on and staying put.

So why are our lips so prone to dryness, making us so reliant on our best lip balms? "Unlike almost everywhere else on the body, our lips don’t have oil or sweat glands – this means they are especially vulnerable to dehydration, as they lack that natural protection and lubrication," explains skincare brand founder and pro facialist Sarah Chapman. "The skin on the lips is also extremely thin and delicate, leaving them more exposed to environmental stressors."

And while you might think you know how best to combat your chapped lips, many of us are actually making a few slip-ups in that department. So, we spoke to three experts to find out the most common mistakes people make when treating dry lips – so you can steer well clear. 

8 mistakes that might be making your lips even drier

While adding one of the best lip oils into your beauty routine is a great starting point, there are a few habits we also need to start kicking to the curb - to ensure our lips stay supple...

1. You’re not protecting them from the cold

Winter isn’t good news for our skin, as, according to Chapman, "cold weather can exacerbate dehydration due to a lack of moisture in the air, strong winds and central heating." All of these can impair the skin barrier, lessening its ability to hold onto the water our complexions need to stay plump, smooth and comfortable. Unfortunately, our lips end up experiencing the brunt of these cold-weather side effects. Partly because the skin is thinner than the rest of our faces, and partly because they’re always on show. 

So, just like you wouldn’t go out in the snow without a coat - or the rain without an umbrella - make sure you’re protecting your lips with a nourishing balm (ideally one of the best SPF lip balms) to act as an extra barrier between them and the outside world.  

2. Your choice of lip balm is too occlusive

Some lip balms (cough – Vaseline) are made from high concentrations of petroleum, which isn’t necessarily the best choice for very dry lips. Petroleum is a type of ingredient called an occlusive and does a brilliant job of creating a water-tight seal over the skin to prevent moisture loss. The problem is that as well as not letting anything out, it also doesn’t let anything in, which means your lips can’t absorb any moisture from the atmosphere. They might feel lovely and silky and slippery in the short term but once the product has worn off, your lips are going to feel just as dry and uncomfortable as when you started. 

The best approach is to instead use a lip balm that contains a combination of moisturising ingredients and occulsives, so it can lock that much-needed nourishment into the lips. If you are loyal to your little round blue and white tub and can’t imagine living without it, try layering a nourishing balm underneath first for the same effect. 

3. You’re drying them out with matte lipsticks

When making a matte lipstick the formulators are focusing on creating a really strong pigment that doesn’t budge for hours on end (that’s why they make for the best long-lasting lipsticks), rather than making lips feel smooth and soft. As a result, you won’t find very many balmy and oily ingredients inside, which means less goodness for our lips. 

Even if the lipstick itself isn’t actively drying your lips out (the newer ones have come on leaps and bounds) it can still feel like it is. Matte lipsticks tend to contract as they dry down, which can make your lips tight. They can also settle into dehydration lines and amplify areas of flaking in ways that a gloss or cream formula won’t. "Long-lasting matte lipsticks will cause dryness so swap for sheer colour options that are rich in hydrating butters," advises beauty expert and founder of Ultrasun UK and SkinSense, Abi Cleeve. If you love the shade of your matte lipstick but are frustrated by the finish, top it with a slick of balm or lip oil to counteract the dryness. 

4. You’re licking them

Licking our lips is a natural reaction when they feel dry and tight, as the influx of moisture offers instant relief, but it’s not a long-term solution. "STOP licking your lips," says aesthetics doctor and lip expert Dr Tijion Esho. "Your saliva has enzymes that break down the natural lipid barrier of your lips, which can cause dryness, soreness and inflammation." 

Equally, our skin isn’t meant to be consistently moist and keeping it damp through licking can increase the possibility of infection - which is especially likely if your lips are already chapped and flaking. 

5. You’re not treating them overnight

Looking after your lips is difficult during the day because they’re constantly exposed to external factors like cold weather, central heating and UV rays – all of which can make them drier. Plus, any balm or treatments that you do apply will be rubbed off through eating, drinking and talking.

By smoothing on a nourishing balm before bed, it’ll be able to work with no distractions and counteract any dryness that occurs naturally overnight. "Trans-epidermal water loss (moisture evaporating from the skin) also increases by up to 25% overnight, so it’s important to ensure you’re hydrated and have applied a nourishing lip product before going to bed," says Chapman. You can also apply a thicker layer or a heavier product than you might want to during the day, as you don’t have to worry about whether it looks too greasy, too white or too shiny. 

6. You’re a smoker

We don’t think it’ll come as a surprise to anyone that smoking isn’t beneficial for your all-round health but it can also be a key cause of dry lips. "We’re all aware of the detrimental ageing effects of smoking as a result of the chemicals used, and these cause dehydration and deplete vitamin C levels in your skin." Without sufficient levels of vitamin C, our skin doesn’t have enough protection from its environment, nor is it able to repair itself effectively, meaning lips stay chapped and flaky for longer. 

7. Your diet isn't up to scratch

Beauty starts from the inside out, so to give yourself the best chance of soft, smooth lips you’ll need to be eating right. "Not eating enough omega-3 fatty acids, typically found in oily fish such as salmon and tuna and nuts and seeds like walnuts and chia seeds, can also lead to dehydration as these are essential for maintaining good skin health," advises Chapman. "If you’re already struggling with dry lips, I would also recommend avoiding alcohol, caffeine and salty processed foods, as they will all contribute to dehydrating the skin."

8. You’re using the wrong toothpaste

Sounds silly, we know, but the toothpaste you use can impact how your lips look and feel. Lots of formulas contain sulphates, an ingredient also found in things like shampoo and shower gel. It gives them that satisfyingly foamy texture that leaves you feeling squeaky clean but can be quite stripping and irritating on the skin it comes into contact with. 

"Sulphates within your toothpaste could be adding to the problem," says Cleeve. "Consider switching to a formula that’s free from SLS (sodium laureth sulphate) or one recommended for sensitive gums."

Story by Jess Beech: Woman & Home
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