Chapped Lips? Your Lip Balm May Be Making It Worse.

In addition to being thin, the skin on your lips lacks certain moisture-locking characteristics that other areas of skin have, such as hair follicles, oil glands and a thick layer of dead skin cells, Dr. Rogers said. That’s what makes lips “so soft and sensitive,” she added.

When our lips are exposed to environmental stressors like ultraviolet light, air pollutants, cold or hot temperatures and certain foods and drinks, they can become dry and irritated, said Dr. Sam Awan, a dermatologist in McKinney, Texas. Licking your lips, which you’re likely to do when they’re dry, can worsen the problem because the digestive enzymes in saliva can cause irritation.

That’s why chapped lips are so common, Dr. Awan said.

The most effective lip balms contain ingredients that attract moisture (known as humectants), add moisture and oil (emollients) and form a protective barrier to seal in moisture (occlusives), Dr. Awan said.

Look for products that contain petroleum jelly (commonly listed as petrolatum or white petrolatum on labels), castor oil and glycerin, Dr. Rogers said. The American Academy of Dermatology also recommends lip balms that contain ceramides, hemp seed oil, dimethicone, mineral oil and shea butter. Coconut, avocado and extra-virgin olive oils help nourish chapped lips, too, said Dr. Danny C. Del Campo, a dermatologist in Chicago.

Use a lip product with an SPF 30 or higher if you plan to be outdoors, even in winter, Dr. Del Campo said. This will not only protect against the UV damage that can cause dryness, but also the damage that causes sunburns and, potentially, skin cancer.

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