THE BEST LIP TIPS STRAIGHT FROM A DERMATOLOGIST
- Why/how do lips get chapped?
Lips are an amazingly specialized area of our skin. The top layer of the epidermis, the stratum corneum, is a hard, protective layer of dead keratinocytes (skin cells). This layer is very thin on lips making them so lovely and soft but also less protected than “normal” skin. Lips also do not have hair follicles or their associated oil glands that produce oil to hydrate the lip skin. These characteristics put lips at greater risk of becoming dry and irritated or CHAPPED.
Other fun lip facts:
-Lips do not have melanocytes (pigmented skin cells) to provide protection from the sun. Their lovely pink color comes from their high concentration of blood vessels. But this lack of pigment increases their risk of developing skin cancer.
-Lips and fingertips have the highest density of nerve endings, explaining why kissing can be so much fun.
-You cannot over moisturize your lips. There are no pores or oil gland to block so thicker the better when it comes to lip products.
- What preventative measures should one take to prevent chapped lips?
Lips become chapped from a loss of water drying them out. This can be caused by cold weather, wind, dehydration, chronic licking or medication that cause dry skin like Accutane. Prevention through protection is key! Just like you put on a coat before you go outside, put on a thick balm or ointment to protect your lips from the elements.
- What is the best course of action to cure chapped lips?
Once your lips are chapped, the skin barrier is broken increasing the risk of further irritation. To heal you must keep them covered with a protective coating that prevents further water loss, returns hydration to the skin and DOES NOT cause further irritation! Vaseline/petroleum based products use hydrocarbons to create an occlusive covering that prevents further loss of water…. but they do not add any moisturize back and often contain ingredients that can be irritating. Neosporin, Polysporin, Aquaphor are common causes of irritation. Over the counter topical antibiotics contain Neomycin and Bacitracin, that are "Top-10 Sensitizers" per the North American Contact Dermatitis Group with reported rates of reaction as high as 34%!! Lanolin (sheep sebum and a key ingredient in Aquaphor) has never been shown to aid in healing the skin but the incidence of allergy to it is rapidly increasing. A recent study of 1,012 children, found 66% of kids with eczema and 29% without react to lanolin when patch tested. You don’t want to use this stuff on chapped lips because more of the chemicals are absorbed and the risk of allergy is increased. Similiarily, avoid fragrance, flavor and menthol. Take home point: Less is more when it comes to ingredients to heal chapped lips.
- Lips products I recommend:
RESTORE Healing Balm! It only has three, plant-based, hypoallergenic ingredients that are all key to the healing process. The Castor Seed Oil and Wax to protect and prevent water loss. And, unlike petroleum-based products, Castor Seed Oll and Wax are made of fatty oils that can both protect and hydrate! The glycerin is a powerful humectant that pulls water out of air and back to the lips to further rehydrate. Glycerin is a sugar so RESTORE Healing Balm has a natural, non-irritating, sweet aftertaste. It is the best thing out there for lips and once you use it, there is no going back. A distant second choice is plain Vaseline. It does not hydrate the lips but it does protect them and the risk of irritation from it is exceedingly low.
- Is there a way to gently remove dead skin without damaging the lip area?
A trick I recommend is covering your lips with RESTORE healing balm and then use an old, soft toothbrush to gently brush away dead dry skin while hydrating your lips. Do not pick at the dry skin bits because in addition to pulling off the dead skin you will pull off some living skin, causing further damage.
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Meet the author: Board-certified and practicing dermatologist, Dr. Heather D. Rogers, MD, is the founder of Doctor Rogers Skin Care and Modern Dermatology in Seattle, Washington. She studied at Stanford, University of Washington School of Medicine and Columbia University Medical Center. She lectures nationally, is well published, and an active member of the American Academy of Dermatology. Highly respected among the skin care community, Dr. Rogers has been annually named “Top 1% of Most Honored Doctors in the US” by Castle Connolly.