From treating chapped lips to the best all-around lipsticks and balms, we’ve got the inside scoop on keeping your lips nice and tantalizing.
Think of your lips as a sponge. “When exposed to moisture, they absorb water and plump up. When dehydrated, they dry out and shrink,” explains Bruce Bart, M.D., a dermatologist at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis. And, because they’re always exposed, they’re prone to dehydration, particularly during the cold, windy winter months. The skin on the lips is also unlike skin anywhere else on the body: It’s thinner (allowing the blood vessels to be visible, making the lips look red) and has no oil glands (oil acts as a barrier for skin, helping to protect it from the elements). The result can be red, rough (and sometimes painful), chapped lips that couldn’t hold lipstick color if you spray-painted it on.
Get Better-Looking Lips—Fast
With a little loving care, your lips can be perfect in no time. Just follow these seven steps—and then pucker up!
#1- Take a water bottle with you wherever you go. Drinking enough water (the equivalent of at least 9 cups of fluids daily) will keep the body, skin and lips hydrated.
#2- Lick the smacking habit. Licking your lips damages the protective barrier, which can dry out the lips, says Robert Brodell, M.D., a dermatologist in Warren, Ohio. (Saliva contains digestive enzymes that can break down this barrier.) Instead, regularly apply lip balm.
#3- Know thy balms. Look for hydrating ingredients like beeswax, shea butter, vitamin E and almond, jojoba or coconut oils. Good old petroleum jelly (think: Vaseline) works well too. If you have sensitive skin, use camphor-based medicated lip balms sparingly. (They can be irritating.)
#4- Plug in a humidifer. It can replace moisture in dry indoor air, keeping your lips (and your skin) hydrated.
#5- Exfoliate when necessary. Lip exfoliators (products that contain fruit-acid-based alpha or beta hydroxy acids) slough off dead skin — much like the ones you’d use on your face, says New York dermatologist Dennis Gross, M.D. “But if you have sensitive skin or your lips are severely chapped or cracked, use these products cautiously [no more than once weekly] as they do contain acids that can irritate skin,” says Gross. (Signs of irritation: intense stinging and/or persistent redness.)
#6- Protect, protect, protect. Lips are susceptible to sunburn since they lack melanin, the pigment that helps shield skin from the sun. Apply a layer of a sun-protective product daily or look for a lipstick with SPF
#7- Don’t make matte forever. Matte lipsticks can be extremely drying (which helps these lipsticks stay put for so long). That’s why you should use them sparingly when your lips are extremely chapped. Instead, alternate use of them with hydrating lipsticks (as indicated by ingredients like vitamin E and/or glycerin) or add a layer of moisturizing lip balm underneath.
How to Plump Up Your Pout
“Using lip liner in a shade slightly darker than your lipstick, overdraw the line (so the line is right outside your lips),” says Joanna Schlip, a Los Angeles-based makeup artist with Cloutier.
“Apply the lipstick, and then in the center of your lips, blend in a drop of foundation and top it off with a gloss.”
Treat Your Lips Right
Follow this guide to treating common lip problems.
#1- A cut in the corner of the mouth: Keep your lips hydrated with a balm and apply a small dab of an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream.
#2- Peeling lips: This could be an allergic reaction to a lipstick, toothpaste, food, beverage, or medication you’re taking (Accutane is one drug that can severely dry out lips). Related symptoms include itching and a persistent rash. Your dermatologist can prescribe a mild topical hydrocortisone cream to help decrease the irritation.
#3- Wrinkles around the lips: Caused by sun exposure, age, and smoking, these wrinkles should be treated like wrinkles on the rest of the face — with chemical peels and creams that contain anti-aging ingredients like retinol.