The human body is amazingly resilient. It can take a lot of neglect and even a fair amount of abuse before the signs of damage start to show. But some parts of the body, like your lips, are a lot more delicate and sensitive, showing almost immediate signs of distress. And unlike the rest of your skin, which has the ability to hydrate and regulate moisture, your lips have no sebaceous glands or lipids (fats) to help them retain moisture.
What’s worse is lips are at the front and center of your visage so when they become dry or cracked, not only do they look bad they feel bad too. So what can you do to keep your lips soft, supple and happy instead of chappy?
Some causes like overexposure to the elements –wind, sun, hot or cold dry air– or chronic congestion that forces you to breathe through your mouth rather than your nose are often unavoidable. Other causes like frequently licking the lips or overuse of petroleum-based lip balms and glosses are easier to address.
happy lipsLike the rest of your skin, your lips need a good balance of ingredients that are emollients (softeners) and humectants (moisturizers that attract and hold water to the skin). The good news is there are a wide variety of emollient ingredients you can use. The bad news is the ones found in most lip products are petroleum-based and work via something called “occlusion” which means the act of closing off. They are spread onto the skin to slow or prevent moisture evaporation and are made from oils and waxes that can’t be penetrated by water.
They coat lips, forming a short-term barrier that can provide temporary protection from the elements but quickly wear off (or are often licked off) and must be constantly re-applied. Because they offer no lasting benefits, they are not the best choice for long-term or ongoing lip care.
Choose Only the Best Ingredients for Your Kisser
At a minimum you should hold your lip balm products to the same standard as the moisturizers you use on your skin and face, but because lips are more delicate you would do better to hold them to an even higher standard. The main things to look for are:
Base Oils. Products made primarily with raw or unprocessed plant-based vegetable or nut oils and butters like jojoba, virgin coconut, high-oleic safflower, extra virgin olive, sunflower, hemp, avocado, castor (an excellent humectant) and shea or cocoa butter –preferably certified organic. Oils like olive and coconut that most closely resemble your skin’s natural sebum and are rich in Vitamin E and other antioxidants, will work best and deliver consistent results.
Herbal Infusions or Extracts. Products that include skin-friendly herbal ingredients like calendula, chamomile, comfrey, chickweed, and yarrow provide added protective benefits.
Natural Waxes. Although waxes can act as emollients and protective barriers, their purpose in your lip balm is more functional than beneficial — adding stiffness so it can be dispensed in a push-up tube. Choose lip balms made with natural waxes like beeswax, candellila, or carnauba wax.
Essential Oils. Look for products that are made with 100% pure essential oils versus “fragrance” and flavor oils, which may contain unidentified, potentially harmful ingredients like phthalates or synthetic sweeteners. Too much flavor invariably leads to frequent, involuntary, and excessive lip licking –one of the main causes of dry chapped lips. Essential oils will open your senses, and though they smell good they won’t taste good enough to make you lick your lips.
Remember, when you lick your lips, eat, or drink while wearing lipstick or lip products, or kiss someone who is wearing a lip product, you ingest some of the product’s ingredients. So it goes without saying that if you want healthy happy lips avoid products made with petroleum or synthetic chemicals and stick to products made with only the best natural and organic ingredients. Not only will they make your lips look and feel better, you won’t have to worry about the consequences of ingesting them!