With the cooler weather across Australia, many of us are starting to experience that niggling sensation starting with tightness around the lips that can easily progress to flaking, chapping, and even painful lips. We’ve received a lot of orders for our much-loved Coconut & Blackcurrant Lip Balm in recent days - so it's clear that the lip balm scramble has started! We felt that now was a good time to talk about the latest thinking on how to keep your lips feeling healthy - soft, smooth and plump - all winter long.
But first, we thought it might be helpful to understand why our lips really need special care, before moving onto some simple tricks to get them through the winter looking and feeling their beautiful best.
Why is the skin on our lips different?
Great question! Firstly the skin on our lips is very thin - the outermost protective stratum corneum is only 3-4 layers thick compared to 15-16 layers on the rest of our face. In addition, lip skin has very few melanin-producing cells. These two factors explain why our lips are a pink colour - they are thin and transparent, and so the tissue underneath is more visible. Yes, those pink lips are your vascular tissue showing through!
An additional key difference of our lip skin is that it does not have sebaceous glands or hair follicles like skin elsewehere on our bodies. That means there is no sebum production on our lips, and therefore, it doesn’t get the same level of lipid barrier protection (1).
The lack of sebum production on lip skin means it is far more prone to drying out, particularly when the air is dry. This usually comes to a head during winter - the cold air holds less moisture, we spend time in heated rooms where air is further dehydrated, and we tend to take longer hot showers which can deplete oils from the skin on our lips and the rest of our bodies.
Why licking your lips doesn’t help
It’s instinctive - when our lips are dry, we tend to lick them to try to relieve the tight feeling. Unfortunately, our saliva contains digestive enzymes that can break down the protective outer layer of skin, leaving it drier and further exposed to irritants. In fact, saliva itself can be an irritant once the skin’s barrier is damaged. Inflammation of the lips, known as ‘chelitis’ can result. The corners of the lips can become chronically inflamed by pooling of saliva in that location, sometimes with secondary invasion by microorganisms (2). In some people, lip licking can be habit forming, resulting in chronically inflamed lips.
Some basic must-do’s to look after your lips
1. Keep hydrated - drink plenty of water throughout the day, and keep diuretics like caffeine and alcohol to a minimum.
2. Minimise hot drinks - hot drinks for your lips are like standing under a hot shower for too long - it will deplete the skin’s oily barrier and make it more prone to dehydration. It will also remove your lip balm so reapply afterwards.
3. Use a high quality lip balm and apply it frequently throughout the day and after eating or drinking. The lip balm should offer barrier-building fatty acids to restore the natural barrier function; an occlusive barrier from a good quality wax to prevent water loss and reduce exposure to irritants; and antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds from natural sources. In addition, it should be free of added flavours, colours and essential oils, which have the potential to irritate the skin.
4. Minimise exposure to UV light - the lack of melanin in the lips makes them extremely vulnerable to UV damage which can lead to collagen loss, further thinning of the skin and skin cancer.
Some tricks for always smooth, healthy lips
1. Gentle exfoliation - removal of flaking skin from the lips should be performed extremely gently. Never pull skin flakes from the lips as this will damage the skin further. Choose your products carefully - we believe this is extremely important, because lip products will be ingested. Here is a simple, yet highly effective way to perform a gentle exfoliation using 100% certified organic ingredients, that will nourish your lips at the same time.
Take a half teaspoon of our Facial Cleanser, Exfoliator & Mask, and mix with half teaspoon of our Makeup Remover & Cleansing Oil. Massage the mixture very gently over the lips for 1-2 minutes, paying particular attention to dry areas and the corners of the lips. Rinse away thoroughly, then pat the lips dry. Follow with a liberal amount of Coconut & Blackcurrant Lip Balm, applying regularly every 1-2 hours until skin settles. Repeat exfoliation once or twice a week or as needed.
2. Lip mask - in case you haven’t noticed, disposable masks for the face are a bit of a trend right now, and they are also a trend for lips! Most are a plastic or silicone shield that has hydrating compounds or gels attached or impregnated, which is then applied to the skin for a short period of time. The plastic stops evaporation of the water component and keeps the product in place. In the case of a lip mask, it also stops you licking your lips and gives time for the product to sink into the skin.
We’re not into using disposable plastic or silicone, but you can achieve the same effect yourself using a small piece of muslin (very thin cotton fabric) cut to the size of your lips. Apply our lip balm to your lips, then place the cotton muslin on top. Apply a little more lip balm over the top - the muslin will allow you to apply more product and help keep it in place. Lie down for 20 minutes or more - or if you like, you can do this at night while you sleep for even better results. Remove the muslin and you should find your lips have had a beautiful spa-level treatment, feeling wonerfully soft and plump.
About our Lip Balm
Our Coconut & Blackcurrant Lip Balm has been formulated to be rich in gamma linolenic acid (GLA) and linoleic acid (LA) which will help boost ceramides in the skin of the lips and build the skin's barrier function. It also includes soothing oils rich in vitamin E and pro-vitamin A, and antioxidants to help counter the damaging effects of free radicals. Finally, it contains nourishing and soothing beeswax and cacao butter to offer superior occlusive protection. It is a light balm that can be applied easily, and should be reapplied regularly throughout the day until the lips settle. Thereafter, we recommend using morning and night for best results. Ingredients are 100% certified organic, palm oil free, and without flavours, colours or essential oils.
1. Kadu, M. et al (2015) Review on Natural Lip Balm International Journal of Research in Cosmetic Science 5:1-7
2. Fonseca, A. et al (2020) Art of prevention: Practical interventions in lip-licking dermatitis Int. Journal of Women's Dermatology 6:377-380