How to cure chapped lips: healing sore, flaky, or bleeding lips, and the best balms to condition them
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And while many people will simply reach for some chapstick, it's not necessarily the best product for fixing the problem. Here, we look at why we end up with chapped lips, and the best course of action to ease the pain and discomfort.
What causes chapped lips?
Chapped lips – 'cheilitis secca' is excess dryness, caused because our lips don't have the same concentration of oil glands as our regular skin does. With cold weather (still!), wind exposure, and reflexive lip-licking, the skin barrier on the lips gets dried out – leading to flaky, irritated, cracked lips – sometimes even bleeding.
This can lead to some understandable behaviour. Picking the skin, licking it continuously.
What not to do
Picking lip skin is terrible for them, and can leave your lips bleeding, and vulnerable to infection.
Licking it has the ironic effect of further drying painfully chapped lips: try not to do this. There are also many lip balms that contain ingredients which won't salve your mouth, but instead exacerbate the problem – watch out for products where the lead ingredients is camphor, eucalyptus, peppermint, lanolin, fragrance, menthol, or phenol – all of which ostensibly sooth lips, but are ultimately drying.
If you use any acids or exfoliating products to clean your face, make sure not to let them touch your lips as you do so - they’ll make matters worse.
The issue with chapstick, and vaseline, when trying to deal with chapped lips, is that they only fight half the battle. They provide a barrier against external elements, but they don’t contain any ingredients designed to hydrate. So it can feel good to smear them on, but they don’t speed repair at all.
What to do to help heal chapped lips
So that's what not to do– what can you do to soothe troubled lips?
Firstly (tediously), up your water intake – chapped lips are often a sign of dehydration.
Next, if you do want to slough off dead skin on the lips, the gentlest way to do it is while showering. Wrap a warm, wet flannel around your index finger and gently buff at your lips – softly does it here.
Next, consider utilising some choicely selected products to help cure the chapped lips, and speed their return to good health.
Every day, apply a lip balm with an SPF, to protect your lips from the sun (even in winter, this is crucial). Dry, chapped lips will be worsened by sun exposure, so sunscreen in your lip balm is important, otherwise the lips may start to blister.
Make sure to use a rich, thick, emollient lip balm before bed, to help repair the lips overnight. A lip treatment here can be brilliant at speeding the healing process. It will also make them feel more comfortable.
Although we don't want to endorse excess exfoliation, a lip scrub can be a gentle (and, since they usually contain sugar or honey crystals, delicious), means of helping remove flaky skin. Do this after the skin is moisturised, and then apply a layer of balm or oil to sooth.
Our favourite ingredients for providing succour for sore lips are shea butter, mineral oil, almond oil, and the anti-inflammatory vitamin E. See below for the most effective products we've tried.
Jack Black's (no, not that one) Intense Therapy Lip Balm does a brilliant job of healing flaky, painful lips. With shea butter and avocado oil, it does impressive work of nursing sore mouths back to health. Be liberal here – you can feel free to apply the right lip balm as often as you like. SPF 25 means this wonderful product will guard your pout from the sun, too.
Nobody needs to spend £55 pounds on a lip balm, of course. But if your pockets are deep enough and your lips are sore, you won't find a better, more luxurious product.
With the texture of whipped fondant, it goes on delightfully smooth, but not shiny (non-make-up wearers can wear it without flinching). It gives a sensation of immediate relief, too.
Sometime reapplying lip balm throughout the day can slip your mind – or, if you live in any degree of havoc, you'll never be able to find the balm when you need it.
This Kiehl's product is a brilliant investment, then – smear the aptly named Buttermask on at night and we guarantee you be shocked by how soft and smooth your lips are by morning.
Beeswax and castor oil are the hero ingredients in Glosser's wonderful lip balm, a multi-purpose product that will tame errant eyebrow hairs and sooth dry patches of skin as readily as it nourishes lips.
It goes on slickly smooth with a light shine, and has impressive lasting power. Available in nine different flavours, we love the calming effect of the mint balm.
This French pharmacy brand offers excellent, effective skin care at a reasonable price, in chic packaging.
Their ultra-nourishing lip balm is far more luxe than the price would suggest, gently coaxing sore lips back to health with shea butter, honey, and grapefruit essence. A proper treat.
We're not a big fan of the scent of this lip balm – it's slightly too medicinal for our tastes – but it's worth it for how swiftly it will repair chapped lips. The colloidal oatmeal offers almost immediate relief if your lips are truly weepy and sore.