Battling against dry lips

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Dr. Jetske Ultee

Research Physician in Cosmetic Dermatology
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For years now I have been delving into cosmetics. I believe in the importance of good skincare but, at the same time, I am shocked by the sense and nonsense within the cosmetics world. You can share in my knowledge about skincare via this blog.
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Isn’t it just awful when you are running late, you take one last look in the mirror and you notice lots of tiny bits of peel on those beautifully glossed lips! And if your lipstick is red then there is no escaping the drama… I am now going to tell you how dry lips happen but, far more importantly, how you can resolve the issue.

Different from the rest


As the skin on your lips is essentially different from the rest of your face we are going to start with the anatomy. Firstly, the skin on your lips has only a very fine layer of dead skin cells (stratum corneum) in comparison to the skin on the rest of your body (research).
The dead skin cells protect your skin from outside influences and so having only a thin protective layer on your lips makes them extremely susceptible. This also means that those dead skin cells on the lips aren’t as effective at carrying out their protective work. Consequently the skin on the lips loses moisture 3 times more quickly than the skin on the cheeks, and that difference increases the older you become (research).

There are no sweat or sebaceous glands in the skin on the lips, with the latter meaning that your lips have difficulty in retaining oil. The only moisture received by the skin on the lips comes from the small blood vessels which supply them. You can understand then why your lips get very dry in cold weather; as the vessels close up in the cold hardly any moisture is released into the tissue. If, on top of this, the humidity in the air is low, or if it is windy, then what little water is in the lips evaporates rapidly and results in dry, irritated and flaking lips.
Researchers at the Cornell University in New York have comprehensively measured the effects of a lip balm on the moisture retention in the skin in both higher and lower temperatures. In their report you can read how, in low temperatures, the supply of moisture to the lips becomes blocked causing them to dry out. The application of a lip balm, whereby the skin loses less moisture, combats against extreme drying out. This works in high temperatures as well but the effects are less obvious. Incidentally, the lip balm lasted for around 2 ½ hours.

Well greased


It is clear that you need to make sure your lips are well greased. The most important thing is that you use something which helps keep the moisture in the skin.
I usually use some shea butter or Vaseline on my lips. I very rarely manage to find an affordable lip balm which doesn’t contain irritating substances such as mint, and poor lip balms actually cause dry lips. You can easily make your own lip balm too. It’s very simple, you melt approximately 1 part oil to 2 parts wax or butter (or a combination of these 2) in a hot water bath, in a pan, stir, then pour into a jar and leave to solidify. If you want to make the product less thick then just add more oil to the mixture, and if you’d rather it was thicker then use more wax or butter.
Examples of substances to use for your DIY lip balm are:

Shea oil
Almond oil
Jojoba oil

Wax or butter:
Jojoba wax
Aloe vera butter
Shea butter
Cocoa butter
Candelilla wax
Carnauba wax

Away with that peeling skin


A simple way to get rid of peeling skin is to put some oil onto a flannel and gently rub this over your lips… It’s cheap and it works. You can also make your own lip scrub by mixing a teaspoon of sugar with half a teaspoon of vaseline and half a teaspoon of jojoba or almond oil. Just remember that there is no preservative in the lip balm or scrub and so they have a very limited shelf life. Just make enough for what you need.

With these tips you can’t fail to go through the summer with lips to die for!

Regards Jetske
(Dr. Jetske Ultee-Research Physician Cosmetic Dermatology)