What Causes Chapped Lips
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, the main reason why your lips become chapped is because, unlike the rest of your skin, there are no oil glands in your lips. If you imagine how the skin’s oil can keep it moisturized, it’s no surprise that your lips can become dry and chapped without a little help from lip balms. Another consideration is regarding a vitamin deficiency. A lack of vitamins, notably vitamin B, could be the culprit of severe dry lips.
There are other factors that can further dry out your lips. Cold or dry weather can cause the skin to dry out. Add a little wind, and the result could be even worse. And don’t underestimate the sun, even in the winter. UV rays are still present and do damage to the lips. If snow is present, the sun’s rays may be even more harmful reflecting off the white surface. Although it may seem counterintuitive, licking your lips actually dries them out more than moistens them. The saliva does not create a constant layer of moisture. The constant wetting of the lips results in a constant drying of the lips. The same holds true for the moisture that we exhale through our mouths which could pose a problem if the cold weather also brought on a stuffy nose.
How to Prevent Getting Chapped Lips
Although there’s nothing we can do to change the natural oil production in our lips, we can find other ways to keep our lips moisturized. Starting from within, make sure that you are getting proper nutrition, especially your minimum requirement of vitamin B. If the problem is a lack of moisture, we can increase its content in our bodies and in the home. Drinking plenty of fluids will help to keep our skin hydrated. Using a humidifier will keep the air from getting too dry. Just make sure that you have proper air flow to prevent any excessive moisture issues and to maintain proper indoor air quality.
When you brave the cold and the wind, use a scarf to mask your lips from the harsh conditions. You can also lock in moisture with lip balm. The best lip balms will contain soothing and moisturizing ingredients that are non-irritating. Check to make sure that they also have a sunscreen. Using products containing synthetic ingredients can promote or exacerbate chapped lips. This includes lip products as well as toothpastes or mouthwashes, anything that you may have a sensitivity to or that may contain allergens.
Don’t forget to reapply your lip balm. We tend to lose that protective layer while eating, drinking or even just gabbing. And for the women out there, if you’re in a pinch and only have lipstick on hand, you can use it to block out the elements such as cold, wind and sun. Be cautious, however, if it’s a long lasting version as some lipsticks may dry out the lips and could contain other irritants.
What to Look for in Lip Balm
One of the most popular ingredients in lip balm is petrolatum. This goopy mineral oil jelly may feel moisturizing upon application. However, within its slippery coating may be contaminants known as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), a type of polycyclic organic matter (POM). The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) deems that exposure to these compounds creates a major cancer concern with toxicity to humans and the environment. It’s no wonder that Canada and Europe have banned PAHs in cosmetics.
When trying to find the best lip balm to protect your lips, choosing one with natural ingredients can reduce exposure to harmful ingredients as well as other possible allergens. Pure vegetable oils or beeswax are a couple of natural options. Selecting organic varieties when available also helps to ensure that the harmful chemicals were not involved in the production process. Finding products containing additional moisturizers or soothing agents can further alleviate the problem. Calendula, for example, is a soothing herb. Shea butter (butyrospermum parkii) can be absorbed by the lips and has both moisturizing and healing properties. As an added bonus, it has natural UV protection.
(2008) Lip and Mouth Carehttp://www.aad.org/members/media/_doc/Materials_Lip%20and%20Mouth%20Care.pdf. Retrieved January 11, 2011.
(2010) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/chapped-lips/AN01440 mce_href="http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/chapped-lips/AN01440">Dry Skin. Retrieved January 11, 2011.
(2007) Polycyclic Organic Matter (POM)http://www.epa.gov/ttn/atw/hlthef/polycycl.html. Retrieved January 11, 2011.
(2008) Petroleum Jelly on Your Face?http://www.care2.com/greenliving/petroleum-jelly-on-your-face.html Retrieved January 11, 2011.
(2010) Photo by Daniel Wiedemann.