Getting Lippy: Dealing With Chapped Lips

Updated: 24/1/20

We’ve moved officially from “nippy” to very fecking cold and even this minor change from cold to colder means that the skin can react in irrational ways. The skin is an organ but it can also be a bit dramatic, especially in its more delicate regions. The skin found on your lips is exceptionally delicate and fine… this is why we kiss with them!

It can feel honestly tasking to keep them suckers moist. In these cold winter months, you can apply lip balm every twenty seconds and not notice a difference. It is important to bear in mind that more than one thing could be contributing to the desert-dryness of those smackers of yours!

The technical name for chapped lips is cheilitis and that covers all chapping, inflammation, redness, soreness and flaking. The inside of your lips is mucosa, AKA mucous membrane, and when this becomes irritated, it can be incredibly painful.

The Causes Of Chapped Lips

General Sensitivity To Ingredients

I feel that many do not treat their lip skin with the same amount of care as they do the rest of the skin. Lips are less susceptible to showing the symptoms of skin conditions and, bar when they are completely bloody dry, it is hard to tell how they are just by looking at them and feeling them. Because of this, people slap whatever they want on them willy nilly.

Think about how many times you have gone to sleep with a bit of toothpaste in the corner of your mouth, or the times you’ve substituted lip balm for hand cream when you were stuck. Toothpaste contains ingredients that can highly irritate even the hardier skin, let alone the delicate lips!

Even lip balms marketed as “healing” contain ingredients that make the lips tingle or sting to give the effect of medication but do nothing bar that! Menthol and camphor are two of these such ingredients, and as it happens, it is incredibly common for people to be allergic to them, meaning that your lip balm could be exacerbating the dryness, irritation and inflammation rather than doing ANYTHING to stop it… 

Some lip balms even contain salicylic acid. Obviously, I have been shouting the phrase “salicylic acid” from the roof tops for the majority of my life so far, but I am wary of using it so frequently on such a delicate area. BHAs like salicylic acid cause the skin to exfoliate, which is a great thing when used to your advantage, but it could leave your lips feeling a bit raw and tender.

The Weather

Cold weather with low humidity and winds strips the lips of all moisture. Why don’t your lips re-moisturise themselves in the same way that the skin does? Well, the skin of the lips doesn’t have the oil-producing glands that the rest of the skin does, meaning that when moisture is gone, it’s gone. This can cause the lips to crack, chap and flake and when this occurs, you need the treatment to go deeper than just the surface to be able to heal the skin efficiently.

In a similar vein, hot weather and sun exposure can dry out the lips too, especially as many forget to use a lip balm with SPF - your lips need light protection just as much as the rest of you!

Licking Your Lips Excessively

This is the one that we all heard from the parents from a young age. “STOP THAT, YOU’LL ONLY MAKE THEM WORSE!”. Well, as it happens, that is not an old wives’ tale but a real cause of chapped, sore lips.

Our saliva is essential but exposing the skin to too much saliva causes dryness, irritation and pain. There is even a form of dermatitis entitled “Lip Lickers Dermatitis”!


This is the easiest one to understand: no water, no moisture. When you are dehydrated, your skin and your mouth react in kind.

Breathing Through Your Mouth

I find that those who breathe through their mouths are more likely to suffer from chronically dry lips, probably due to the fact that more air is passing directly across the lips. We NEED the nose to filter air!

What To Do About Chapped Lips

Like everything else when it comes to skin, prevention is easier than treatment. Rather than spending them euro coins on more treatments than you could shake a stick at, regularly wearing a moisturising and conditioning lip balm, especially one that contains SPF, is the key to all of your lip woes. Look for ingredients like lanolin (a substance that comes from sheeps’ sebaceous glands…. Best not to think about it too much), honey, as it is a humectant meaning that it keeps moisture in, bees wax, for similar humectant properties and shea butter, which is a great natural moisturiser.

The waxes found in lip balm are what protect the skin and the emollient ingredients give it back its moisture. What the waxes do is create an occlusive barrier on the surface of the lips, disallowing the cold, wind and whatever else from hitting the skin directly.

If your lips are already chapped and peeling, you gotta hit them with an exfoliating scrub. The only time that I ever suggest manual exfoliation is for dry, flakey lips. What I do is make a DIY sugar scrub. Use sugar and a natural oil like jojoba oil or coconut oil, mix them together to form a gritty paste and VERY gently rub the concoction on to your lips in a circular motion. Rinse it off (or eat it if you are feeling bold and have used an edible oil) and then apply a thick layer of your usual emollient lip balm. 

It may be best to avoid particularly drying lipsticks for a while if you're lips have already become chapped. A very matte lipstick will not look its best as it will cling to any dryness and flakiness and it will only serve to further dry out the lips.

My favourites at the moment when it comes to sorting out dry lips would be the IMAGE Ormedic Sheer Pink Lip Enhancement Complex. This lip balm makes an instant difference to lips in need of a bit of love by providing immediate hydration, diminishing the appearance of fine lines and supports collagen in your lips, which helps to provide anti-ageing care for your lips. It has a sheer rosy tint for a bit of lip glam, and contains ubiquinone AKA Co-Enzyme Q10 (for anti-oxidant protection) and vitamin E, too. 

If the pink tint has you unsure, my other pick would be ASAP Skincare Hydrating Lip Balm. This is a clear balm, which contains niacinamide, a form of vitamin B3. It also provides SPF 15, as well as powerful antioxidants. It's ideal as a shield between you and the cold weather which might otherwise cause dry, cracked lips. 

Like any other part of the skin, taking omegas, such as Advanced Nutrition Programme Skin Omegas+ helps the lips to retain moisture. You can of course also get your omegas through eatings lots of fish, avocado, seeds and nuts!