15 Tips for Beautiful Lips + Shop Skincare Products for Lips!
Oh, lip balm! Let me count the ways I love thee! (I know I'm not the only one!)
Just about every female I know has a lip balm (or 3!) floating somewhere around the bottom of her purse. It fends off dry lips and creates a beautiful, smooth base for even the most matte lipstick. It keeps sunburned and windburned lips at bay. Some balms even come in gorgeous shades of berry. So I ask you - what's not to love??
Obviously, Lots of Us Think Lip Balms Are a Necessity. Why Is That?
It's probably because the skin on our lips is so different from the skin on the rest of the body:
- Our lips are softer than the rest of our skin. Lips have all the same layers (the stratum corneum, epidermis, dermis, & hypodermis) that the rest of your skin has. But in lips, the stratum corneum (which is the harder, protective outer skin layer) is very thin.
- Lips have less melanin than the rest of your skin. Melanin is what gives your skin its color (dark, light, or somewhere in between). So less melanin combined with thinner skin layers means that your lips get their color from the underlying tissue and blood flow. They give your lips their characteristic pink or red color.
- Sebaceous glands make the oils that moisturize your skin. But unlike the rest of your skin, lips don't have them. So your lips get dried out very easily.
- Lips (and your fingertips) have lots of nerve endings compared to the rest of your body. So when your lips are chapped, they really hurt!
"When exposed to moisture, they (your lips) absorb water and plump up. When dehydrated, they dry out and shrink," - Dr. Bruce Bart, Dermatologist for Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis
"One tip to know when your skin is ready for seriously creamy moisturizers: Your lips feel dry first, so you know the humidity has dropped, and it's time for more moisture." - Dr. Ellen Marmur, Dermatologist and Dermatologic Surgeon in New York City
“Our lips dry out ten times faster than the rest of the skin on your face so it’s really important to use extra protection,” - Dr. Melissa Piliang, Dermatologist & Anatomic Pathologist at the Cleveland Clinic
So What Can You Do to Keep Your Lips Beautiful? (Besides Carrying 3 Lip Balms in Your Purse at All Times!)
1. Always carry a water bottle! You've heard it before. Drinking water hydrates your skin and lips.
2. Try not to lick your lips. Saliva contains enzymes that help to break down the food we eat. But those same enzymes can also irritate the delicate skin on your lips. Instead, regularly apply a good lip balm.
3. Breathe through your nose. Breathing through your mouth will make your lips dry.
4. Apply a lip balm before you go to bed.
Many people sleep with their mouths open. Eight hours of breathing in and out through your mouth dries your lips. - Dr. Melissa Piliang
5. Turn on a humidifier at night, especially in the winter when the air is dry. Humidifiers replace the moisture that's missing in dry air. It makes a world of difference in keeping your skin and lips soft and hydrated.
6. Don't brush or rub your lips when they flake or peel.
“It’s better not to scrub your lips or pick the peeling skin off with your teeth or your fingers. That just creates cracks and sores on your lips and can make things worse. Instead, apply a very heavy ointment-based balm that will be soothing and help to heal your lips.” - Dr. Melissa Piliang
7. When choosing a lip balm, avoid camphor, eucalyptus and menthol. These ingredients are drying. They'll make your dry lips even worse. Learn more in our post, 8 Ingredients in Lip Balm & Cosmetics That Cause Allergies.
8. Protect your lips from the sun by using a balm with SPF 30 every day. And reapply frequently.
“Protecting the lips as you do your face is essential to maintaining a healthy pout. Just as the sun ages and damages the skin, the lips are just as susceptible. Wear a lip product with SPF every day, rain or shine.” - Jose Rivera, Makeup Expert
Some chemical sunscreens have been shown to cause allergic reactions. There was a study of 82 people with photoallergic contact dermatitis (when an ingredient - in this case a chemical sunscreen - is chemically altered by light and creates a skin reaction 24 - 48 hours later). The study was published in 2006 in the journal, Photodermatology, Photoimmunology & Photomedicine. In the study, UV filters caused 30.5% of the allergic reactions. The filters that caused the most reactions were:
- benzophenone-3 (Oxybenzone) with 22/82 (26.8%) positive results
- octyl methoxycinnamate (octinoxate) with 8/82 positive results
- benzophenone-4 (Sulisobenzone) and Benzophenone-10 (mexenone & Uvistat) with 2/82 positive results
- phenylbenzimidazole sulphonic acid (Ensulizole)
- ethylbenziliden camphor (Eusolex 6300 and Parsol 5000)
- octyl dimethyl PABA (Padimate O)
Learn more in our post, 8 Ingredients in Lip Balm & Cosmetics That Cause Allergies. Curious about the differences between a physical and chemical sunscreen? Read this: Physical Sunscreen vs. Chemical | Which Is Better?
9. Don't wear matte lipsticks every day. They're drying (which is why they wear so long!). Instead alternate matte lipstick days with moisturizing lipstick days. Another trick - apply a moisturizing lip balm, allow it to dry (so your lipstick doesn't bleed), then apply your matte lipstick.
10. Use a retinoid. Retinoids fight wrinkles. Apply one to your face nightly to help prevent wrinkles around your lips.
11. Use sunscreen on your face. Many of the things we don't like about skin - and associate with getting old - are really a result of sun exposure. Inevitably, skin that is exposed to sun (without some sort of protection like sunscreen) becomes wrinkled. The collagen and elastin are damaged and that damage shows up as wrinkles and dark spots on your face. Including the area around your mouth. So to keep those lips looking beautiful, daily sunscreen is a necessity!
12. Don't smoke. Smoking causes wrinkles - especially around your mouth and eyes. Each time you purse your lips to inhale, you create wrinkles around your lips. Every time you squint to keep the smoke out of your eyes, you add to your crows feet. Over time, those wrinkles become permanent. Your skin is repeatedly exposed to the heat from a burning cigarette. Nicotine causes narrowing of the blood vessels which limits the blood flow to your skin. And you mustn't forget the 4,000+ chemicals in tobacco smoke that damage your skin's collagen and elastin. It all accelerates skin aging making you look old before your time.
"The more cigarettes you smoke and the longer you smoke, the more skin wrinkling you're likely to have — even though the early skin damage from smoking may be hard for you to see initially. Aside from age, smoking is the strongest predictor of facial wrinkling in men and women." - Dr. J. Taylor Hays, Associate Director of the Nicotine Dependence Center, Mayo Clinic
And then there's lip cancer . . . The biggest risk factors for lip cancer are excessive sun exposure and tobacco use - particularly pipe smoking.
13. Go to the dentist. Get your teeth checked by a dentist every year. Dentists are experts at identifying lip cancers.
14. Stay away from tanning beds! Tanning beds contain the same amount and intensity of UV radiation as the sun. They're terrible for your skin!
15. Seek shade. I'll say it again. Stay out of the sun - and in the shade. Your skin will thank you!
Aging causes those lines around your lips too.
As we age, our skin loses collagen and elastin. They give your skin it's structure and elasticity. And we also lose some of our bone and muscle mass. So a face that was once full and smooth over time becomes more gaunt and wrinkled. Lip lines and laugh lines are more prominent. Some of these things can be corrected with treatments like a liquid facelift, surgical facelift, fillers or a thread lift. Learn more about how faces age in our post, The Aging Face | How Juvederm Voluma Restores Volume.
Sometimes plumping your lips with a filler will minimize the lines around your mouth. Sometimes you need to add a skin treatment to get the best effect. Learn more in these posts:
Below you'll find some skincare products to help you get beautiful lips!
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Amy Takken is a registered nurse with 20+ years of experience helping people improve their health. Her in-depth skincare articles have been featured on Nazarian Plastic Surgery and The Palm Beach Center for Facial Plastic & Laser Surgery. Amy loves research and constantly watches for new products and treatments to help you improve your skin’s health – because healthy skin is beautiful! To reach Amy, visit our contact page.
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