SKINCARE

Your lip balm may be causing chapped lips, says expert

Exposure to too much sun can cause your lips to chap.

In Summary

•Lack of moisture or constant contact with saliva can cause the lips to dry.

•Bees wax is also known to have antimicrobial properties, making it a healing balm for cracked lip.

Dry, chapped lips./COURTESY
Dry, chapped lips./COURTESY

Your lips are comprised of extremely thin layers of delicate skin that make them prone to chapping and drying.

At times, lack of moisture or constant contact with saliva can cause the lips to dry, leaving you with those painful cracks.

According to dermatologist Leonard Kamau, if you have ever applied a ton of lip balm, but you still feel like your lips are still dry, it is probably because dead skin was making it impossible for those hydrating ingredients to sip in.

“Exfoliating not only removes dry skin, but it helps make lips soft, moist and smooth. Exfoliating with a honey-sugar scrub or lip balm and toothbrush can help prevent dehydration of the lips which may cause swelling, bleeding or dryness,” Kamau said.

Kamau advised limiting lip exfoliation to at least once a week because it is enough to remove the dry skin.

“As you exfoliate, remember to be gentle and do it in circular motions, because your lips are sensitive. Use a soft brush, so that you do not hurt your skin,” he said.

Sugar, which is a natural exfoliant, when mixed with honey becomes a great exfoliant and moisturiser.

Lip aftercare

Your lips cannot produce as much melanin as the rest of your skin. Exposure to too much sun can cause them to chap.

Zinc oxide is a common ingredient in sunscreens for both skin and lips because it helps block UV rays and can help prevent certain pre-cancers of the lip, like actinic cheilitis, and skin cancers such as squamous cell carcinoma.

"Be cautious if it contains chemical sunscreen as chemical sunscreen ingredients can irritate the skin," he said.

"If your lip balm is pigmented, it is possible that titanium dioxide may also be present."

The World Health Organisation's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has determined that titanium dioxide is a “possible carcinogen for humans”

“Do not apply your sunscreen on the lips, instead, buy a lip balm with sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher, which will also help prevent outbreaks,” he said.

He advised drinking at least 8 cups of water, which prevents dehydration and benefits your skin in general.

Bees wax lip balm
Bees wax lip balm
Image: Margaret Wanjiru

A good lip balm does not necessarily need anything fancy, just a blend of high-quality hydration to soothe your lips and coat them in moisture.

It should contain beeswax, plant oils like argan, avocado oil, and natural sunscreen.

Beeswax is also known to have antimicrobial properties, making it a healing balm for a cracked lip.

“Many lip balms contain irritating ingredients which can make your chapped lips worse. Avoid ingredients like fragrance, flavouring, menthol, eucalyptus, petroleum jelly and parabens,” he said.

“The petroleum jelly seals the lips so moisture doesn’t escape, meaning your lips will dry because moisture can’t get out and air and moisture can’t get in,” he said.

Parabens ( a class of widely used preservatives in cosmetic and pharmaceutical products) such as methylparaben and butylparaben have been shown to have adverse health effects.