We tend to use the term ‘winter’ loosely in Dubai, but last week’s weather (snow in Ras Al Khaimah included) made it very real. And while beauty problems like frizzy hair and brittle nails feel like a bother, it’s dry and flaky lips that are particularly irritating – it’s impossible to ignore that sandpaper-like sensation, applying lipstick becomes virtually impossible, and sometimes no amount of lip balm can remedy the situation.
So why do our lips suffer more during the cold months than the rest of the year? “Winter is a real trigger for dry skin,” says Dr. Emma Wedgeworth, dermatologist and skincare expert for Blistex. “The drop in temperature alongside a low UV index and low humidity causes a reduction in the hydration levels of the skin and causes our skin barrier to become more fragile. This is why we are much more likely to see dry, flaky lips at this time of year.”
It’s not just outdoor conditions that contribute to a parched pout, either. “This is compounded by indoor heating, which further dehydrates our skin,” Wedgeworth explains. “Lips are very vulnerable to dehydration; they lack oil-producing glands and the outer layer of skin that is responsible for holding in water is much thinner than elsewhere. These structural nuances, combined with constant exposure to the elements and potential irritants like saliva and salty foods, mean the lips are at real risk of drying out.”
Add to that the fact that some are more prone to dryness and you’ve got a recipe for sore lips. “Skin barrier function – our skin’s ability to hold water in and keep irritants out – is partly determined by our environment, but also by our genetics,” she says. “We know that some people’s skin and lips are much more sensitive to drying out because the skin is less efficient at holding in water and, therefore, acting as a barrier against the environment.”
Here, Wedgeworth offers five tips to help keep your lips healthy and hydrated in winter.
Don’t Lick Your Lips
“Saliva is very alkaline, whereas our skin is naturally acidic. This means saliva can act as a potent irritant to the skin. The act of licking also removes the natural oil layer from the skin. While licking your lips can make them feel temporarily hydrated, it’s one of the most common reasons for irritant contact dermatitis around the lips.”
And Don’t Pick Your Lips
“It’s very common for people to pick off those pesky flakes that develop on the lips. However, this can be damaging for the skin, causing a cycle of bleeding and flaking. Hydrating the lips regularly will help to reduce the flakes from developing.”
Choose Makeup Carefully
“Lip cosmetics are the most common cause of allergic reactions to the lips. If you are using lipsticks or glosses, choose a nourishing formula that won’t dry your lips out.”
Be Careful with Skincare
“If you are using active skincare products like acid toners or retinols, your lips will be very prone to drying out. Even if you don’t apply directly to the lip area, it is very common to get migration to this area. Avoid the lip area altogether and apply a hydrating lip product before you use your active skincare over the rest of the face.”
“If your lips aren’t producing enough oil naturally in the winter, fake it until you make it. Using a carefully chosen lip balm will replenish the lipids and compensate for the loss of moisture. Reapply regularly throughout the day. The Blistex ‘Intensive Moisturizer’ contains shea butter and glycerin to boost the natural moisturizing factors in lips – and allantoin is super soothing. Even once the irritation has settled, keep using the product to prevent painful chapping and irritation.”
Blistex ‘Intensive Moisturizer’