A Comprehensive Look at Lip Care
Screw Chapstick, All My Homies Hate Chapstick
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, just a cartoon deer on the internet with a background in chemistry and a hyperfixation on skin. This is not medical advice.
So I’ve come to the conclusion that I can’t keep shaming y’all for having dry, cracked lips if I don’t offer solutions. Y’all know how much I love shaming, but I actually do have actionable advice here!
Have you noticed that your skin produces oil but you still (at least occasionally) have dry lips? There are a few reasons for this:
Your lips do not produce their own oil the way the rest of your skin does as they do not have sebaceous glands
There is low water content held in the stratum corneum (the topmost layer of your skin) and structurally fewer ceramides (fatty acids) in your lips
Lips experience higher rates of transepidermal water loss than the rest of our skin
Lips are less melanated that the rest of your skin which in turn provides less protection against UV radiation
But why is chapstick the bane of my existence (not unlike coconut oil)? Here’s a sample ingredient list:
This chapstick is formulated with active ingredients like octinoxate, oxybazone, and petrolatum. Octinoxate and oxybazone function as sunscreen, and petrolatum is an occlusive. None of these ingredient are moisturizing or hydrating ingredients. In fact, we don’t get to an ingredient I like until cetyl alcohol (a fatty alcohol) which isn’t even listed until the inactive ingredient section.
Now, this isn’t to say occlusives are a bad thing! Quite the opposite actually - I’m a petroleum jelly maxi, and as we discussed in the humectants post, occlusives are great for locking in moisture by preventing transepidermal water loss:
However, an occlusive itself does not provide hydration to the skin, so my real beef with chapstick isn’t so much its correct usage as it is the marketing campaigns promoting it as a moisturizing product when that simply isn’t the case. To get around this, I prefer to layer my actual moisturizer under an occlusive like petroleum jelly twice per day. Your lips are made of skin, so the same moisturizer can be used for both your lips and your face. Further, when my lips are particularly dry in the winter, I sometimes use this overnight lip mask to restore hydration. You could also layer a moisturizer underneath your chapstick which would be a good move if you’re planning to spend time outside and need the extra SPF.
While we’re here, there is some controversy around the estrogenic effects of petrolatum. In my opinion, there isn’t sufficient evidence of harmful effects, but I do think everyone should manage their own comfort levels and individual risk. If you’re looking for an alternative to petroleum jelly for an occlusive, you might like this one:
For all the seed oil disrespectors, I wouldn’t be concerned about this formulation as I’m not convinced of the inflammatory effects of seed oils through topical application. Omega-6 fatty acids are intregral to the structural integrity of your skin and rightfully have their place in skincare.
And finally, if you’re moisturizing properly, you shouldn’t be frequently running into flaky lip issues. If you are though, exfoliating with your toothbrush (or a simple sugar scrub if you want to feel fancy) should be enough to slough off the rough parts.
That’s all for now! Happy skincare!
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