It used to be that – other than a bold red lipstick – it was, frankly, a little difficult to get terribly excited about lip care products. A swipe of your trusty Chapstick and you could call it a day.
Now, as with all skincare categories, lip care has grown exponentially and includes such things as exfoliators, overnight masks, primers, lip oils and more.
Meanwhile, lip balms have moved well beyond the sweet Lip Smackers of the ’90s; the pinnacle these days is, perhaps, the incredibly chic (and refillable) Rouge Hermès lip balm. If you are seeking sweetness, though, Laneige’s Lip Glowy Balm in Gummy Bear is a delicious-smelling and super-nourishing option.
Anyway, lips deserve to be taken care of. For one, dry and chapped lips are both uncomfortable and visually displeasing, and make you more vulnerable to painful and unsightly blisters. What’s more, as our lips are delicate and don’t have oil glands like other parts of the skin, they’re more susceptible to drying out, so preventive care makes a lot of sense too.
Meanwhile, increased wearing of face masks can lead to dryer lips. Add to that the impact of weather and stress on lips, and well, investing in lip care feels like a sure bet.
Here’s what you need to know about maintaining soft, healthy lips.
Lip care for the seasons
Whether it’s freezing cold or scorching sun, the seasons and the changing of them can be particularly hard on our lips. Katie Howard, sales and education executive at Fresh Beauty, a Boston brand that celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, says it’s important to look after your lips no matter what the weather report.
“The skin on our lips is unique and only has between three to five cellular layers, meaning it is a very delicate and fragile area that needs extra care. No matter rain, hail or shine, lip care is fundamental in an everyday routine,” she says.
“In winter when the temperature drops and the wind picks up, we need to ensure our lip care is full of occlusive ingredients which will lock in all humectants [hydrating ingredients] by creating a barrier. At Fresh Beauty, one of our main occlusive ingredients is shea butter and we use many humectants such as sugar and hyaluronic acid .”
The brand, which has a range of masks, balms and scrubs for the lips, recently launched a new product, Sugar Recovery Lip Mask Advanced Therapy, which Howard recommends for the winter when lips can be extra dry.
Meanwhile, when it comes to the most important skincare product of them all, sunscreen , for day time you should look for a lip balm with SPF. Australian brand Ultra Violette (stocked at Sephora and online) has one with an SPF 50 that comes in a range of hues too.
Oils ain’t oils
“Can you use petroleum jelly on your lips?” is a question you might have tapped into Google at some point and the answer is, well, yes you can, but there might be better options. Petroleum jelly is an occlusive moisturiser, meaning that it holds in moisture but doesn’t add it in. So it protects but won’t nourish.
As Howard notes, you need both occlusive agents and humectant ones for effective lip care. These will work in tandem, the humectants hydrating and repairing and the occlusives locking in all the good stuff and offering protection.
As for the ingredients to avoid? “Any ingredients that you do not want to ingest! It’s true, we consume a very large amount of our lip care,” says Howard.
One option to try is a lip oil. Janet Hayward, founder of Ipsum Skin, a luxury Australian skincare brand whose products are made with native plant oils, has found success with her Ipsum Lip Oil Balm. It has even been spotted in a Kim Kardashian Instagram story about her skincare routine and is a favourite of top beauty editors and celebrity facialist Joanna Czech.
Another great option is Charlotte Tilbury’s Magic Lip Oil which, as well as smoothing and plumping the lips, contains Swertian leaf extract to help reduce vertical lip lines.
How to amp up your lip care routine
The array of new lip care products can be bewildering, but as with any skincare routine it’s about finding something that works for you.
In addition to applying your favourite lip balm or oil regularly, Hayward recommends using a gentle exfoliant on the lips once or twice a week to lay the foundation for smooth and supple lips. This will “smooth away the build-up of dead skin cells,” she says.
“For stubborn flakiness, use a little face oil on a very soft or baby toothbrush and gently massage lips to loosen and remove loose skin.”
However, as Howard notes, be mindful of the exfoliant you choose.
“Any AHA/BHA resurfacing ingredients can be too high in actives which can sensitise your lips,” she says. “Physical lip exfoliants can also scratch your lips and cause micro tears if the granules have sharp edges. Sugar is a fantastic ingredient to use as a natural physical exfoliant, which is the main ingredient in Fresh Beauty’s Sugar Lip Polish.”
Meanwhile, if you want to turbocharge your lip care regime while you sleep (the ideal beauty regime really), you could try an overnight mask such as Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask, an antioxidant-rich formulation with an intensely moisturising effect.
This article was first published in South China Morning Post.