To be able to know how to care for dry, cracked lips in the winter, we must first understand why it is happening. Our lips only have thin surface layers of skin so they are typically the first thing to become dry before the rest of our face. In the winter the air is so dry that our skin loses its natural defense, our barrier function. The barrier function is essentially oil that prevents the water in our skin from evaporating or undergoing transepidermal water loss (TEWL). When this happens, our skin cracks and is dry. The lips are so fragile that they are the first to lose their barrier and start to feel very tight and eventually crack.
Whenever our lips chap, our natural tendency is to lick them. This can actually cause them to become worse because our saliva is part of our digestive system so it contains acids that are designed to help break down food. Our saliva increases the dehydration of our lips. Another natural response is to pick or exfoliate cracked lips. Unfortunately, this habit also worsens the problem. The lips are already so thin that picking and exfoliation weakens them even more.
We can take care of our dry cracked lips by reinforcing our skin’s lipid barrier or barrier function. A great product to use is Dermalogica’s Climate Control. It is “a therapeutic balm formulated with exclusive Anti-Ozonate Complex to help heal acutely damaged skin and provide a barrier against future climate assaults.” (The Book, Dermalogica pg.44) Skin heals more quickly when it is kept moist. The key is to seal in moisture and natural hydration. Reinforcing the barrier will also help protect those cracks from becoming infected. Key ingredients to look for are shea butter, petrolatum, castor seed oil, sunflower seed oil, or squalane. Additionally, look for an SPF in your lip balm to ensure more protection and prevention against the sun’s harmful rays. Dermalogica’s Climate Control is a product I cannot live without during the winter season. It not only heals dry, cracked lips, but helps prevent future cracking and damage.