Q: I hear lip balm makes chapped lips worse. What else can I do to help keep my lips smooth? How can I deal with chapped lips?

Dealing with chapped lips

Check your cheilitis at the door. Welcome to lip balm anonymous./HED

A 12-step program to banish the balm may seem dramatic, but many people feel so hooked they are willing to try. Mainstream products could be making the situation worse by incorporating ingredients that encourage excessive re-application. Surprisingly, “medicated” balms may be the worst culprits. They regularly include alcohol, menthol, camphor and salicylic acid–ingredients that are initially soothing but quickly evaporate or break skin down, leading to another application. Avoid this cycle by carefully reading the ingredient list.

Maintaining healthy lips requires products that lock moisture in as well as shield against harsh elements. Sabotaging your lips’ recovery can happen quickly so be sure to follow the proper self care. Persistent dryness, despite using the right products, may be attributed to medications, Vitamin B2 deficiency, lip licking/biting/rubbing, mouth breathing, allergies, too much Vitamin A, toothpaste containing sodium lauryl sulfate or eating too many acidic foods.

Avoid balms and choose a product that does, both such as cocoa butter, petrolatum or mineral oil. Beeswax is a common shield and glycerin, lactic acid, urea and alpha-hydroxy acid can provide moisture. Avoid products with colour and fragrance as they can be irritating.

CHOOSE products that

Protect & soothe – petrolatum, cocoa butter, mineral oil

Shield – Beeswax (won’t help if lips are already chapped)

Moisturize – glycerin, lactic acid, urea

Contain – SPF 15 or greater

AVOID products that

Have – colour, fragrance, taste

Contain – alcohol, menthol, camphor, salicylic acid

Self care

Don’t pick, scrub or peel lip flakes (irritating & may precipitate a cold sore)

Don’t touch, rub or bite lips

Do NOT lick your lips; saliva quickly evaporates, drying out the lip

Apply petrolatum at bedtime (especially if you’re a mouth breather)

Drink more water

Use a humidifier (especially in the dry winter months)

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