How to take care of your lips, according to skin experts

Smile—it’s our expert skincare provider-approved guide to lip care routines.

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Man applying balm balm to moisturize lips
We’re here to tell you what we know, but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider about your specific health concerns.

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When it comes to skincare, lips are often overlooked. But they shouldn’t be—and we’re here to break down how exactly to take care of your pout, no matter the season.

Why you should make time for a lip care routine

It’s easy for lips to become chapped and cracked, especially in dry and cold months. (We’re lookin’ at you, winter.) Wondering why? For one, the skin on your lips is thinner than elsewhere, which makes lips vulnerable to becoming dry and chapped. Another potential reason is the lack of sebaceous glands,¹ the tiny organs that produce the oil that keeps your skin soft and moisturized. Because your lips don’t have sebaceous glands, they aren’t capable of creating their own moisture, which means they’re more susceptible to dryness and peeling. 

But if you need another reason, lip care just feels good! It’s a small but mighty part of a solid self-care routine, and it’s satisfying to rub smooth, moisturized lips together.

So how can you take care of your lips?

We’ll go over some tips for your lips shortly, but the short answer: hydration and exfoliation. The first part matters the most—you can exfoliate your lips if they can tolerate it, but it isn’t necessary. (More on this later.)

Infographic: The Essential steps of a lip care routine

Diligence is key! Your lips need moisture every day, just like your face does—so keep a lip balm handy and apply it throughout the day. 

Lip balm: apply, apply, apply 

It isn’t really possible to apply lip balm too often—if your lips feel dry or chapped, it’s a good idea to break out your trusty balm. Don’t forget to re-apply after eating or drinking, too! Lip balm can wear off while we feast.

Curology Lip Balm To Lips GIF Loop

Stay hydrated 

Water is your friend! Although chugging it isn’t a magical fix, H2O does still affect the moisture levels in your body. Water helps you in so many ways, like regulating body temperature, keeping internal organs healthy, and helping to get rid of waste.² 

When it comes to your pout, less water means less saliva production, which can make your lips feel dry. The popular rule of thumb says you should drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day, but no hard evidence supports this rule. How much water your body needs varies depending on your age, sex, health, activity level, the climate you live in, and how much hydration you get from other sources, like water-rich foods (aka fruits and veggies).³

Check the ingredients in your lip products

Just like in skincare, ingredients in your lip products matter. The ideal lip balm hydrates your lips and seals in moisture. Ingredients like hyaluronic acid are humectants, which draw moisture into your lips. Occlusives like petroleum jelly, on the other hand, trap that moisture and seal it in.

Avoid these ingredients if your lips constantly feel dry:⁴

  • Eucalyptus

  • Menthol (the tingly feeling in mint-flavored products)

  • Camphor

  • Added flavorings or fragrance

  • Salicylic acid

  • Propyl gallate (a preservative)

Try running a humidifier

When there’s not much humidity in the air or when there’s lots of dry heat, the moisture in your lips can evaporate more quickly. This can lead to—you guessed it—dry, chapped lips. Humidifiers are a solid option to combat this; just leave one on in your bedroom while you sleep.⁵ It’ll add moisture to the air and help your skin and lips stay hydrated.

Don’t lick your lips!

It might feel natural—and even soothing—to lick your lips, but doing so actually dries them out even more.⁶ It’s a vicious cycle of dry lips → licking → even drier lips → more licking, so don’t get caught in it!

Licking can also lead to angular cheilitis, a condition where the corners of the mouth become inflamed. People with angular cheilitis might experience redness, chapping, dryness, and irritation around the mouth area.⁷ If you think you might have this condition and standard lip care just isn’t cutting it, talk to an in-person provider for help!

Closeup of lips with glitter

The do’s and don’ts of lip exfoliation

If your lips can tolerate it, gently exfoliating your lips 1-2 times a week might be a good way to smooth them out and get rid of dead, flaky skin. The keyword is gentle, though—there’s no need to attack your lips with a brush, generally speaking. The skin on your lips is sensitive, and brushes (especially rotating ones) can actually be pretty irritating. 

Speaking of irritating, here’s an important rule to remember: don’t pick at your lips!⁸ Picking at your lips is not exfoliation. As tempting as it might be to rip off an annoying flake, doing so will only lead to further irritation and even pain.

Nowadays, lip scrubs are a popular and ready-made exfoliator. You can also DIY lip scrubs, but make sure any ingredients you use are skin-safe and won’t clog pores!

Some lip scrubs you might want to try:

Remember to protect your lips from the sun

We often wax poetic about the importance of sun protection for your face and body, but it’s key to extend that protection to your lips, too. Your lips can get sunburned, which isn’t a fun experience. Not-so-fun fact: Your lower lip may be 12 times more likely to develop skin cancer than the top lip⁹—so proper protection is essential.

The symptoms of sunburnt lips

Typically, symptoms can include:

  • Lips that are redder than normal

  • Lips that feel more dry or chapped than normal

  • A tender, sensitive sensation

  • Peeling, blistering, or swelling

How can you prevent sunburnt lips?

Luckily, there are a couple of easy ways to help prevent sunburn:

  • Wear a lip balm with sunscreen. Broad-spectrum and SPF 30+ are ideal.

  • Wear sun-protective clothing. Wide-brimmed hats are a good choice since they provide shade for your whole face!

What to do if you experience lip irritation

Lip irritation is no fun, so it’s important to take proper care of your lips to help prevent it from getting worse. If your lip irritation starts to flare up, stop using any products in that area—including lip products like balms and lipsticks, cleansers, and your Curology Custom Formula. You can still use your Custom Formula and other products as you normally would on the rest of your face, but avoid the lip area for 4-5 days. Also avoid food that can irritate your lips even more, like acidic, spicy, or hot foods.

Try applying a petroleum jelly like Vaseline on your lips, morning and night. Besides sealing in much-needed moisture, it can also help prevent your Custom Formula and other skincare products from migrating to the lip area. 

Our suggested lip balms and treatments

Some hydrating lip balms we love:

Some SPF lip balms we suggest:

Some overnight lip masks we can’t get enough of:

Curology lip balm collection

Curology can help you kiss dry lips goodbye

It’s not just lip service—we’re here to help you be your best, sufficiently-moisturized self. If you’re an existing Curology member, just add your lip balm flavor of choice to your next shipment—easy. 

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

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If you’re new to Curology, you can try it all for free*: the Curology lip balm, our cleanser and moisturizer set, and a Custom Formula personalized for your skin goals by a dermatology provider. Just take a quick skin quiz and send us some selfies. If Curology is right for you, we’ll send you a 30-day supply of our recommended products for just $4.95 shipping and handling.

P.S. We did our research so you don’t have to.

  1. Babak Jahan-Parwar, MD, Keith Blackwell, MD. Lips and Perioral Region Anatomy. Medscape. (2013, October 23). 

  2. Water and Healthier Drinks. Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

  3. Get the Facts: Drinking Water and Intake. Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

  4. 7 Dermatologist’ Tips for Healing Dry Chapped Lips. American Academy of Dermatology. 

  5. 7 Dermatologist’ Tips for Healing Dry Chapped Lips. American Academy of Dermatology. 

  6. Chapped lips: What’s the best remedy?. Mayo Clinic.

  7. Alim Devani and Benjamin Barankin, MD FRCPC. Answer: Can you identify this condition?. Canadian Family Physician. (2007).

  8. 7 Dermatologist’ Tips for Healing Dry Chapped Lips. American Academy of Dermatology.

  9. Agostini, T., et. al. Metastatic Squamous Cell Carcinoma of the Lower Lip: Analysis of the 5-Year Survival Rate. Archives of craniofacial surgery. (2017).

• • •
Our policy on product links:Empowering you with knowledge is our top priority. Our reviews of other brands’ products in this post are not paid endorsements—but they do meet our medically fact-checked standards for ingredients (at the time of publication).
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Nicole Hangsterfer Avatar

Nicole Hangsterfer, PA-C

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