Minnesota winters bring with them plenty of challenges for our skin, but perhaps one of the most frustrating is how it wreaks absolute havoc on our lips. All season long, you’re contending with painful windburn, chapping, dryness, and flaking. Even smiling can be painful, causing cracks deep enough to bleed.

So, what’s the solution to winter’s war on your pout?

Read on, and we’ll show you how to keep your smile healthy, hydrated, and holiday party-ready!

Why Does Winter Cause Dryness and Damage to Our Lips?

Your lips really have the odds stacked against them when it comes to contending with the cold due to several characteristics that make them particularly vulnerable.

First, lip skin is some of the thinnest, most delicate skin on your body, which makes it more prone to damage and moisture loss in the harsh elements. Making the problem even worse is that they lack oil glands, meaning they can’t produce the natural, moisture-retaining sebum like the rest of your body.

They’re also constantly exposed to the elements, so they have to confront temperature fluctuations, dry air, and harsh wind without the benefit of protective gear. Even if you remember to wrap a scarf around your face when you step outside, warm indoor air is much dryer in the winter unless you’re armed with humidifiers at home and in the office.

Finally, your lips are constantly in motion. Every time you laugh, talk, smile, eat, and drink, it causes the dehydrated skin to stretch, but because it lacks moisture, it’s far more likely to tear at stress points.

That combination of traits makes them particularly prone to painful winter woes, including:

  • Chapped lips: Dryness and flaking caused by cold, dry air sucking moisture out of your skin
  • Cracking and bleeding: Eventually, chapped lips start to develop micro-tears when your mouth moves. Those tiny cracks can turn into large, inflamed wounds in constant danger of reopening unless you do some serious hydration rehab.
  • Cold sores: If you’re prone to cold sores, they’re far more likely to flare up in the winter because your body’s immune system is constantly stressed from fighting back against colds and the flu.
  • Lip licker’s dermatitis: What’s one of the first things we tend to do when our lips feel dry? For many people, their instinct is to lick them in a desperate attempt to reintroduce some moisture to the equation. However, saliva evaporates very quickly, so we get stuck in a chronic cycle of dryness called lip licker’s dermatitis.
  • Angular cheilitis: Lip licker’s dermatitis can lead to angular cheilitis, a condition where red, swollen patches develop at the corners of the mouth due to saliva buildup.
  • Windburn: As cold, dry air rushes past your lips, it strips out the moisture and causes painful inflammation.
  • Sunburn: The end of summer’s sunny days doesn’t mean it’s time to put away your SPF. Winter UV rays are just as dangerous, and if you’re not protecting your lips, they can end up with a nasty sunburn.

The Dos of Winter Lip Care

Now that you know why your lips need so much attention when the mercury drops, let’s go over our dermatologist-recommended lip care routine that keeps your pout hydrated and well-nourished.

  1. Start every morning by gently cleansing your lips using a mild, hydrating cleanser and lukewarm water.
  2. Immediately after cleansing, apply a generous layer of high-quality SPF 15 or higher lip balm loaded with protective occlusives and hydrating humectants like beeswax, petrolatum, ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and natural oils like almond, coconut, or jojoba. These ingredients will work together to rehydrate your lips and lock in that moisture. Reapply after eating or drinking and every time you go outside. We love Dr. Dan’s Cortibalm because the hydrocortisone helps speed up the healing process for extreme chapping and Elta MD UV Lip Balm Broad Spectrum SPF 36 for day time protection.
  3. Before you head to bed each night, coat your lips in a thick, rich, moisturizing balm or mask to repair and hydrate as you sleep. Revision Skincare Youthful Lip Replenisher is an ideal night treatment with hyaluronic acid, vitamins C & E, Green Tea and Shea Butter to hydrate, naturally plump and restore the lips natural color
  4. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to replenish the moisture that the dry air saps away.
  5. Once or twice a week, treat your smile to a gentle exfoliating treatment to remove dead skin cells. You can whip up a homemade scrub with sugar and olive oil or use a clean, soft toothbrush to gently buff away flakes.
  6. Eat a diet rich in skin-loving nutrients like vitamin A to repair damaged skin and retain moisture, vitamin C to protect collagen, vitamin E to keep your lips smooth, and zinc for moisture retention.
  7. Whenever possible, keep a humidifier running while you’re indoors to prevent further moisture loss.

The Don’ts of Winter Skin Care

A good lip care routine is only half of the equation! You also have to be aware of what to avoid so you’re not undoing all the hard work you’ve put into caring for your pout:

  1. Don’t lick your lips. The momentary relief only worsens things by causing your skin to dry out faster. Instead, pick up some extras of your favorite balm so you always have it handy.
  2. Don’t use any lip products that have irritating ingredients like alcohol and fragrance, both of which irritate sensitive skin and cause further dryness,
  3. Don’t breathe through your mouth. It’s tough to do when you’re congested, but as much as possible, breathe through your nose to prevent exposing your lips to even more dry air with every inhale.
  4. Don’t go outside without a scarf or face mask over your lips to get them out of the elements.
  5. Don’t pick at or peel the flaking skin.
  6. Don’t drink too much caffeine or alcohol. Both are diuretics and cause water loss through more frequent urination.
  7. Don’t wear matte or long-wearing lip products. They are incredibly drying, so it’s better to opt for a tinted balm that will restore moisture instead of stripping it away.

When to Talk to Your Dermatologist

Sometimes, no amount of at-home care can help severely damaged lips heal. That’s when it’s time to schedule an appointment with Dr. Elizabeth Briden of Advanced Dermatology & Cosmetic Institute.

Not only will she work with you to develop a lip routine designed for your specific concerns, but she can also assess for any underlying medical conditions that might be causing persistent lip dryness.

Don’t suffer through another Minnesota winter with painfully dry, cracked lips. Start with a simple lip care routine, and be sure to stop by AST to browse our line of dermatologist-recommended lip products to protect your pout.