As the weather gets colder, you may consider adjusting your skin care routine to reduce dryness. However, you may forget to protect your lips against harsh weather, windburn, and the sun, resulting in dry chapped lips. Knowing how to prevent chapped lips can keep you comfortable and healthy throughout the colder seasons.

Causes of Dry Chapped Lips in Winter

Your lips are more susceptible to dryness in the colder months. There are several causes of dry chapped lips in winter, mainly related to weather, certain habits, and your lip care routine.

The environment plays a major role. Sun exposure can cause chapped lips even when temperatures are low due to low humidity levels. Other weather-related stressors in the winter include high winds and harsh elements like snow, rain, and extreme cold. Mixed with excessive use of central heating indoors, you have an automatic recipe for dry skin.

Some of your habits, even those you may do subconsciously, can also lead to dry chapped lips. If you excessively lick your lips thinking this will hydrate them, you may be worsening the problem without realizing it. Other bad lip habits include biting and picking at areas of dryness, which can puncture the skin and lead to severe cracking.

Finally, the lack of proper lip care could be a culprit. If you feel the constant need to apply lip balm, the formulas may not be helping at all. Certain ingredients, especially those that leave a tingling sensation, can dry out your lips further.

How to Prevent Chapped Lips

Get ahead of the issue and prevent dry chapped lips in winter with these tips:

1. Don't Lick, Pick, or Bite Your Lips

When your lips are chapped and sore, it's tempting to lick them for relief. After all, the moisture in your saliva will soothe the dryness, right? Actually, excessively licking your lips is counterproductive and can worsen the situation because the enzymes in your saliva can be too harsh for your lips. And once your saliva evaporates, your lips are left drier than before.

Similarly, picking and biting at chapped or cracked lips can break the skin, exposing your lips to bacteria and debris. This can cause sores to form, which may become infected. When your lips are uncomfortably dry and cracked, it's better to address the problem with lip products that heal, protect, and moisturize than to take matters into your own hands.

2. Avoid Irritating Ingredients

Believe it or not, your lip products might hurt your lips more than help them. Certain ingredients are habit-forming, creating a vicious cycle of repeatedly reapplying lip balm without experiencing relief.

According to Cleveland Clinic, you should avoid ingredients like phenol, menthol, and salicylic acid in your lip care products as they cause a tingling sensation in the lips, making you more prone to dryness and irritation and causing over-exfoliation. You should also steer clear of added scents and fragrances since the chemicals involved are often associated with irritation or allergies.

3. Use Healing Formulas

Prevent chapped lips in the winter by regularly applying lip balms, moisturizers, or ointments formulated with healing properties that seal in water and reduce moisture loss in your lips. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends the following ingredients to help heal chapped lips: petrolatum, sun-protective ingredients, shea butter, ceramides, and more.

4. Apply an SPF Lip Balm

It may go without saying, but if you're applying sunscreen to your face and body, you should also be protecting your lips. Skin cancer, unfortunately, can also affect the lips. Further, there is a misconception that sunscreen is not necessary in the winter—but this couldn't be further from the truth. Sunscreen is a year-round necessity. Wearing sunscreen in the winter helps protect from ultraviolet (UV) rays that reflect off snow and penetrate through cloudy skies.

The EltaMD UV Lip Balm SPF 36 provides UV protection and contains petrolatum for moisturized lips. Be sure to reapply every two hours.

5. Stay Hydrated

Dehydration increases your proneness to chapped lips. Hydrate your lips from the inside by drinking plenty of water and eating a variety of foods for dry skin. During the winter when the air is dry from heaters, using a humidifier indoors can also hydrate your skin from the outside.

Don't Skip Your Lips

Maintaining healthy skin in the winter requires caring for your face, body, hands, and lips—meaning you should essentially have a skin care routine from head to toe. Your lips may not need as extensive of a routine as your facial skin, but you shouldn't ignore them. With some effort, you can have soft, hydrated, and supple lips all winter long.


  • Lacey Muinos

    Lacey is a Southern California-based freelance writer who combines her passions—fitness, health, and a vegan lifestyle—with her work to help readers feel and be their best. Her work has been featured in Healthline, Livestrong, Verywell Fit, Eat This Not That, KinderBeauty, and more.

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