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How you can prevent ‘lip eczema’ and protect your lips this winter

The weather outside is about to get frightful, and the effects the chillier temperatures will have on our lips may not be so delightful.

You’ve likely heard of eczema as it relates to your skin. However, it can also affect your lips. If you have it, you’ll probably know it. Symptoms of lip eczema include dryness and flakiness, a red rash in the lip area, itching, pain, and inflammation. It may come and go throughout the winter or chronically stick around until the weather warms.

Though winter can be a busy time for people, giving your lips a little extra TLC to help them deal with the elements is essential. Here are some top tips on how to protect lips in the winter.

a close up of a woman's lips

Why do my lips hurt in the winter?

There’s a science behind why winter doesn’t exactly get a warm welcome from our lips. Unlike other parts of our body, the skin on our lips doesn’t have oil glands to help protect them from the elements, experts share. As a result, they’re more prone to becoming dry and flakey and cracking.

It’s not just the weather outside, either. Indoors, where many people spend most of their time when it’s cold, the heat has a tendency to dry out the air—and our lips.

When our lips feel dry, we may naturally lick them to try to regain some moisture. The problem? Ironically, licking your lips actually dries them out more, and the enzymes in saliva designed to digest food serve as irritants. If you put a product, like lip balm, on your lips, licking them may remove it. It becomes a cycle, and it increases the likelihood of developing lip eczema.

How can I protect my lips naturally?

Though there are plenty of products you can try, you may wish to first opt for a natural remedy. Here’s how to protect lips in the winter without high-tailing it to the beauty aisle.

  • Don’t lick. Rule No. 1: Resist the urge to lick your lips. This step will take a conscious effort. Practicing mindfulness through breathing exercises and yoga regularly can help make you more in-tune with your body,  which can lead to you being more aware of unconscious actions like lip-licking.
  • Avoid biting or brushing lips when they’re dry or flakey. If you’re experiencing flakes, you may want to wipe them away. However, biting or brushing can irritate or crack lips further, prolonging an eczema flare-up.
  • Hydrate. Drink at least eight glasses of water per day to help keep your whole body, lips included, adequately hydrated.
  • Eat right. Water will help keep lips moisturized, but diet counts, too. A 2021 study suggested women consume products rich in vitamins and antioxidants, including vitamins A and E and copper, to hydrate skin. Fish, dairy products and squash have vitamin A. You can find vitamin E in spinach and nuts.
  • Turn on the humidifier. A humidifier will add some much-needed moisture to the air, combating the dryness produced by heat, and potentially protecting your lips.
    a portrait of a woman with well-cared for lips

Which ingredients are best for lip care for winter?

We use hats to protect our heads and gloves to keep our hands warm in the winter. Since our lips remain exposed, it can help to add some (invisible) layers through products or at-home recipes. Check the labels or recipes for these ingredients.

  • SPF. Sunscreen isn’t just for summer. The UV rays don’t hibernate in the winter, and sunburn can dry out lips. Look for a balm or chapstick with SPF protection.
  • Coconut oil. A recent study indicated that coconut oil could moisturize and serve as an anti-inflammatory for the skin.
  • Jojoba oil: The National Eczema Foundation says jojoba oil is a safe oil that may keep skin moisturized.
  • Petroleum jelly. Using petroleum jellies, like Vaseline, can help heal irritated, dry, and cracked, writes the American Academy of Dermatology Association.
  • Avocado oil. A review of natural lip balms indicated that avocado oil had a soothing effect on lips.

Lip eczema can cause redness, rashes, inflammation, and flakiness. It’s not simply an appearance issue, though — it can be painful and distracting. In the winter, the cold air outside and dry air inside can exacerbate the condition. Prevention is the best cure. Refraining from licking lips and using a humidifier can help mitigate lip eczema. If you do have it, it’s important to try to treat it as soon as symptoms appear so you can soothe and heal the issue. Choosing products with oils, such as coconut, jojoba, and avocado oil, can provide relief. If the condition is chronic or you’re not finding the solution you need, speak with a dermatologist.

BlissMark provides information regarding health, wellness, and beauty. The information within this article is not intended to be medical advice. Before starting any diet or exercise routine, consult your physician. If you don’t have a primary care physician, the United States Health & Human Services department has a free online tool that can help you locate a clinic in your area. We are not medical professionals, have not verified or vetted any programs, and in no way intend our content to be anything more than informative and inspiring.

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