Caring for your lips

Dr Helena Torpinski|General dermatology
18 February 2020


Our lips help us express emotion: they smile when you’re happy, they quiver when you’re about to cry and you tense them when you’re angry.

So you need to look after this important asset.

Genetics determine your lip shape, your facial structure and other features. Ethnicity plays a big part in giving you your lip shape too.

However, the way you treat your lips can make a difference to how your lips look too.

When your lips are dry

Dry skin is caused by loss of water in the  upper layer of skin.

Options for preventing dry lips come in two forms:

Emollients/ moisturisers work by forming an oily layer on top of the skin. This traps water in the skin. Petrolatum, lanolin, mineral oil and dimethicone are common emollients.

Humectants, including glycerine, lecithin and propylene glycol draw water into the outer layer of skin.

Your lips and the sun

The outer layer of our lips are so thin that they can’t be shielded from the sun, which makes your lips more vulnerable to sun damage. They also lack melanin (the pigment that gives skin its colour) so they are more easily sunburned. So always use a sun protection lip balm (i.e. one with an SPF).

Utilising lip balm

Your lips need as much care as the rest of your face, since lips are always exposed to the elements.

A good lip balm can  buffer your delicate lip skin from the elements. It will quickly seal up cracks in your lips thus preventing dryness, irritation and infection.

Choose one:

  • with high emollients (check the ingredient list)
  • with broad spectrum UVP
  • that is alcohol free

Don’t limit yourself to the products with the word balm in them. Lip ointments are also a good choice. Apply your balm/ointment frequently to keep the lip skin covered well.

Also, apply your balm before your lipstick to ensure the protective effect. And to make it easier, keep some in your purse, in your car  and in your desk and bedside table.

Apply both in extremes of cold and heat, as your lips are most vulnerable in these conditions.

Avoid balms with flavours and sweeteners. They are more likely to cause allergic reactions. Flavoured lip balms may even be counterproductive because they encourage lip licking and dryness.

Many popular ingredients in lip balms can actually cause more harm than good. Sensitive skin tends to be irritated by menthol, camphor and eucalyptus (and pawpaw is also used as a meat tenderiser).

If you are allergic to plant based oils and moisturisers like beeswax, shea butter, castor oil or soy bean, switch to petroleum jelly.

When your lips are chapped

Avoid dry air and air conditioning, if possible, as these will make your lips worse.

Don’t lick your lips. The relief is short lived and the enzymes in saliva are quite irritant to skin, which isn’t mucous membrane so it’s not meant to have that kind of moisture on it all the time.

You may also be reacting to ingredients in your lipstick, so change brands or give lipstick a break and see if there’s a change.

Don’t peel or bite flaky skin. The skin on your lips is delicate and picking at it will slow down the healing process.

Don’t exfoliate your lips. This causes further damage to chapped lips. Just apply ointment or lip balm.

And guys, you’re not invincible or impermeable to the elements! You also need to look after your lips: that means lip balm and sun protection.

Lip balm knows no gender – though tinted ones may do so more than clear. If you don’t like using a balm that looks like a lipstick, buy one in a round jar or time, to apply with your finger.

Making the most of the lips you’ve got

Lip shapes and colours go in and out of fashion, and what is considered beautiful may depend on where you and culture you live in (including the trends of pop culture).

Lips thin as you age, they lose volume. The top lip becomes longer and less plump and can make women look older.

This thinning is more obvious in women than men, but does occur in both.

Ageing also causes fine lines to develop around the lip line, especially in smokers, causing a pursed and disapproving appearance. Lipstick can bleed into them, worsening the appearance.

Lip filler injections are a semi-permanent procedure we can perform to plump up thinning lips and to fill in the collapsing lip border.

This can be done in a very subtle way, which may even have those who know you well asking whether you’ve just had a better night’s sleep than normal or whether you’d change brand of makeup.

If you want a consult to talk about lip filler

We’d be happy to see you to discuss treatment with lip filler, and in many cases we can follow the consult with treatment, if you decide this treatment is right for you.

Call our receptionists to schedule your appointment on (02) 9953 9522.