Pucker up, lovely lips
Nobody wants to have dry, cracked lips and it took me years to find products that worked properly, partly because I was using treatments that were doing more harm than good in the long term. After learning about the ingredients on the labels I was pleased to discover that £20+ lip balms and other treatments weren’t necessary, leaving me free to save my money for other things, like gin and earrings.
Lips are very sensitive and have hardly any oil glands, so they don’t moisturise themselves very well naturally and can suffer badly from the effects of strong sunlight, irritating cosmetic ingredients, and cold, windy weather. For these reasons, everyone can benefit from a drop of moisturiser or a slick of lip balm from time to time.
If your lips are really dry, look for balms that contain natural plant oils and butters (such as shea butter or cocoa butter) that sink into the skin. Mineral oils tend to stay on the surface of the skin and form a barrier so that the skin underneath has a chance to repair itself, so for lighter moisturisation you can try plain old petroleum jelly such as a tin of Vaseline Lip Therapy (£1.15).
Most of the lip balms I’ve come across – including some top cult beauty favourites – contain all sorts of irritating ingredients that encourage dryness and peeling over time, but that’s not the case with Balm Balm (unscented version, £2.81), or Naked Beauty Lip Balm (£2.10 plus 65p P&P from www.naked-beauty.co.uk), which are both ideal for use at night. These are both solid balms that melt onto your lips, and they are unscented, simple and effective.
If you don’t mind a little vanilla flavour, you can also try Baby Bottom Butter from Waitrose. This is hailed as some kind of cosmetic miracle, but it’s basically a very simple and non-irritating butter made from a mixture of semi-solidified olive oil, chamomile and vanilla. The olive oil may have some useful antioxidants in it, and most people will find the chamomile soothing. At £2.35 for 125ml it’s worth trying for a couple of weeks as part of your nightly skincare routine. You can also try layering it over your usual face moisturiser to give your lips an extra boost.
For daytime use you might prefer Neutrogena Norwegian Formula SPF 20, in stick form, to protect against UV damage. It contains a tiny amount of fragrance but this fades quickly once it’s applied, and it does contain moisturising agents and sun protection which both help to prevent dryness. Extra sensitive types might like E45’s fragrance-free lip balm with SPF 15 (£1.99). Any product that offers sun protection needs to be reapplied from time to time.
Is there any truth in the rumour that your lips can get ‘addicted’ to lip balm? The answer here is a resounding no. There are two factors at play. Firstly, lips tend to be dry anyway, so they respond well to a suitable lip balm and if you stop using it then they go back to being as dry as they were before – that’s not addiction.
Secondly, most of the sticks and balms that fashion magazines recommend contain a mixture of moisturising agents and irritants. The moisturising agents give you immediate relief, but over time the irritants cause dryness and peeling, so you use more balm and feel better temporarily, and then the irritation becomes more prominent again, so then you use more balm…and so on.
Irritants in lip balms may make your lips redder and tinglier – don’t be fooled into thinking they are more effective products because of this sensation. The more sensitive your skin is, the more problems you’re likely to have after a few days. Common irritants found in lip balms include camphor and mint (mentha, peppermint, spearmint, menthol etc) and if you want lovely lips then you might be surprised how good you look after avoiding them for a couple of weeks.