Keeping the skin on and around your lips moisturized and protected from age and the elements requires special care.

Tired of battling against dry, chapped lips that look and feel unhealthy? You’re not alone. Made up of some of the thinnest skin on your body and without oil glands to keep them moisturized, lips require particularly special attention. They’re more susceptible to water loss, dehydration and injury, with increased sensitivity to deeper absorption of skin care products that can be irritating.

Despite these facts, lips can often be neglected in comparison to the care we give to the rest of our skin. Factors related to both our own behavior and external sources can adversely affect the health of our lips, including:

  • History of eczema and/or sun damage
  • Improper usage of skin care treatments
  • Climate, humidity, sun exposure and seasonal changes
  • Excessive licking or biting of the lips
  • Trauma/injury
  • Smoking

Check the ingredients on moisturizers closely

Since the lips are more sensitive, you’ll want to avoid lip ointment products containing retinol, retinol palmitate, glycolic or salicylic acid, parabens and lanolin, as these chemicals may irritate the skin and cause allergic reactions. If your lips are dry, itchy or red, look for moisturizing ingredients such as glycerin, beeswax, natural oils or petroleum, which I regard as the gold standard for moisturizing both the skin and lips. Multiple applications throughout the day are recommended for severely dry lips.

Guard against aging and the sun’s effects

Just like the rest of your skin, the lips need protection from sunburn and premature aging. In fact, they can be prone to precancerous changes and skin cancers. My advice for taking care of them is also the same avoiding the sun when you can, in addition to using sunblock every day, rain or shine. I recommend sunblock for the lips with balms that include zinc and are rated with an SPF of 30 or higher.

To minimize lines and wrinkles around the lips and mouth, make sure to hydrate year-round with a moisturizer such as baby oil. This is especially important right after a shower to effectively lock in moisture. You’ll also want to gently exfoliate with a toothbrush or washcloth a couple of times a week. Avoid smoking and pursing of the lips, as both can cause wrinkles around the mouth. In addition, don’t lick your lips frequently the constant wetting and drying can cause them to become chapped.

While lips are prone to dryness and can require special treatment, sticking to the basics of proper skin care and adapting them to the particular needs of your lips will keep them looking and feeling good. Remember to treat your lips like you would the rest of your skin and it will treat you right.

Dr. Sonia Badreshia-Bansal, M.D., serves as the CEO, co-founder and medical director of Elite MD. She is a board-certified dermatologist trained at Penn State College of Medicine and the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, where she served as Chief Resident. An expert in anti-aging skin treatments, Botox, cosmetic fillers, skin care and laser treatments, Badreshia-Bansal has authored over a dozen medical publications and regularly contributes to mainstream media, including Allure, Real Simple, Prevention, Self, Family Circle, The Los Angeles Times and The Washington Times.