Lip balm has been around in some form or another for thousands of years. Propolis, the resinous mixture produced by bees when mixing their saliva and beeswax with exudate from trees, flowers and other plants, has long been recognised for its various health benefits. Cleopatra used beeswax and propolis, ingredients commonly used for its preservative and healing characteristics, on her lips and in other cosmetics in hopes that she would benefit from these properties.
Today, these ingredients are still found in healing salves, especially those that promise to give us a perfect pout. But how does lip balm work? Read on below to find out.
What causes dry lips?
Before we can grasp exactly how lip balm works, it’s important to understand what causes dry and chapped lips in the first place.
There are a variety of irritants that can lead to chapped lips, but two of the most common are cold, dry weather and lip licking. When temperatures are low, the humidity level in the air usually drops. This dryness can sap moisture from your skin and cause chapping. When we’re hit with unexpected dryness, our first reaction is often to lick our lips to restore moisture. But, because of the enzymes contained in saliva and how they affect the infinitesimally thin skin on our lips, this usually only causes the skin to break down and become damaged.
How does lip balm work to prevent dry lips
You might think that swiping on a layer of your favourite lip balm adds moisture to your dry, chapped skin. But that’s not quite how lip balm works. Rather than adding moisture, the salve contains oils or waxes that create a watertight barrier which prevents moisture from escaping your lips. This ability to hold in hydration is what softens your skin.
What to look for in a lip balm
Although lip balm generally acts as a barrier between your lips and dry air, saliva and other irritants, there are formulas that also contain moisturising agents for a double-duty product. Choose a salve that contains soothing aloe vera; the polysaccharides in the plant mean that it’s excellent for imbuing moisture while repairing damaged skin. Humectants like glycerine are also a welcome addition, as these ingredients draw moisture to the top layers of skin for a plumper pout. Finally, emollients (think shea and cocoa butter) and occlusives (e.g. lanolin) help to seal in moisture.
The best routine for chapped lips
Most experts agree that regularly applying lip balm can prevent and cure chapped lips. There are a few additional steps that you can take to keep your smile looking smooth and supple.
- Exfoliate – use a gentle sugar- or salt-based scrub that’s enriched with alpha-hydroxy acids to slough off dead cells and penetrate deep layers of your skin with moisture
- Wear sunscreen – yes, even on your lips; protecting this sensitive skin against sun damage
No lip balm? No problem. Use a dab nourishing moisturiser enriched with Vitamin E and shea butter to hydrate and seal in moisture.
Lips become dry and chapped for a multitude of reasons, but there’s no need to worry when you have a nourishing lip balm to seal in hydration for a perfect pout.