Winter is really good at sabotaging our skin. Cold wind and extreme temperatures ravage everything from our faces to our hands. One of the peskiest challenges we face: how to get rid of chapped lips. Unlike hands, we can’t just slip gloves over our face to protect it from the elements. And since the skin on our lips is relatively thin and sensitive, they often take the hardest hit.
Here are eight tips, straight from the pros, for how to get rid of chapped lips.
1. Resist the urge to lick chapped lips.
While saliva may provide a quick fix, it actually makes things worse in the long run. “Though it may sound counterintuitive, when you lick your lips, which are more sensitive than other parts of the skin, the saliva evaporates, leaving them drier than before,” Lance Brown, M.D., a surgical and cosmetic dermatologist based in New York City and East Hampton, New York, tells SELF.
2. Wear moisturizing lipstick.
Matte lipstick may look super chic, but it can be insanely drying. Look for lipsticks that are moisturizing to help reduce dryness, Dr. Brown suggests. “Try to wear lip gloss,” Debra Jaliman, M.D., board-certified dermatologist in New York City and author of the book Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist, tells SELF. “If your lips are super chapped, then you can line your lip with lip pencil and wear a lip balm. The lip pencil will blend into the lip balm so you will make your own lip gloss that is more soothing.”
3. Choose the right lip-balm formula.
Some ingredients in lip balm, like camphor, phenol, and menthol, can actually dry the lips out more, Dr. Jaliman says. She suggests looking for oil-based balms. “Look for wheat-germ oil, almond oil, jojoba oil, coconut oil, aloe vera, shea butter, sunflower oil, and cottonseed oil in lip balms. These really moisturize the lips.” To create a barrier that traps moisture, Brown suggests petrolatum. It’s not going to hydrate, but it will prevent further evaporation from occurring. (Beeswax will do the trick, too.) Try: Carmex Comfort Care Lip Balm ($2.79, target.com), Glossier Balm Dotcom ($12, glossier.com), or some no-frills, trusty Aquaphor ($5, amazon.com).
4. Sleep with a humidifier.
Dry air = dry skin. Especially in the winter, heating systems can suck the moisture from the air, leaving your house (and you) insanely dry. Dr. Jaliman suggests sleeping with a humidifier to keep your lips hydrated—it’s a classic dermatologist suggestion for helping skin stay supple throughout cold, dry winter months. Bonus: You’ll breathe easier and sleep better, too.
5. Be careful with your other skin care.
“People who use Retin-A on their face sometimes apply it on their lips by accident, which can make the lips chapped,” Dr. Jaliman notes. If you use any sort of chemical exfoliator, like glycolic acid, salicylic acid, or a retinol-based product, try not to sloppily smear it on your lips. Since the skin is thinner, it will dry out or become irritated more quickly than the rest of your face.
6. For the love of all that is holy, do not pick or peel.
It’s so tempting to just quickly pick or even nibble off a few flakes here and there. But picking or peeling can take off the healthy skin with it, resulting in open cuts or sores. Not the chapped lips remedy you’re looking for.
7. If flakiness is really bugging you, use a sugar scrub to buff it away.
You have to be careful when exfoliating your lips. The skin is really thin, so it damages more easily than the rest of your face if you use something too abrasive. If you want to try to brush off dead skin flakes, Dr. Jaliman suggests sugar crystals. Mix brown sugar crystals with olive oil or coconut oil, and rub the concoction gently on your lips. “I recommend exfoliating with a lip scrub once a week,” Dr. Jaliman says. If you have a history of cold sores, “any type of abrasive treatment to your lips will only aggravate it,” Dr. Brown warns. In that case, you should always talk with a doctor before adding anything—even a sugar scrub—to your regimen.
8. In dire situations, hydrocortisone ointment can help.
Topical steroids help reduce inflammation (they’re often prescribed for eczema treatment) and heal lips. Dr. Jaliman suggests buying an over-the-counter strength if your lips are severely chapped. Try: Cortizone 10 Anti-Itch Ointment ($4.59, cvs.com), or another 1 percent hydrocortisone formula. Dab a bit on at night, and in the morning, use moisturizing lip balm and something with petrolatum or beeswax to seal it in. Be careful, though—always follow the instructions on the tube, and if hydrocortisone doesn’t help after a couple of days, see your doctor. They can help you figure out why your chapped lips are so severe, and give you prescription-strength ointment if necessary.
This article originally appeared on