Proof that this winter is one of the roughest in years—my lips are the roughest they've felt in years. When there's hardly any moisture in the air, your skin becomes drier all over. But lips can get so dry that they crack and peel because, unlike everywhere else on your body, the skin there doesn't produce any natural oils. Here's how to heal your tattered pucker in three steps.
1. Clear away flakes. But don't use grainy scrubs, washcloths, and the age-old toothbrush trick, all of which are too harsh and will just make the problem worse. Instead, use a lip exfoliant with soft granules to gently exfoliate, such as The Body Shop Lip Scuff (pictured above), which also contains essential fatty acids to moisturize.
2. Pat on a gooey balm. By that I mean, the kind you squeeze out of a tube, not the waxy kind that comes in a stick or tin, since those harder formulas don't sink into the cracked skin. You also want to look for a balm with good moisturizers—some of the best are shea butter, almond oil, and petrolatum. The latter is in Kiehl's Lip Balm #1. And don't use heavily scented or flavored balms if your lips are chapped—their fragrances can further irritate the raw skin.
3. Know when to moisturize. Ever gone straight to bed after brushing your teeth and woken up with chapped lips? That's because when the pH level in your mouth is off balance, it can cause your lips to become dry. Toothpastes, mouthwashes, and face cleansers can all throw off your pH, so apply a balm immediately after brushing your teeth or washing your face.
If, despite these efforts, your chapping doesn't heal, or if the condition is chronic or you develop painful cracks at the corners of your mouth, see a dermatologist. The problem could be either an allergy or a fungal infection.