The delicate tissue on the lips, easily chapped and prone to bacterial infection, is vulnerable in any weather. Wind and winter chill sap moisture from the lips, but so does exposure to the sun, surf, and chlorinated swimming pools.
Many conventional lip balms contain petrolatum-based ingredients like mineral oil that appear slick and emollient, but because the skin can’t absorb them–the molecules are too big–they don’t actually condition or heal chapped lips. In fact, they just lie on the surface, creating an impermeable barrier that can actually clog the skin and lead to breakouts and bacterial infections.
Instead, look for natural moisturizers like shea butter, beeswax, sweet almond oil, jojoba oil, or hempseed oil, all of which actually penetrate the skin. If you’re prone to breakouts or bumps on the lips, look for lip balms with antibacterial essential oils like rosemary and mint and avoid camphor because it can dry the lips. Aloe vera soothes chapped skin, and menthol can numb the pain if your lips are severely chapped.
Do-It-Yourself: Mix a dab of honey with a bit of brown sugar. Apply to lips and gently massage back and forth with an old toothbrush. Sugar is a naturally abrasive exfoliant, and honey contains an exfoliating enzyme, as well as a mild antiseptic that kills bacteria and a natural humectant that helps the skin retain moisture.
Dry, flaky skin
Flaking on the cheeks, hairline, and brows may come from common dermatitis, or it could signal the presence of eczema, which can be a little harder to treat. In either case, says Tourles, “Flaking is an inflammatory response to something that’s aggravating the body.” Among the likely reasons: Extreme weather, food allergies, or chemical ingredients prone to generating an allergic reaction (contact dermatitis) in the skin, like those found in heavy fragrances, laundry detergents, or harsh shampoos. Any of these can shorten the life cycle of skin cells and lead to a buildup of dead skin, resulting in dryness, irritation, and flakes.
Stress can also aggravate the problem, as (alas) can our age. As we get older, our skin naturally becomes drier. The skin cells oxidize, and the cell walls can’t hold moisture like they once did. That’s why aging skin dehydrates, loses firmness, and starts to wrinkle. (Exposing unprotected skin to the sun can cause premature wrinkling, of course, because nothing oxidizes skin cells like those tanning UV rays.)
Instead of seeking help from heavy creams or lotions, look to moisturizing seed oils (pomegranate, rosehip, and grapeseed), which are light and thus move easily into the skin. Pomegranate seed oil contains linolenic acid, which promotes cell turnover and skin regeneration; rosehip, apricot, and carrot seed oils are rich in vitamins A and C, which strengthen and protect skin; grapeseed oil teems with the antioxidant resveratrol; and hempseed oil contains linoleic and linolenic acid, anti-inflammatory ingredients that soothe skin.
Do-It-Yourself: Put a few drops of olive oil, which is rich in antioxidants and high in polyphenols, into a small bowl of warm water. Press a washcloth soaked in this gentle mixture on the skin for a few minutes. It will stimulate circulation, lift off dead skin cells, and moisturize.