They say eyes are the window to the soul, but really, it’s the lips that show everything going on. That’s because the skin on the lips is among the thinnest on the entire body. It’s what makes lips so sensitive (good for kissing!) and so reactive to external factors, like UV exposure (definitely not good for anything). Knowing how delicate and permeable the lips are, it doesn’t make sense that you’d want to do anything to hurt them, which inevitable leads to a weakened skin barrier. This creates a cascade effect including loss of moisture, chapping, irritation, and a bunch of other things you don’t want. With that in mind, here are seven common lip-care ingredient categories to avoid.
Skincare Ingredients to Avoid in Lip Balm & Lip Treatments
Just like the skin on the rest of your face, the skin on you lips can be sensitive to harsh ingredients. Some ingredients you should avoid using on your lips may include:
You already know that we at Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare are no fans of physical exfoliators like polishes and scrubs because they’re extremely harsh when ripping off dead skin cells. And that’s on your body. Imagine the kind of damage they can do on thin lip skin. Yes, flaky lips are annoying, but no, scrubbing your lips is not the solution to achieve smoothness. (It’s moisturization and patience, actually.)
We heart an Alpha Beta Daily Peel, but even our beloved alpha and beta hydroxy acids have no place on the lips. Yes, they’re the gentle way to whisk away dead cells, but lips are too thin to exfoliate by any method. The risk of disrupting the all-important moisture barrier outweighs any perceived gain you’d get from removing those cells.
Some lip plumpers work by irritating lip skin, causing it to react by swelling temporarily. While that will give lips fleeting fullness, why do you want to be so mean to your mouth? They already go through enough on a regular day that intentionally doing something to stress them seems somewhat masochistic.
Irritants to avoid:
- Cinnamon oil
- Peppermint oil
We’re all about SPF every day, and that goes for lips as well. But considering that there are so many questions being raised about the absorption of chemical sunscreen ingredients into the bloodstream, and that the thinness of lip skin means that they’re more predisposed to absorb whatever you apply to them than just about any other skin area, it really doesn’t make sense to use a chemical SPF on your lips. Instead, choose a physical block and ensure it’s at least SPF 30.
These are sometimes added to make a stinky formulation smell better or just to enhance the user’s experience. But synthetic fragrances are right up there with other intentional irritants when it comes to shredding the moisture barrier on lips. In fact, artificial fragrances can be responsible for everything from contact dermatitis (think rashes) to allergic reactions.
Isopropyl & Ethanol
These simple alcohols strip the moisture right out of skin and disrupt its barrier function. As you may recall, when the skin barrier is falling apart, not only do you end up with dryness and chapping, it’s also a lot easier for external irritants to pass through the cracks and into your body.
(Note: Not all alcohols are created equal! There’s a separate class of alcohols known as “fatty alcohols,” which includes cetyl, stearyl, and cetearyl. Those alcohol types are A-OK for skin.)
Ingredients such as menthol, camphor, eucalyptus, and phenol are often added to a formula to produce a cooling effect when applied to skin. And while you may enjoy the initial tingle on your lips, in the long run, those additives can trigger dehydration, irritation, or both.
What You Should Look for in Lip Care Products
So what can we use on the lips? Luck for us, there are a plethora of ingredients lips love. Look for these in your lip products:
- Hyaluronic acid: highly hydrating, this ingredient can hold 1000 times its weight in water and delivers a plumping affect in lips.
- Peptides: these can increase lip volume, hydration, softness and impirove the appearance of sagging in lips by stimulating the production of collagen and hyaluronic acid.
- Bisabolol: known for its soothing and anti-aging benefits
- Ectoin: enhances moisture barrier function and reduces TEWL
- Trehalose: a plant derived sugar with humectant and antioxidant properties that helps increase lip volume, hydration, and softness.
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