Heal chapped lips for good with our top dermatologist-approved lip balms and beauty hacks.

By Kristin Limoges
Updated January 24, 2020
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Painfully cracked, chapped lips can seem as synonymous with winter as a warm, faux fur jacket, but fortunately, solutions exist to heal the driest of lips. Even in the dead of winter, you can keep those smackers flake-free and perfectly soft—if you follow a few basic tips and utilize the right lip balms, of course. We asked five beauty and skincare experts to reveal the best lip balms and skincare tips they rely on season after season to keep skin feeling soft and soothed.

Chapped Lips Causes

Sure, the combo of blistering winds and frigid temperatures can quickly equate to excessively dry lips, but chapped lips are actually an inflammation of the lips, also known as cheilitis, according to Dr. Barbara Sturm, a German aesthetics doctor and founder and CEO of Dr. Barbara Sturm Molecular Cosmetics. “Lip skin is much thinner and more delicate than the rest of your body, and it has a smaller concentration of oil glands than the rest of the skin,” she says. “Because they're constantly exposed to environmental factors, such as cold weather, makeup, UV, and pollution, the skin barrier function of the lips is constantly under siege, leading to inflammatory dryness, irritation, and flaking.”

Chapped Lips Remedy

In mild cases, chapped lips can repair themselves with a quick swipe of a hydrating lip balm applied both throughout the day and before bed. However, in severe cases that result in peeling, chapped lips, you’ll want to (very gently) use a scrub to help remove existing flakes before applying an emollient lip balm. This quick step will gently slough away any excessive dry skin before the application of an ultra-soothing lip balm.

When it comes to lip care products, swipe on a balm and reapply it generously (and often). The secret to preventing dry lips is to keep them covered and hydrated at all times, even after eating and drinking. And don’t forget to slather on a thick amount of product right before hitting the hay.

While most lip balms help heal peeling lips, there are a few ingredients to avoid. Lesley Rabach, MD, a double board certified facial plastic surgeon and co-founder of LM Medical NYC, recommends avoiding lip products that include alcohol. “Many products for lips have alcohol hidden in the ingredients, which will actually make them even more dry,” she says. Also, look out for bold synthetic fragrances and flavorings in lip balms, like menthol, peppermint, and cinnamon because they can further dry out lips.

“Most lip balms and treatments are actually designed to dehydrate over time,” says Sara Happ, founder of The Lip Scrub. “That’s why you’re constantly needing to reapply throughout the day; the more you need, the more you use, and the more you buy.” Instead, reach for any of the foolproof, nourishing options below to heal peeling lips over time.

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"Aquaphor is scent-free, dermatologist recommended, practical, inexpensive, and it works amazingly well," says Dr. Rabach of the cult-classic lip remedy.

To buy: $4; amazon.com.

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Sustainably-produced lip balm is always a great choice. Saie’s Liquid Lip Balm is particularly wonderful because it's responsibly sourced, hydrating, and long-lasting (thanks to ingredients like squalene and beeswax). CAP Beauty esthetician Amity Spiegel says to look for lip products made from such hydrating ingredients, along with shea butter and plant oils.

To buy: $16; saiehello.com.

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You might be using hyaluronic acid in your skincare routine for a much-needed boost of hydration, so why not extend that super-hydrator to your lips, too? Kosas’ newly launched tinted lip balms (in pink-tinted Rush, peach-toned Pulse, and clear Baseline) have spheres of hyaluronic acid for next-level moisturizing and accelerated healing powers.

To buy: $18; net-a-porter.com.

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Dr. Sturm's Lip Balm formulation is chock-full of plant-based oils, butters, waxes, and Vitamin E to help protect lips against dehydration, while also shielding the sensitive skin from daily free radical environmental aggressors. Beyond just lips though, Dr. Sturm even rubs it on cheeks and under-eyes to protect from harsh winter weather. “It’s fundamentally a healing balm,” she says.

To buy: $55; sephora.com.

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Francesca Fusco. MD, of Wexler Dermatology, recommends this rich balm since it nourishes, protects, and moisturizes lips. Plus it's free of drying ingredients like alcohol and mineral oil. Think of this thick treatment salve as a superhero shield, blocking your lips from harsh winter weather and wind.

To buy: $20; ulta.com.

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Slather this jelly-textured lip mask on right before bed to restore and deep condition lips while you’re fast asleep. The uniquely addictive texture comes from squalene, Japanese camellia oil, and the centuries-old beauty secret—Japanese peach extract.

To buy: $28; sephora.com.