Shirley looks good for her age with one exception: her lips are constantly flaking. The flaking and fine lines around her mouth make her face look older than her years.
She’s constantly rummaging around in her purse for her tube of lip balm, and can’t go anywhere without it. It doesn’t matter which brand she uses. She’s tried them all – department store brands, health food store brands, tubes, gels, balms advertised on the internet, drugstore versions – you name it, she’s probably tried it.
Shirley has found over the years that most lip balms don’t moisturize much. In fact, her lips sometimes feel drier after she uses them.
It also doesn’t matter whether or not the products she uses are considered to be natural, like the ones found in health food stores and high-end cosmetics counters. In fact, she’s found that some of the formulas advertised to soften and repair lips are among the worst. Let me give you a few reasons why many lip balms are not true moisturizers and should be avoided – and what you can use instead that looks and feels better.
Ingredients to Avoid
A friend of mine recently lamented the disappearance of her favorite lip balm. “I liked it because it had menthol in it, and my lips always felt cool and moist,” she shared with me. “I used it all the time. I always had one or two tubes of this lip balm in my pocket or purse.” But this was a clue to her problem, not the solution.
If a lip balm feels cool and soothing, take a close look at its ingredients. Does it contain menthol, camphor, or phenol? They may make dry, burning lips feel cool initially, but they’re among the most drying ingredients you can find. Eventually, they’ll make your lips feel worse. They will never moisturize them. The best they can do is to briefly soothe your lips. If your lip balm contains any of these ingredients, don’t wait to use it up before replacing it. Throw it away.
Mineral oil – also known as petroleum jelly – is a cheap ingredient that also feels like it’s moisturizing your lips. It’s probably the worst ingredient you can find in a lip balm. This is because it seals off your skin and prevents it from breathing, much like wrapping your skin in plastic wrap. Mineral oil also dissolves some of your skin’s natural oils. Eventually, it will dry your lips and make them feel hard.
Just what is mineral oil anyway? In case you’ve forgotten, it’s a byproduct of gasoline production. Why would anyone want to put a derivative of gasoline on his or her skin? Someone who doesn’t know any better.
Some lip balms are advertised as being “natural.” But what does that mean? Not everything that’s natural is necessarily safe or beneficial. Salicylic acid is a natural exfoliant found in some lip products. An exfoliant works like a fine sandpaper. But you’d never use sandpaper on your lips. Salicylic acid irritates your lips and often leaves them more chapped than before you used it. There’s no good reason for you to use a product that irritates the tissues in and around your lips.
True Lip Moisturizers
It’s possible to find lip balm ingredients that really moisturize, but it can take some searching to find them. There’s one common low-cost ingredient that I believe should be in every lip moisturizer. Unfortunately, it’s not. I like it because it helps increase collagen production. This keeps your lips plump, while it removes fine-line wrinkles. It’s also easily available and inexpensive. This ingredient is none other than vitamin C.
When I gave a lip balm containing vitamin C to one of my friends, she could feel the difference immediately. She found its effects lasted for hours and made her lips feel fuller. And what’s more, she had to use it only once or twice a day. Other lip balms needed to be applied more frequently.
But vitamin C does much more. Along with vitamin E, it also protects your lips from exposure to the elements and environmental damage. A study from the University of Maryland Medical Center showed that vitamin E helps protect the collagen and elastin in the skin and reduce fine lines and wrinkles.
Vitamin E also helps to neutralize free radical activity that occurs when you’re exposed to the sun. That’s what sunscreen does. You need both vitamin C and vitamin E in an absorbable form to reduce damage from the cold winter weather and the drying heat of the summer. The problem is not many lip balms contain both. But any product that contains sunflower seed oil does.
It Protects You Like Sunscreen
There are other oils that moisturize your lips. They’re just not in the majority of lip balms. The best-kept lip moisturizing secret I’ve found is a combination of oils from two Hawaiians’ nuts: macadamia and kukui. They are sometimes called natural sunscreens. Their oils protect native Hawaiians’ skin from the tropical sun. Technically, these nut oils have antioxidants and anti-inflammatory ingredients that protect against the sun’s harmful UV rays. That’s what a sunscreen does.
You can find these two nut oils in a proprietary blend called SOLaLeur® that has been shown in studies to reduce inflammation by 85%. It works beautifully. The problem is that this ingredient is expensive. Just one kilo costs $800! So not many companies are willing to use it. If they really knew how beneficial these two nut oils are, I’d like to think that at least some of them would reformulate their products to include them.
The last ingredient needed to moisturize your lips is the most common and inexpensive one. It’s water. Stay hydrated by drinking water throughout the day. If you’re dehydrated, your body will draw moisture from wherever it can be found – like from your largest organ: your skin.
Remember that if you’re over the age of 60, your body needs more water than when you were younger. This is a time when you’re not able to absorb as much. Dry lips are an indication that you’re not drinking enough water. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty. Sip some water or other liquid whenever your mouth feels a little dry.
Don’t be surprised if you strike out looking for a lip balm that’s effective against dry, flaky lips. There’s not much out there I feel comfortable using. In fact, for a while, I was using a little of Système 41’s Day Crème on my lips in the morning. At least I knew it wasn’t going to hurt me. It worked better than conventional lip balms, but wasn’t anything I could put in my purse to use later in the day. And it wasn’t designed to replace lip balms.
Fortunately, my friend and colleague, Janet Zand, OMD, LAc, who formulated the Système 41 skin care products, put all of the beneficial information on lip therapy ingredients together and designed a product specifically for the lips, and Système 41 Lip Therapy was born. It contains SOLaLeur®, which protects against inflammation, and sunflower oil which contains vitamins E and C. And it has nothing harmful in it.
If you’re tired of lip balms that you need to constantly re-apply and don’t do what they say they will do, I suggest you try Système 41’s Lip Therapy. It’s unique and unlike what you have been using. It is also quite affordable.