Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Protect the Pucker!

Winter can be a brutal time of the year for your lips. No matter how we bundle up to stay warm, our lips are usually exposed. Lips dry out ten times faster than the rest of the skin on our face so it’s really important to use extra protection.

There are millions of nerve endings around the lips. This is the reason they are so sensitive. There are is no protective tissue, which makes the lips extremely sensitive to external effects. Sweat glands are responsible for keeping the body moisturized. Since we don't have any sweat glands around our lips, they dry out fast. The tissue around the lips is actually opaque. Other areas of skin are composed of 16 different layers, however, the lips have only 3 to 6 layers. For this reason, the lips seem like they have a pinkish color. Collagen production around the body decreases with age. Collagen is a vital protein for the body and it helps the cells to regenerate. Another duty of collagen is it gives lips their shape. As we age, lips begin to lose their plumpness.

So, how can you protect your pucker?
  • Don’t lick your lips. When your lips are dry, it’s natural to want to lick them to make them moist. But licking your lips actually has the opposite effect. Once you put saliva on the lips, it dries out and makes lips even more dry, plus the enzymes that are in saliva that are meant to digest food are irritating to the lips.
  • Use a lip balm that is ointment-based. This will lock in the moisture and help to heal cracks and splits in the skin. Look for a healing ointment that contains petrolatum, essential oils or glycerin. Another important ingredient is sunscreen — there still is sun in the winter.  Avoid lip balms containing camphor, eucalyptus and menthol. These substances actually dry out your lips and make the problem worse. In response, you apply more of this kind of lip balm, and the cycle continues. 
  • Avoid brushing or rubbing your lips when they are flaky or peeling. It’s better not to scrub your lips or pick the peeling skin off with your teeth or your fingers. That just creates cracks and sores on your lips and can make things worse. Instead, apply a very heavy ointment-based balm that will be soothing and help to heal your lips.
  • Treat cracks right away. If you let them go, they can become worse and possibly get infected or lead to a cold sore.  When saliva gets trapped in the corners of your mouth, it dries out skin, leading to cracks. 
  • At night, apply lip balm before you go to bed. Many people sleep with their mouths open. Eight hours of breathing in and out through your mouth can dry your lips.  Also consider using a humidifier at night if the air in your house is dry because of being heated. 

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