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Chapped Lips Are A Sign Of Aging: Why They Become Drier & What To Do About It

Alexandra Engler
Author:
May 08, 2023
Alexandra Engler
mbg Beauty Director
By Alexandra Engler
mbg Beauty Director
Alexandra Engler is the beauty director at mindbodygreen and host of the beauty podcast Clean Beauty School. Previously, she's held beauty roles at Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com.
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Image by Liliya Rodnikova / Stocksy
May 08, 2023

As you age, your skin naturally becomes drier. This is a phenomenon I, unfortunately, know all too well. I practically bathe in night creams and oils to help keep my skin happily hydrated. Some areas of the body tend to experience the side effects of drier skin more readily. The eyes, for example, have some of the thinnest skin on the face, making it more prone to fine lines and signs of aging. Or the hands, which are often more exposed to environmental stressors, tend to show telltale signs of aging too, such as crepiness and dark spots. 

One area of aging not as much discussed is the lips: Not only do lips lose color and volume as you age, they become drier. Yes, chapped lips are a sign of premature aging. Here's what to know and what to do about it.

Why your lips dry out with age 

You're not imagining it, your lips tend to feel more parched and chapped as you get older. Skin gets drier with age because we lose important structural proteins, lipids, and humectants naturally found in the skin. When this decline happens, our skin becomes compromised and it's not as effective at keeping water in the skin. 

For example, collagen may be thought of as the protein that keeps our skin firm, but it also plays a vital role in the skin barrier function—and we experience collagen decline at a rate of about 1% per year every year. Another culprit is ceramide loss. Ceramides are polar lipids that help make up your moisture barrier and keep skin looking supple and moisturized. 

As a final example, hyaluronic acid is a humectant that's most famous for being a buzzy skin care ingredient—but fun fact: Your body actually makes it on its own! Just like collagen and ceramides, however, we produce less and less of it as the years go on. 

All of this culminates in a weakened skin barrier function and transepidermal water loss—which means you're probably reaching for a lip hydrator more than you used to. While this is ultimately inevitable, it can be remedied with smart lip care. 

What to look for in a hydrating lip balm 

The right lip balm will leave your skin feeling comforted for hours. (Although I will say that reapplying throughout the day is normal—especially if you're drinking hot liquids, eating, in cold environments, or licking your lips). Balms that are able to achieve this can do so because they use a blend of humectants, emollients, and occlusive ingredients that help replenish your skin barrier. 

Humectants—like the aforementioned hyaluronic acid—help attract and hold water. mindbodygreen's lip balm uses sodium hyaluronate, a smaller version of HA that is able to penetrate deeper into the epidermis. However, within a formula they need to be paired with emollients and occlusives, which will provide some staying power.

Look for emollients that can nurture and replenish the barrier—helping fill in cracks and soothe chapped skin. In our lip balm, we use a blend of castor oil, moringa seed oil, and shea butter. Shea butter, for example, has been shown to seal moisture into the skin and protect the barrier1. One study suggests it has similar topical effects as ceramides2, the polar lipids discussed earlier that decline with age. 

Every good balm needs occlusive properties. Occlusive ingredients, like waxes, create a superficial barrier on top of the skin for protection and moisture retention. In balms, these are your waxes—such as sunflower seed wax and beeswax. 

For added measure, find a lip balm that also contains antioxidants, like vitamin E. This can help protect your skin from environmental damage and free radicals (what ages your skin in the first place). 

The takeaway

If your lips feel more chapped than you remember them being, it may be a sign of aging. Don't worry, it's a normal, natural process that happens to all of us—but just may be an indication you need to up your lip care.  

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