Yes, Lip Balms Can Help With Dry, Chapped Lips From Mask Wearing
I don't know about you, but between the increased mask-wearing and the winter weather, my lips are practically begging for help: The dry, chapped feeling has reached a new level of discomfort. Of course, winter often poses problems for the skin. The cold outdoor temps, blasting indoor heat, and brittle wind all do a number on the skin. Not to mention, the lips are a particularly thin and fragile area—so they are more vulnerable to environmental stressors.
Then there's the mask situation. Of course, masks are necessary when you're in closed spaces and around others to keep you safe—which is why I've been donning mine more frequently given the uptick of COVID numbers. But as anyone with rashes or "maskne" knows to be true, the little pieces of cloth can make for some annoying skin issues.
How to deal with chapped lips from masks.
The problem is twofold: First, the simple act of cloth rubbing against the skin for a prolonged period of time may cause rashes or irritation. "Any areas that are tight or rubbing can irritate the skin. Minimize this as much as possible by making sure the areas that contact your skin are smooth and not abrasive and not tighter than necessary to achieve a good seal," says board-certified dermatologist Hadley King, M.D.
But the second is that the environment the mask creates underneath the cloth sets your skin up for problems. By nature, masks trap air and moisture underneath them (stopping the spread!). But by doing so, it creates a very humid atmosphere. This is why breakouts are common for the area—but also chapped lips.
You may think a moisture-packed environment would be beneficial for the lips. Certainly, having some degree of water in the air is essential for keeping skin healthy and supple—but too much of anything can backfire. When you're in too humid of an environment, it can increase the likelihood of transepidermal water loss. Transepidermal water loss is what happens when moisture from the lower levels of the skin is pulled to the top and released into the air. (A similar comparison can be made about why derms tell you not to take too long or hot showers as it can increase skin dryness in the long run.)
The best way to deal with this is to wear a good lip balm under your mask that will help lips retain moisture with a humectant, then provide a protective layer of soft waxes and butter. Of course, from a pure functionality standpoint You don't want anything too goopy, sticky, tinted, or wet, as that will transfer to the mask—making for quite the mess underneath. We recommend looking for a soft, absorbing balm, and leave the glossy, pigmented, or megawatt shine numbers at home.
mindbodygreen's lip balm contains a blend of sunflower wax, shea butter, and moringa seed oil, which all condition flaky skin as well as provide a gentle, cushiony seal. Additionally, it contains a form of the humectant hyaluronic acid that has a smaller molecular weight, which can attract and hold moisture deep in the epidermis—reducing the chances of transepidermal water loss. Finally, it has a few antioxidants (like vitamin E) for good measure. Oh, and the finish? A velvety glide that looks like your lips, just healthier.
As for post-mask care, King says: "If you notice this kind of irritation after removing the mask, wash the area with water and a gentle cleanser, and apply an ointment," such as a (yes, you guessed it) hydrating lip balm. Looking for some recs? Check out our all-time favorite lip balms here.
Alexandra Engler is the Beauty Director at mindbodygreen. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department. She has worked at many top publications and brands including Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com. In her current role, she covers all the latest trends and updates in the clean and natural beauty space, as well as travel, financial wellness, and parenting. She has reported on the intricacies of product formulations, the diversification of the beauty industry, and and in-depth look on how to treat acne from the inside, out (after a decade-long struggle with the skin condition herself). She lives in Brooklyn, New York.