Your lips are a delicate area on your body and as they are exposed to the elements, they can become sore and dry.
During winter, harsh environments such as cold weather and windy conditions can provoke a local inflammatory response in the lips. This inflammation promotes moisture loss and leads to cell damage in the lips. Cracking and redness may also extend to the skin above and below the lips. One of the best ways to prevent this is to create a hydrating barrier with specialised moisturiser. This helps to protect and hydrate our lips. Hydrated lips are less vulnerable to harsh environments as well.
When lips are well hydrated, they appear pink and full, which is a reflection of the fact that there is sufficient moisture within the covering layer of skin to keep the cells plumped up and avoid the appearance of dryness and surface cracks. Compared to skin, our lips have a much thinner layer of cells called keratinocytes, making our lips especially vulnerable to dehydration. They also lack a layer of cells called the stratum corneum. The stratum corneum is present in the rest of our skin and contains fatty molecules such as ceramides which help to protect against water loss. One of the best ways of avoiding dry lips during winter is to help ensure that any lost moisture is replaced. Moisture loss can be reduced by applying an emollient. Application of emollients will also help to protect the lips from drying environmental factors such as extremes of temperature and wind.
Lack of hydration in the lips can also lead to cold sores, which are another common problem during winter. A cold sore is an infection of the skin, caused by the herpes simplex virus. Cold sores often form and appear to have a tingling, itching or burning sensation around your mouth. Small fluid-filled sores then appear, usually on the edges of your lower lip(1). After the person is first infected with the virus, it lies dormant in local sensory nerves until reactivation. Reactivation can occur after a few weeks or even years, when the virus travels to the skin supplied by the nerve and appears as a blister or rash. The most common areas to be affected by herpes simplex are the lips, where the outbreaks are known as cold sores(2).
Our lips are more likely to become inflamed, dry and chapped in extremes of temperature or high light intensity. Seasonal variation in weather can bring about lip inflammation, dehydration and damage. It is important to counteract these changes with regular application of a lip therapy. Additionally, when exposed to high levels of UV light, an SPF product may be advisable(3). With this onslaught of winter damage, cold sores are far more likely to erupt(4).
Unlike the rest of your skin there are no sweat glands on the lips to keep them moisturised and lubricated. Well-hydrated lips are less likely to have fissures and cracks and therefore are more resilient to environmental factors that can exacerbate cold sores.
Protecting our lips with regular application of an emollient is a useful way of keeping them hydrated. For cold sore sufferers, this can also reduce discomfort and help to encourage faster healing. Here are some other ways you can help to protect your lips during winter:
- Use a lip balm with a paraffin, petroleum or beeswax base that seals in moisture and doesn’t evaporate quickly.
- Drink plenty of water to keep hydrated.
- Avoid licking your lips, as it can make your lips dryer and more prone to chapping and cold sores developing.
- Avoid biting your lips or teasing off pieces of loose skin, as this will irritate lips further.
- Eat your greens, as vegetables such as spinach, Swiss chard and green beans are great sources of niacin (vitamin B3) which can boost the skin’s ability to retain moisture. It is important to try and eat at least five portions of fruit and veg a day.
- Increase your intake of foods such as dairy products and almonds. These contain riboflavin (vitamin B2), one of the key vitamins that benefit your skin’s health.
Prevasore Everyday Lip Therapy helps to keep your lips healthy and feeling great. Its unique formulation is designed to increase moisture retention, helping to keep lips soft, protected and cold sore free.