Shop expert-approved exfoliators starting at just $3.
Zero: That’s how many oil glands your lips have, which is why you constantly feel like you're having to reapply your lip products. To help, exfoliator and lip balm are a pair just like shampoo and conditioner—one cleanses, the other conditions for a smooth, shiny finish.
When your lips are dry, the skin can crack and leave open fissures that can get easily irritated or even infected, explains Purvisha Patel, MD, a Tennessee-based dermatologist and founder Visha Skincare. “We are constantly moving our lips when talking and eating, so cracks can happen more easily in non-exfoliated skin,” she says. Alas, you need to exfoliate!
Read the label: Natural granules, like salt and sugar scrubs, can be gently used to buff away dry skin. However, Dr. Patel warns against artificial microbeads due to their environmental impact. In addition, “crushed shells such as walnut and apricot pits could actually cause more micro-tears on the lips, and therefore are not recommended.”
Ingredients like coconut oil, jojoba oil, avocado oil, beeswax, lanolin (unless you’re vegan), and pure petrolatum help coat and protect exfoliated skin, she adds.
Use the right technique: “The muscles of your lips go around the mouth in a circular fashion, so lip exfoliation is usually done in a similar circular motion, following your pout and moving outward,” says Dr. Patel. “A back and forth motion can also be done when exfoliating the upper and lower lips separately.”
Using cold or warm water is fine, but stay away from super-hot temps. “Hot water causes vasodilation and increased circulation to the skin of the lips, which can lead to inflammation and swelling after exfoliation,” says Dr. Patel.
Follow with a balm: “Look for the above ingredients in lip balms to use after exfoliating,” says Dr. Patel. “I recommend the Neutrogena HydroBoost Lip Treatment since it has hyaluronic acid to help heal and hydrate lips.” She also suggests using a humidifier to help keep the air, and therefore your lips, moisturized.
Don’t overdo it: Like the skin on your face, you don’t want to over-exfoliate your lips. For best results, Dr. Patel recommends exfoliating your lips once a week, unless you’re in extreme weather (hot or cold), in which case using a lip scrub twice a week may be necessary.
Check out a few of Dr. Patel’s favorite lip scrubs and exfoliators below, as well as a few Prevention.com picks.