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Why licking your lips is bad

You've probably licked your lips more than once in the past hour, and just again after reading the title.

We all do it. When your lips are feeling a bit dry you lick your lips but somehow it just makes it even more dry!

But why is licking your lips so bad for them, and how often should you apply lip balm?

Firstly, what are lips?

Lips are so different to the other skin on our body. For starters, your lips are much thinner than the other skin on your body. Your skin usually has three separate layers which are the stratum corneum (the protective layer), the epidermis (layer of skin underneath that produces new cells), and the dermis (contains melanocytes which produces melanin that gives skin it's colour).

Your lips have no melanocytes so we see the blood vessels underneath which gives off that pinkish colour to your lips, and due to a very thin stratum our lips are much softer than our other skin.

As discussed in my blog post about skincare tips, the sebaceous glands are responsible for secreting sebum which provides your skin, and hair it's moisture. Unfortunately, your lips don't have sebaceous glands so require frequent moisturising to stay hydrated.

What happens to your lips when you lick your lips?

Licking your lips provides a temporary relief through the moisture which quickly makes your lips even more dry. When you lick your lips you are coating it in saliva which contains digestive enzymes that wear down your stratum layer of skin. Through reptition the breakdown of the stratum leaves the lips vulnerable to the dry air which makes them crack, flake, and bleed.

According to New York board-certified dermatologist Whitney Bowe, MD, “If you lick your lips while eating or drinking, you’re going to experience even more chapped irritation—it’s a vicious cycle because your saliva evaporates and causes you to keep licking to avoid the drying sensation. Saliva also breaks down the delicate tissues and compromises the barrier."

How often should you apply lip balm?

You should only apply lip balm when it is most suspecible to drying up to 2 to 5 times a day. This means when you wake up, after your three standard meals, and before you sleep.

Lip balms like the Laura Mercier Hydrating Lip Balm are great for keeping your pout hydrated as it contains cold-pressed Plum Seed Oil for deep nourishment, and hydrating Olive-Derived Squalane.

What should you look for in a lip balm?

“According to Emma Hobson who is the education manager at the International Dermal Institute and Dermalogica:

"Look for high-emollient balms rich with essential fatty acids. Look for oils such as avocado and wheat germ as well as ingredients such as shea butter, cacao seed butter and hyaluronic acid. You can get some fantastic lip complexes that renew and restore the tissue and work on minimising contour lines and help prevent ageing lips. They do this by containing age fighting peptides such as arginine/lysine polypeptide and palmitoyl oligopeptide.”


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