What to Do If Your Lips Are So Dry That Your Lip Balm Stops Working

Updated 07/26/19

If there was a contest for the world's flakiest lips, I would win. My lips crinkle up at just the thought of turning the central heating on, and don’t even get me started on how this cold weather is completely ravaging them. And while I’m rarely seen outside of the house without at least three lip balms on my person at all times, it might surprise you to hear that a buttery balm isn’t the product I have developed a full-blown dependency on. In fact, that title goes to its rather underrated cousin, the humble lip scrub.

Best lip scrubs: woman with clean lips
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Yep, my lips get so flaky that not even the richest lip balm can help. You see, when your lips start to go dry and flaky, the problem isn't just that they lack hydration—it's that your skin isn't working fast enough to shed the dead skin cells at its surface. In other words, cell turnover is at an all-time low, and you're left with dull, flaky skin just clinging on for dear life.

This is where lip scrub comes in. The best lip scrubs are grainy little pots or sticks of balm speckled in exfoliating particles, which are more often than not sugar granules. A quick rub with the fingertips and the scrub sets to work on those peeling layers of skin, dislodging any dead skin cells and boosting circulation, which has the added benefit of making lips look fuller.

As most lip scrubs are built on a base of oils and butters, they nourish lips in the process too—and as there's no dull, lifeless skin masking the epidermis, it has a much easier job injecting that hydration back into lips. Try using one pre-lipstick and you'll soon see what a difference it makes. Having been disappointed by so many lip scrubs that lack any real oomph, I've made it my lifelong mission to uncover the ones that really make a difference.

Best lip scrub: APA Beauty Lip Loofah
APA Beauty Lip Loofah $20
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Best lip scrub: MAC Lip Scrubtious in Sweet Vanilla
MAC Lip Scrubtious in Sweet Vanilla $17
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It looks like it's going to be sticky—that's how rich this scrub is—but in reality, it takes little more than a gentle buff to dislodge dead skin cells, brush away the grains and leave lips gleaming. I always use it pre-lipstick, too, which makes the color go on a whole lot smoother.

Best lip scrub: Fresh Sugar Lip Polish
Fresh Sugar Lip Polish $24
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My first foray into this new buffed-lips world was a chance meeting with Fresh's lip polish. It tastes like Butterscotch Angel Delight and is so, so grainy, it's the pot I turn to when things get really bad.

Best lip scrub: Ciate Scrub Stix Exfoliating Lip Balm
Ciate Scrub Stix Exfoliating Lip Balm $7
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A little less grainy than the others, Ciate's is a good one for everyday use—and believe me, you'll want to use it every day. It contains seaweed extracts that kick-start the cell renewal process, meaning the more you use it, the less you'll need it.

Best lip scrub: Clinique Sweet Pots Sugar Scrub & Lip Balm
Clinique Sweet Pots Sugar Scrub & Lip Balm $22
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Clinique's two-sided pots contain a sugar-filled scrub in a super-sweet fruity flavor and a subtly tinted balm on the other side. 

Best lip scrub: Dior Addict Lip Glow Sugar Scrub
Dior Addict Lip Glow Sugar Scrub $35
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I'm borderline obsessed with Dior's Lip Glow balm ($35), as it works with your skin's natural pH to make lips look brighter, plumper, and shinier all at the same time. And this lip scrub from the same range just adds to its effect, containing ground natural sponge, which acts as a gentle exfoliant.

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