How to Remove Dry Skin From Lips With Exfoliation: A Step-by-Step Guide

woman applying product to lips


Most of us know by now that exfoliation is one surefire route to clean, smooth skin—but did you know a little exfoliation can remove dry skin from the lips? Think of lip exfoliation as the new step in your skincare routine you never knew you needed to take. It helps combat everything from the flaky, dry lips that stem from weather conditions to dryness stemming from other skin issues.

Perhaps the best news is that lip scrubs don't have to be pricey, hard-to-find products. In fact, event DIY lip exfoliators will do the trick—ridding every trace of chapping to reveal smooth, kissable lips. Ahead, we detail our favorite products and DIY ways to remove dry skin from the lips, along with input from board-certified dermatologist Ife J. Rodney.

Meet the Expert

The Benefits of Lip Exfoliation

On our quest to transform dry lips, it helps to know what's actually causing the flakiness to begin with. According to Rodney, unlike our face, our lips don't contain sebum-releasing oil glands that keeps the skin soft and moisturized. "When the environment is cold and dry (think: winter months), the lips are more likely to become cracked. Extremely hot or windy conditions can also trigger chapped lips," she explains, adding that licking the lips can also be the source of flakiness. "While the saliva temporarily appears to renew moisture, frequent lip licking actually worsens the dryness."

All this to say, exfoliation comes with some serious lip-loving benefits. One main benefit is that it removes dead skin cells. "Exfoliating the lips reveals fresh, smooth skin beneath," says Rodney. "An added benefit is that lipstick can then be applied evenly, and the lips immediately look plumper." It can also temporarily increase blood flow for plumper-looking lips. Finally, Rodney notes that exfoliation can help improve discoloration and dark spots on the lips. "The discolored surface cells slough off, and are replaced by new, even-toned skin," she says.

How to Exfoliate Your Lips

Below, Rodney breaks down exactly how to exfoliate lips.

  1. Clean and pat dry lips: Before exfoliating, it’s important to ensure that your lips are clean and dry. This means removing any trace of lipstick or gloss, and following up by patting dry.
  2. Exfoliate gently: Use a circular motion to rub the skin on the lips. "Be sure not to scrub, irritate, or break the skin," notes Rodney.
  3. Moisturize: Follow up with a thin layer of lip balm to form a protective barrier.

Ready-Made Lip Exfoliants

The easiest way to treat chapped lips is with a product that will buff away dead skin and reveal the soft layer underneath. We have a handful of top picks that get the job done. The Fresh Sugar Lip Polish ($19) s a three-in-one super product. It cleanses, exfoliates, and conditions to give you soft, hydrated lips.

Sara Happ's The Lip Scrub in Pink Grapefruit ($26) is another great option, and features super-fine sugar to exfoliate as well as jojoba and grapeseed oils to moisturize. We also like Wonderskin's Wonder Blading 3-in-1 Lip Scrub ($19), which is convenient and ultra-hydrating. The lip crayon-esque scrub helps prep your pout for any product you put on top. It's the total do-it-all that sloughs away dead skin, moisturizes, and primes for flawless application.

DIY Lip Scrub

If you're the DIY type, opt for this simple lip scrub recipe that requires items you likely already have in your pantry.

3 tsp. of white sugar
1/2 tsp. of jojoba oil (or other oil of your choice)
1/2 tsp. of honey
1/2 a lemon


  1. Pour the sugar into a bowl, followed by the oil of your choice.
  2. Next, add the honey.
  3. For flavor, add an extract (we love lemon).
  4. Mix everything together so that the jojoba oil, honey, and lemon are evenly distributed across the sugar.
  5. Scrub your lips in a circular motion for two to three minutes—you can actually lick it off since it is completely edible.

Honey is equally as hydrating and helps speed up the skin renewal process and can be used in place of oil.

How Often to Exfoliate Lips

While we're all about a good lip exfoliating session, Rodney notes that overdoing it can have its downfall. "Gentle exfoliation can be performed as often as once a week," she explains. And remember, exfoliation is only one step in your skincare routine. "Like the rest of your skin, your lips can get burnt from sun exposure—just like you wear sunscreen on your face everyday, you should wear a lip balm with SPF 30 everyday, too."

What Should You Do After Exfoliating the Lips?

In addition to applying an SPF, proper lip care means hydrating the lips with a lip oil or chapstick, and ensuring you don't lick the lips too often, which can enhance dryness. Hydrating from the inside out is also key. As we've detailed in the past, some might mistake dehydration for dry skin. Dehydrated skin lacks water, but can also appear dull and tight, like chapped skin. Be sure to drink plenty of water daily and use a humidifier if necessary.

Side Effects of Too Much Exfoliation

As with anything, moderation is key when it comes to exfoliating the lips. According to Rodney, "over-exfoliating the lips can lead to cracks in the skin, which may actually worsen the dryness and scaling." So try and ensure you don't exfoliate the lips too hard — or too often, ensuring you start slowly and gently.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. Burlando B, Cornara L. Honey in dermatology and skin care: a reviewJ Cosmet Dermatol. 2013;12(4):306-313. doi:10.1111/jocd.12058

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