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How to Exfoliate Lips the Right Way (Because, Yes, There Are Wrong Ways)

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If you landed here, we'd like to welcome you to the chronic dry lips crew. We don't focus on the flaky, dry lips that stem from weather conditions (guilty) or constant licking of the lips (oops). Instead, we try to find ways to alleviate them. One method we strongly encourage? Lip exfoliation. And no, this doesn't mean rubbing your lips vigorously with a toothbrush. We're talking about DIY lip exfoliators and ready-made solutions that don't just give temporary results—they're actually effective at ridding every trace of chapping to reveal smooth, kissable lips.

If "how to exfoliate lips" is all too common in your browser history, we have all the answers you need to keep your dry, cracked lips in check. And, we tapped board-certified dermatologist Ife J Rodney to help us along the way.

Meet the Expert

Ife J Rodney is a board-certified dermatologist and the founding director of Eternal Dermatology + Aesthetics.

Ahead, learn exactly how to exfoliate lips for a smoother, healthier pout.

The Benefits of Lip Exfoliation

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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 to the lips 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

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Below, Rodney breaks down exactly how to exfoliate lips.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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. Below, our top picks that get the job done.

Bite Beauty Agave+ Weekly Vegan Lip Scrub
Bite Beauty Agave+ Weekly Vegan Lip Scrub $22
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Made with raw brown sugar, pineapple enzymes, and oils, this lip scrub is a three-in-one super product. It cleanses, exfoliates, and conditions to give you soft, hydrated lips.

Sara Happ The Lip Scrub Pink Grapefruit
Sara Happ The Lip Scrub Pink Grapefruit $24
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Looking for a lip scrub that's as effective as it is gorgeous sitting on your vanity? Look to this one from Sara Happ, which features super-fine sugar to exfoliate as well as jojoba and grapeseed oils to moisturize.

Wonder Skin Wonder Blading 3-in-1 Lip Scrub
Wonderskin Wonder Blading 3-in-1 Lip Scrub $20
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Both convenient for on-the-go and ultra-hydrating, this 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.

Kopari Coconut Lip Scrubby
Kopari Coconut Lip Scrubby $16
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Fake a tropical vacation with Kopari's coconut-infused lip scrub. The MVP ingredient is packed with fatty acids to soothe chapped skin and intensely hydrate.

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.

Ingredients:
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

Directions:

  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

Woman close up of lips
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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. "However, over-exfoliating the lips can lead to cracks in the skin, which may actually worsen the dryness and scaling." 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."

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