My lips are always categorically dry and chapped in the wintertime (or—who am I kidding?—all other seasons too) so over the years I've invested in lip scrubs to first slough away the flaky skin, then, I'll follow up with a deeply hydrating lip balm. At first, the idea of lip scrub seemed inconvenient. They're a bit messy, and if they come packaged in a pot, you'll need to dip your finger inside, which is hardly hygienic. But then, E.l.f. and Beauty by PopSugar came out with lip scrubs in stick form for less mess and germs, and I'd figured I'd gotten my lip repair down to a perfect science. But recently, a press release from Dr. Dennis Gross discredited my entire routine.
"Lip skin is very different from the skin on your face—it's actually more similar to the skin inside of your mouth," the release reads. "The skin on your lips has a special top layer that doesn't accumulate dead skin cells and is very thin (approximately one third of the thickness of skin on your face). In order to heal dry, chapped lips, you need to repair that barrier, not scrub it off. When you use a scrub, you're removing the protective outer layer of the lips, leaving them even more compromised."
I was shocked after reading this, especially considering I'd been scrubbing away at my lips with abandon for years assuming I was doing my lips a favor. To confirm Dr. Gross's reasoning, I reached out to NYC-based dermatologist Josh Zeichner.
"I am always cautious in advising patients to exfoliate dry skin, whether it is on the body or on the lips," he explains. "I recommend hydration as a first step for dry, flaky skin. After hydrating, then you can exfoliate or use a scrub. Scrubbing skin that is already dry can lead to inflammation and cracks in the outer skin layer that actually makes the dryness worse in the end."
The key takeaway: Skip the scrubs on your lips and opt for deep moisturizing serums and balms instead. And, while you're at it, exfoliate with caution on the body only after moisturizing the skin first.
Now that your lip care collection may need a bit of a clean-out, consider re-stocking with some of our favorite hydrating lip products, including Dr. Dennis Gross's new Hyaluronic Marine Collagen Lip Cushion which stimulates your lips’ natural production of chondroitin sulfate, a sister ingredient to hyaluronic acid that's more prevalent in the lips.