Do you bite your lips? If you do and you're on a mission to stop, then you've come to the right place. There are in fact two very different reasons as to why people bite their lips. The first is that dry, flaky skin can be annoying, so if your lips aren't pillowy soft you may be inclined to chew the flaky skin. "If your lips are dry, we’re likely to lick them more often and maybe pull at them, but this can make our lips drier and more irritated," says Victoria Schofield, Dermalogica's Digital Education Executive. So far, so obvious. It's sort of like getting the urge to pick a zit once you know it's there or go at a stray hair with your tweezers. The second reason is anxiety. Yep, if you're feeling stressed or out of sorts, then you could find your lip biting reaching new heights of regularity. Schofield explains that our lips are related to our stomach and colon in Chinese face reading. "Many of us will unconsciously chew or pull at our lips when we’re stressed or anxious," she says. "Think about how these emotions relate to that sick feeling or butterflies in your stomach."
Dr. Anita Sturnham, a GP specializing in dermatology and founder of Decree, agrees that lip biting can be linked to stress, anxiety, and even boredom but goes onto reveal that "it can also be part of a bigger spectrum of conditions called Body-Focussed Repetitive Behaviors [that] typically begins in childhood and can extend into adulthood. It can vary in severity from one-off occurrences [to more consistent lip biting]... If done repeatedly, it can cause injury to the lip tissue, with short term issues such as pain, ulcers, infection, and longer-term implications of scarring and an increased risk of oral cancers."
If you're determined to stop biting your lips, then keep reading because Schofield and Sturnham have shared their tops tips below.
Identify Your Triggers
"The key to tackle this is to identify the triggers," says Sturnham. "If you find [you chew your lips] while you're sitting at your computer and trying to get an important piece of work done, then switch your mindset and find something harmless to chew on. The most obvious choice could be a sugar-free gum. Distraction therapy can work really well."
Reduce Your Stress Levels
"If stress is a trigger, look at ways to reduce stress levels," advises Sturnham. "Exercise and meditation can be a huge help. If these measures don't work, you may want to try Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, while more severe cases of lip biting may warrant a medical review."
The Beck Institute has useful CBT resources if you want to find out more.
Cleanse Your Lips
"Cleansing the lips is just as important as the rest of the face to ensure thorough removal of lipsticks, glosses, and any build-up of pollutants and grime from the day," says Schofield. Keeping your lips in tip-top condition could prevent you from absentmindedly chewing at any dry or flaky skin. "Use a nourishing product like Dermalogica PreCleanse Balm or oil gently over the lips, concentrating on the lip line. This will break down makeup and also help prevent micro congestion (mini blackheads) around the lip line," she says.
Your Lips Needs Exfoliating, Too
Do you exfoliate your lips? If not, you should. "A regular buff and polish of the lips can help with flakiness and rough texture, but gentle formulas are best for this delicate area," says Schofield. "Try cult classic Dermalogica Daily Microfoliant to gently smooth your pout. This rice-based powder is gentle enough for sensitive skin and daily use. Activate with water and work a little of the creamy paste over your lips and rinse." We love Stacked Skincare's Hydrating Lip Peel for a gentle chemical exfoliation featuring glycolic and lactic acids and Bite's Agave Lip Scrub, which is made with sugar crystals and papaya extract to gently slough away flakiness.
"With our lips supplying very little natural moisture, we need to keep them well hydrated," says Schofield. "This will improve the perception of volume, so be sure to moisturize your lips and apply a lip balm with nourishing emollients, like vitamin E and avocado oil, as well as hydrators like hyaluronic acid."
She warns that you should avoid mineral oil or petroleum-based balms though (think Vaseline), as she says they can "confuse the lip tissue and reduce the production of natural barrier protection." We love Skinceuticals Antioxidant Lip Repair ($40) with vitamin E and hyaluronic acid and Glossier Bubble Wrap Eye + Lip Cream for keeping our lips soft and hydrated.
Treat Your Lips at Night
Get into the habit of applying an overnight mask or balm to your lips as part of your nighttime skincare routine. Often, they are formulated to bolster your skin's natural repair processes that occur while you sleep, so you'll wake up to a softer, plumper pout.
Containing fair trade coconut oil and wild mango butter, this thick mask nourishes the natural skin barrier, sinking into your lips while you sleep to leave them soft and supple come morning, according to the brand.
This cult product from K-beauty brand Laneige is made with vitamin C and hyaluronic acid to help you wake up with softer, more hydrated lips in the morning.
Wear a Bold Lipstick
"You can also try wearing a tinted lip gloss or bright lipstick," suggests Dr. Sturnham. "Knowing that it will get messy if you start biting away can be a good deterrent, but don't use a gloss or balm that tastes nice!"
Ultra-saturated with color, this lipstick is seriously comfortable to wear and long-lasting. This red is a standout shade that you won't want to bite away.
One of Byrdie's 2020 Eco Award Winners, this creamy crayon leaves a matte imprint of bold color on the lips that feels nourishing.