Lip balms that won’t stick to a mask

Representational image  (REUTERS)
Representational image (REUTERS)


Not only is chapped lip season here, but mask-wearing can create the same 'burn' effect as constantly licking your lips. How to heal them—without creating a gloopy sticky mess

The lipstick index is a term Leonard Lauder coined in 2001 to describe the affordable luxury products (like lipstick) that seem to be recession-proof. But COVID may have killed the lipstick index once and for all: When you’re wearing a mask most of the time, does lipstick matter as much?

Sure, there is the personal mood-lifting that comes with swiping on a red lip, and it does broadcast beautifully on Zoom. But is that enough to retain our collective interest in lipstick? Sales in 2020 point to no, indicating a major dip in makeup purchases, and lipstick in particular.

But while lipstick may be relegated to the bottom of our (out-of-use) handbags, lips should not be overlooked. Winter’s plunging temperatures—plus dry indoor heat and the moisture and sweat-trapping tendencies of constant mask-wearing—means the already-fragile skin on our lips is under more stress than ever.

“The lips’ stratum corneum [the top protective layer] is very thin, making them lovely and soft, but also less protected than ‘normal’ skin," says Dr. Heather D. Rogers, a Seattle-based dermatologist and CEO of skincare brand Doctor Rogers RESTORE. Lips also do not have hair follicles or their associated oil glands, so they are less able to keep in water and more likely to be affected by changes in temperature, air humidity, the elements or irritants, she says.

Repetitive bad habits like lip licking make matters worse—a very similar effect to nonstop mask-wearing.

“The trapped moisture when it meets the frigid air can induce a ‘wind burn’ on our lips," says New York dermatologist Shereene Idriss. That added moisture can also change the pH of our skin, contributing to an increase in the growth of unwanted yeast and bacteria, explains Rogers.

While a lip balm should always have a place of purpose in your skincare routine, this year, the need is more pointed.

Makeup artist Daniel Martin, who works with Meghan Markle, Elisabeth Moss and Jessica Alba, looks equally for hydrating, fast-absorbing, protecting, an emollient base and a finish that isn’t sticky (even more important if you’re wearing a mask).

Application method is also key to no stickiness. “For a stick formula, start in the middle of the mouth and rub lips together to spread it around to prevent pooling in your creases," he says. Take care when applying publicly to avoid unwanted germs: “If it’s in a pot, scoop it out with a Q-tip or the back of your fingernail to minimize the amount of contact your skin is making with the product, and if it’s a tube squeeze onto your fingertip versus applying directly. Even though the cap is on it’s still coming into contact with whatever is alongside it in our purses and pockets."

Goop, which just released its first lip balm, started formulating it pre-pandemic—it took three years for them to land on the winning version. The end result has an intentionally satin finish to avoid a sticky feel.

If you’re longing for a bit of a tint, Martin suggests filling in lips with a favorite lip liner then topping with a product like Tatcha’s Kissu Lip Mask to create a long-wearing, super hydrating tinted balm. And for lips that are already suffering from extreme chapping, dryness or mask irritation, Idriss recommends a chemical exfoliant to shed dead lip skin first.

“Lactic or glycolic acid [helps] shed the dead layer more evenly and smoothly," she says. “Then I apply a thick layer of ointment to my lips and allow it to melt in, a step I call lip basting."

If your lips are slightly inflamed or irritated, Idriss suggests skipping the exfoliation and going straight for the ointment. And lip balm wearing should, especially this winter and while COVID remains our unfortunate reality, simply become part of your routine: “Just like you put on your coat before you go outside, you put on a lip balm," says Rogers.

That balms feel like a bit of self-care only adds to their appeal, says Martin: “With everything going on right now, all people want is to be comfortable—and comforted—and that extends to lip care."

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.

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