Why Do I Get Chapped Lips?

Plus, why licking your lips only makes things worse.


In the battle against the elements, it’s one of life’s cruel jokes that our lips, one of the most exposed areas of our bodies to the sun, wind and cold (let alone our penchant for idle talk, a salty snack or a chance at first base), is also one of the least protected.

It’s because they’re covered by skin that is much thinner than anywhere else, and lack the oil-producing sweat glands and hair that form a protective barrier on other parts of your body.

The combination of these factors leaves our lips exposed to the cold, dry winter air, which makes easy work of our unprotected, thin smoochers. As they dry out and become harder and less pliable, painful cracks and sores can form. To add insult to injury, our natural inclination to lick our lips in an effort to add back the lost moisture makes the whole situation worse. As water evaporates from our saliva our lips dry out further, and the constant licking irritates the skin, causing that unsightly redness.

Thankfully, Man invented lip balm, a great way to treat and prevent the dryness and blistering at the core of any chapped-lip situation by adding back any precious moisture you’ve lost, and forming the protective barrier that lips can’t. But not all lip balm has been created equal: If you’re going to be outdoors, using lip balm with some sunscreen in it is especially important. And, if you don’t want to become a lip-balm junkie, steer clear of anything with salicylic acid, menthol, camphor or phenol in it: Those ingredients will have you chasing that lip-balm high thanks to their tendency to cause irritation and perpetuate dryness.

Your chapped lips might be vulnerable little buggers, but thanks to your good friend lip balm, you can get the protection you need to brave the elements.