Lips; we all have a pair. And if you’re a woman, you’ve no doubt played up the feature with lipstick, some clever Cupid’s bow work, or even fillers.

We asked consultant dermatologist Dr. Justine Kluk to give us the 411 when it comes to our pout.

Lip 101 - Image pixabay/xusenru

1. Lip skin is different from the rest of our skin.

“One of the main differences between the skin on our lips and the rest of the body is that it is much thinner, typically consisting of three-five layers in total compared to as many as 16 on the face,” she told us. “Our lips also lack the upper layer of the epidermis, known as the stratum corneum, which serves a protective function, prevents dehydration and combats UV radiation.”

Thinner skin means that the blood vessels underneath the surface can show through more easily, which is why lips are pinkish or red in colour. Another key difference is that our lips do not contain the glands found elsewhere on our skin, so they are more likely to get dry and chapped as they don’t have the same natural oils to keep them soft and smooth.

Lip 101 - Image pixabay/starkvisuals

2. Forget about fragrances and flavourings when it comes to lip balms.

“The primary purpose of applying lip balm is to increase hydration. This can be achieved with occlusive or humectant (moisture preserving) ingredients and by smoothing rough surfaces with an emollient,” Dr. Kluk said. “Lip balms with an occlusive action provide a protective layer on the surface of the lip to prevent exposure to dry air, cold harsh temperatures and wind which can lead to dehydration and to seal moisture in. Examples include paraffin and beeswax.”

Lip balms with a humectant action contain ingredients like hyaluronic acid and glycerin that attract more water molecules to the area and retain them there for longer.

“Unfortunately, some lip products contain allergens and irritants that end up perpetuating the very problems we’re trying to treat. Fragrances and flavourings are a good example,” she added.

Lips 101 - summer lips

3. Eczema can appear on your lips, but you can manage it.

Eczema can appear on the lips, just as it can anywhere else on the body, with redness, cracking and swelling all typical features.

“Licking the lips frequently dries out the skin surface and is one of the more common reasons for this,” the dermatologist explained. “Lip licker’s dermatitis’ can, in fact, become a vicious cycle as we tend to lick our lips more to soothe the discomfort the drier they become. Mouth breathing can also dry our lips out and lead to cracking and soreness.”

Dr. Kluk also revealed another reason we might develop eczema around the lips; contact dermatitis. This is when you become allergic to an ingredient in a product that is being applied onto or around the lips or could even be contained in an item used in the oral cavity such as toothpaste. This can be properly diagnosed with a patch test by a dermatologist.

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Cover image credits © Ramon Espelt/Westend61/Cover Images