Wearing protective face masks when we leave home has become part of our daily lives, which means we need to adjust our skin care routines. Trapped heat, humidity and friction from the mask can irritate the skin. Plus, it’s difficult to properly moisturize ― by sipping water and reapplying lip balm ― under a mask. This can all add up to exceptionally dry or chapped lips, which makes finding a long-lasting, moisturizing lip product more vital than ever.
“The most important thing when you’re talking about hydration for lips is finding something that has staying power,” said Arielle Nagler, an assistant professor of dermatology at NYU Langone Health. “Thicker glosses tend to be better at that.”
Nagler also recommended avoiding products that are mostly water- or alcohol-based “because those tend to evaporate quickly.”
Experts who spoke to HuffPost had more good advice for protecting your lips in these tough times:
Look for these ingredients (and avoid these).
Nava Greenfield, a doctor with Schweiger Dermatology in New York, called petrolatum (aka petroleum jelly) and beeswax “my two favorite products” when it comes to locking in lip moisture because “they’re the thickest and they’re least likely for people to react to them.”
Oil-based products ― think mango, mineral, hemp seed and castor seed oil ― also work well.
“The oil-based products will stay on your lips longer,” said Carrie Kovarik, associate professor of dermatology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. “They may not be as cosmetically beautiful but if you’re going to have a mask on, I don’t think anyone’s going to really notice. If you really have dry, chapped lips, just glob it on.”
Just because our mouths are covered more often these days doesn’t mean we should skip the sunscreen. “Most fabrics provide an SPF of about 4, so it’s still important even if you’re wearing a mask to apply a lip product that has SPF,” Nagler said.
Greenfield said she wears SPF 50 “whenever I leave the house” and loves Coppertone Sport Sunscreen Lip Balm. “It’s going to help your lips stay young and healthy for longer,” she said of SPF lip products overall. “There’s lots of skin cancers that build up on lips, mucous membranes, and damage in general.”
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends steering clear of lip products with camphor, eucalyptus, menthol, fragrance or flavors like cinnamon, citrus and mint, which can potentially cause an allergic reaction or burning sensation that will worsen dry lips.
“Cinnamon is a very common allergy we see,” Kovarik noted. “Other things that are added to lip products like eucalyptus and camphor can be pretty irritating, especially if you already have chapped lips.”
Stop messing with your mouth.
For the same reason you want to stay away from water-based products, you should also try not to lick your dry lips. “Whenever you apply water to the skin, it’s actually counterproductive,” Greenfield said. “It makes it more dry because it’s wiping away the natural oils that are there.”
And as difficult as it can be, don’t pick at dry skin on the lips or use exfoliators to remove flakes.
“The lips are one of the most sensitive areas of your body and to try to help it out by exfoliating it is getting into a place where you may irritate it too much,” Kovarik said. “Go the other way and apply things to put moisture back rather than ripping cells away.”
Our lips also have the power to self-soothe.
“The best hydration for your lips is the natural emollience that your skin normally produces, so keeping your skin healthy in general and keeping them hydrated — that means drinking lots of fluids — is going to be your best bet,” Greenfield continued. “Your skin turns over fully once every two weeks at a minimum.”
The material of your mask matters.
Pay attention to what your face mask is made of. “Some masks have antibacterial products built into them and those can be kind of irritating to lips,” Nagler said. “When you’re buying a mask, think about it touching the lips and decide whether or not it feels safe.”
Wearing masks can also “lead to other problems with restricted airflow,” Greenfield said. “You can experience a skin breakdown or some perleche, which is a little fungal infection on the sides of your lips” at the corners of your mouth.
So to protect your lips, Greenfield reiterated, “the safest thing to do is just apply straight-up petroleum jelly.”
Products The Experts Recommend
Vaseline Lip Therapy Advanced Healing Moisturizer
All three dermatologists who spoke to HuffPost raved about the moisturizing qualities of petrolatum, the main ingredient in Vaseline. “It should be one of the primary ingredients,” Dr. Arielle Nagler said of petrolatum. “It can help trap moisture in the lip so [the moisture] doesn't evaporate. People are having some irritation from the mask rubbing on lips, so it can create a nice barrier to prevent that as well."
Burt’s Bees Beeswax Lip Balm
Dr. Nava Greenfield said she advocates for Burt’s Bees because “in terms of hydration, what's really important is a beeswax product.”
This hyaluronic balm “contains ingredients to not only hydrate your lips, but that also trap moisture,” said makeup artist Lisa Aharon of LipFuel’s beeswax and many oils.
Elta MD UV Lip Balm
With petrolatum as its principal component, this fragrance-free balm also offers a dermatologist-approved SPF. “We recommend finding a lip balm that has a sun protective factor of 30 or higher,” Dr. Carrie Kovarik said. “Because we do see a good number of skin cancers on the lips.”
Tower 28 ShineOn Lip Jelly
For “the effect of a gloss, but the comfort of a balm,” Aharon likes Tower 28’s ShineOn Lip Jelly. “To avoid a gooey mess under your mask, go with balms or lip jellies like the one Tower 28 makes,” she said.
Aquaphor Lip Protectant + Sunscreen
Aquaphor offers a small version of its petrolatum-based healing ointment (with SPF!) so that you don’t have to use your finger to apply it. “Because in the face mask era, you want to avoid applying a lip product with your finger,” Kovarik said. “Just keep it in your pocket, put it on several times a day and do it again overnight.”
iS Clinical Youth Lip Elixir
“It is the cleanest of clean products that provides multi-level protection against all the environmental nasties,” said makeup artist Georgie Eisdell. “It has vitamin C and E in it to protect and hydrate your lips.”
Doctor Rogers Restore Healing Balm
Aharon and Greenfield both recommend this product from dermatologist Heather D. Rogers’ brand. Similar to Aquaphor, this healing balm can be applied to dry nails and cuticles, eczema, skin surgery sites, cuts, scrapes and burns. It will also tame flyaways and unruly eyebrows.
Benefit Cosmetics Benetint
If you want some color that won’t transfer to your mask, makeup artist Tasha Reiko Brown suggests Benefit’s lip stain. She said it can also be used on the cheeks “for long-lasting smudge-proof color that is less likely to transfer." She explained that "today’s lip stains give you a punch of pigment that sits below the lip layer of skin on your lips, making your mask less likely to pick it up.”