We focus a lot on finding the right exfoliator for our faces, but the topic of exfoliating our lips flies a bit under the radar. Lips tend to become easily chapped because they don’t contain oil or sweat glands like the rest of your body. Not only do chapped lips throw a wrench in your lipstick game, it can even lead to infection or damage due to a broken skin barrier.
Why should I use a chemical lip peel?
Just like exfoliating your face, exfoliating your lips helps slough off dead skin. You’ve likely heard of lip scrubs, which are physical exfoliants that “instantly smooth and slough off dry skin and can help stimulate circulation,” says Charlene Valledor, chemist and president of SOS Beauty. But what about lip peels? They are chemical exfoliators that contain an acid to dissolve the outermost layer of dead skin. When it comes to lip peels, you most commonly see “lactic, mandelic, or glycolic acids because they tend to be gentle enough for your lips’ sensitive skin,” says Valledor. With a chemical peel, you don’t risk over exfoliating your lips the way a physical scrub can — and potentially injuring or breaking the skin. It’s a super-effective combo and less messy than a lip scrub,” she says.
What ingredients should I look for?
Lactic acid, an alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA), won’t penetrate too deeply into your skin due its larger molecule size. It also simultaneously pulls in moisture to help keep lips moisturized. If you’re concerned about hyperpigmentation, lactic acid can help even out the tone of your lips.
Glycolic acid, another type of AHA, is a super-effective moisturizer as it absorbs the deepest into your skin because of its smallest molecule size.
Mandelic acid is also an AHA. Since it has double the molecule size of glycolic acid, it’s not as efficient as glycolic acid, it’s well tolerated for sensitive skin.
Especially if you’re new to the world of lip peels, “I would recommend starting off with a mild, lactic- and mandelic-acid based lip exfoliator like the StackedSkincare Hydrating Lip Peel. It also features phytic and mandelic acid to gently shred off dry skin,” she says.
Why can’t I use my existing chemical face exfoliator?
Since the skin on your lips is thinner than the rest of your skin, it’s important to treat them with care when it comes to exfoliation. When using a lip peel, you want to make sure you’re using a product that’s specifically used for your lips, as opposed to something that was formulated for your face or body that will have a stronger percentage of acids. The ingredients in a lip peel are also edible formulations, which isn’t guaranteed with your regular face exfoliator.
How can I prevent dry lips before they start?
Though “the best way to tackle dry and flaky lips is by keeping them hydrated by using a lip product with an occlusive formula like Aquaphor that is going to seal moisture,” says Valledor, anyone with any skin type can use a lip peel for softer, smoother lips. Most lip peels are fool-proof: Just swipe it on and hydrate with a balm that contains SPF, she suggests. Just a note of caution: “Avoid lip balms that contain menthol. It is typically put into lip products because of the cooling effect that is so often popular with consumers. But, menthol can disrupt the lip’s skin barrier and cause inflammation. This can then lead to further dryness and create a vicious cycle,” she says.
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