At this time of year it’s common to have dry, flakey lips, but the blame doesn’t entirely lie in the hands of the weather gods. The cause of your chapped lips is actually a lot closer to home, in your skincare cabinet, in fact - we’re looking at you, retinol (and the whole retinoid family, actually).
Yep, the powerful anti-ageing ingredient could be behind your chapped lips - especially if you’re reckless with your application. Along with your under eyes, your lips are the most delicate skin on your face and any retinol that comes into contact with them is likely to cause dryness as well as itching and redness, as Doctor Sam Bunting explains.
“Getting retinoids on your lips usually comes about as an accident - we inadvertently swipe our fingers over our lips when applying our precious night-time retinoid, or we smoosh it over our lips when we face-plant into the pillow.”
Don’t throw out your retinol though - there’s plenty you can do to limit the damage retinoids do to your lips.
The first step is to apply a fragrance-free, non-irritating lip balm around your lips before applying your retinoid. This acts as a barrier so any extra retinol doesn’t slip on to your lips.
“Be sure to work your lip balm into the corners of the mouth, where skincare products can sometimes pool and cause trouble,” advises Dr Sam.
Next up, apply your retinol with caution. Rather than haphazardly dousing your face in it, apply it carefully and stay well away from the mouth - again, this makes it less likely for your product to slip.
Dr. Sam recommends applying your retinol with the 13 dot technique so that it’s absorbed where needed, and nowhere else. (Factor in some extra time for your skincare routine if you want to do this, it’s definitely not a method for people in a rush to leap in between the sheets).
Dr Sam’s next step to avoid retinol lip is much more user-friendly - she suggests applying your moisturiser first, then adding retinol on top. The problem with putting moisturiser over retinol is that smoothing it in can cause the retinol to slide south - potentially onto the lips. If you’re set in your ways of layering your skincare, just make sure the retinol is fully massaged in to prevent excess moving around the face.