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Winter may be the season of holidays and celebration, but the cold, windy weather makes life difficult for your lips. Fortunately, chapping and flaking needn’t be the inevitable results of the shorter, darker days, and these tips will help keep your lips soft and beautiful into spring and beyond.

Keep Hydrated

This is the single most important tip when it comes to keeping your lips in good shape. Cold and windy weather can be just as dehydrating as hot and dry, sometimes even more so, as you’re likely to drink less than when the temperature is soaring. Make sure to drink plenty of water to keep your liquid levels up, even if you’re not feeling particularly thirsty.

Cut Back on Caffeine

A shot of strong coffee might be just what you need to get going on a dark and gloomy morning, but unfortunately, caffeine is a powerful dehydrator. Consider switching to a fruit juice in the mornings, even for just a couple of days a week, or alternatively follow your caffeine hit with several glasses of water spread throughout the morning. Herbal teas make a warming alternative to coffee in cold weather, and they don’t contain the caffeine that can remove vital moisture from your body.

Go Easy on Alcohol

Alcohol is another cause of dehydration, and while a glass of wine in front of a roaring fire can be an indulgent luxury on a cold night, don’t forget to drink water before going to bed. This is particularly important if you prefer to sleep in a warm bedroom, where you can lose a lot of moisture overnight, especially through exposed skin such as your lips.

Go Heavy on Lip Balm

During winter, it’s important to wear lip balm as a habit, and not just when your lips are starting to become chapped. Going back and forth between the warmth of heated buildings and the cold wind outside can also be drying, so also use balm indoors. While it’s best to use a gentle lip balm that won’t cause irritation, it’s also a good idea to use one with a strong taste. If your lips feel dry, it’s easy to lick them without noticing it, which only makes matters worse because the saliva will dry in the winter winds, leading to chapping. A strong-tasting balm will help you notice this unconscious habit more easily.

Pay Attention to Exfoliation

Exfoliating your facial skin should be a regular part of your beauty routine, but your lips will benefit too. Gently removing the dead cells and impurities from your lips reduces chapping and flaking, and promotes circulation to keep your lips healthy and luscious. However, for your lips you’ll need to use something milder and less abrasive than your usual facial scrub. Try a sugar lip scrub you can find at the drugstore, or look for a DIY recipe and make your own.

Do You Need That Lipstick?

The daily routine of applying and removing lipstick can place the surface of your lips under tremendous strain. In the summer, using gentle hypo-allergenic cosmetics can be enough to avoid harm, but the harsh winter elements can inflame any tenderness in your lips. If you do wear lipstick, try and avoid matte formulations, which are especially drying. Also, use as mild a remover as you can, and always follow with a moisturizing lip balm.

Emergency Rescue

Unfortunately, even with your best efforts, you can still end up with painfully chapped lips if the weather is particularly inclement. If this happens, the worst thing you can do is to lick and nibble your lips, which will only increase the irritation. A good moisturizing lip balm can help. In severe cases, applying a small amount of a hydrocortisone cream twice a day can quickly bring the situation back under control, reducing inflammation and soothing the itching or pain. However, this shouldn’t be used by children under the age of 10, by women who are pregnant, or for longer than seven days without a doctor’s prescription.

Each season offers its own challenges for your complexion, but it’s the winter that’s hardest on your lips. Following these tips will help you greet spring with lips just as kissable as they were during the last balmy days of summer.

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