Oct. 9, 2011 at 2:46 PM ET
When the temperature drops, lips get dry and chapped. You can't just hide 'em behind lipstick and lip gloss… A red or pink mouth with splits and dead skin on it? So not sexy. Chapped lips are not just unsightly, they can become painful—cracking and bleeding—if not treated properly. Use lip balm, you suggest? Beauty pros point out that it won't do the trick. In fact, lip balm might be the very chapped-lip culprit because it actually keeps moisture out. What's a girl to do?
I turned to the experts and was surprised to learn that some of my own lip-caring methods are what's making them worse!
Don't lick your chapped lips, says Wendy Lewis, founder and editor in chief of Beauty In the Bag. "Licking your lips damages the protective barrier because your saliva contains digestive enzymes that can break it down and dry your lips out."
Do use cucumber. "Cut [one] into slices and hold on lips, allowing the water in the cucumber to soothe and replenish your cracked lips," suggests Alexis Wolfer, founder of The Beauty Bean.
Don't pick or peel flaking skin on the lips, says Vince Spinnato, a cosmetic chemist. "This not only removes the natural skin protection, it can lead to cracking or open sores that may invite infection."
Do exfoliate. "Create a mixture of brown sugar and water and rub it onto lips until they begin to feel soft," suggests Wolfer. There are also lip scrubs out there you can use to slough off dead skin, like Philosophy's Kiss Me Exfoliating Lip Scrub and Facial ($15 at Sephora), Bath & Body Works' The Lip Scrub in Red Velvet ($24 at Bath & Body Works) and Garden Botanika's Lip Scrub ($0.99 at Ulta).
Don't eat or drink anything acidic like orange juice, which may irritate and burn your dry and chapped lips even more, says Dr. Michele Green, a New York City based board-certified dermatologist.
Don't be fooled by lip balms, says Dr. Mauro C. Romita, a specialist in aesthetic and reconstructive plastic surgery. "Contrary to what most people believe, [some] don't hydrate the lips. Instead, they seal moisture out, so lips can't absorb it!" Even worse, lip balms that contain menthol, camphor and peppermint might irritate your chapped lips, keeping them from healing.
Do apply a lip moisturizer. "It's best to [use one] after a bath or shower to help seal in and replenish the skin with the necessary water and oils," says the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery. Try a couple of drops of sesame seed oil, says Jaira Lima, celebrity beauty and grooming expert. "It's rich in vitamins A, B and E, which moisturize."
Do drink plenty of water, adds Romita. "It's important your body is properly hydrated and not deficient of vitamin B, iron and essential fatty acids. Keeping yourself healthy and hydrated will help to keep your lips looking fresh."
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A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.