Usually, I am a fan of cold weather. I think it is because I was raised in North America and I survived dreadfully cold winters without too many problems. Mind you, I have never been a fan of heat. I would prefer a brisk and crisp autumn morning where you need a sweater, some gloves and a scarf, than a hot sultry summer one. I might be odd, but I prefer to consider myself sensibly Northern European!
However, with the cold snap (which we have thankfully begun to experience, after an unusually warm October) comes one thing I am not a fan of. Chapped lips.
The lips are delicate pieces of equipment. They do not have oil glands like the rest of the skin and nor do they have melanin which is the skin pigment the rest of the skin has which provides some protection from sun damage. In addition to this, the lips sit very close by to something which actively dry out such unprotected skin – saliva. So, you have a triple whammy, leading to painful cracked lips. Especially when one of the body’s natural instincts is to lick your lips when they are dry. It perpetuates the cycle.
So why do lips get chapped in the first place? Sometimes it is as easy as because you are licking your lips (see the above saliva point), or you have sunburn or some kind of allergic reaction. Mostly though, it is because Keratin, which is the skin’s protein barrier, gets broken down by cold and dry conditions. This explains why chapped lips are usually associated with cold winter weather. If you use a good lip balm for two to three weeks, and your lips are still chapped and sore, then you might want to go to your health professional and get checked for a potential yeast or bacterial infection.
So, what can you do to prevent or to turn the tide of painful and chapped lips? I am not going to be telling you anything you did not already know, but sometimes people need blinding glimpses of the obvious to help them. (In my house, we call them BGOs and we need them more often than we would like to admit!) Chapstick is the first port of call. But make sure that is plain. When your lips are cracked and sore the last thing you want to do is put phenols or camphorated oils anywhere near them. It will be very ouchy indeed. Petroleum jelly is also very good to use, but it is a bit messy to apply. If you want to go completely natural, beeswax is wonderful.
One really good piece of advice from “Home Remedies from a Country Doctor” is not to be too rigorous about applying balms to your lips. Every 5 minutes is likely to cause the chapped lips rather than solve them. 3 times per day should be enough. Another good piece of advice is to stay hydrated on the inside. Although appropriate hydration won’t solve the problem, dehydration will definitely make it worse.
The other piece of advice that was quoted in the book came from an 1829 publication by Lydia Maria Child entitled “The Frugal Housewife”. She suggested you use earwax to solve chapped lips. Ugh. It might have antibacterial qualities, but I struggle to think of anything quite so… disgusting. *Shudder*