Lips come in all shapes and sizes – and can suffer various ailments throughout the year. At Bali Balm we like to think we’re experts when it comes to looking after your lips – but there’s a lot more to them than what you can see on the outside. Here are some interesting facts and frequently asked lip questions that you may find interesting.
LIPS HAVE MANY LAYERS
Did you know that lips have three distinct surfaces? The outside surface of the lip is covered with the same kind of skin as on the face. The part that is always mistakenly referred to as ‘the lip’ is actually the edge of the lip and this called the vermillion border, which is more darkly or brightly coloured than facial skin. The inside of the lip is a soft, moist surface called the mucous membrane surface. It is made of the same type of tissue that lines the inside of the rest of the mouth.
All three surfaces have their own special functions and characteristics. The soft mucus membrane surface is constantly lubricated with saliva, allowing it to flex with ease to prevent it being bitten or torn by food. Healthy, flexible lips help us to smile, eat and kiss without discomfort, while also protecting us from the harmful effects of the sun, wind and changing temperatures.
Like facial skin, the visible vermilion border is keratinized, which means that the outer surface cells come from living cells at the inner layer of the skin. As these cells rise from the innermost layer to the surface of the skin, they die and harden to form a tough, protective later. It is this tough keratin-covered layer that protects the delicate underlying cells from the harmful effects of the environment. These environmental stressors can be anything – from the pollution in the cities, to the elements, but most commonly it’s ultraviolet exposure – this is the predominant cause of lips drying out. Did you know that sebum (a natural oil produced by our bodies) which helps keep our skin moisturised, is absent in our lips – so it’s vital to hydrate and moisturise them at regular intervals.
CHAPPED LIPS WON’T HEAL?
If lips skin peeling is visible on this outer layer, this is because the keratin layer has broken down and started peeling – this is what causes chapped lips. ‘Chaps’ are just the layers of keratin peeling from the surface of the lips.
If chapped lips won’t heal then this can be down to issues from the keratin forming process – and it’s good to know that this layer is not fool proof – it doesn’t always work perfectly. This is why the use of a lip balm is essential – ours have been created to work in harmony with this process, keeping them soft and hydrated. If problems persist and the chapping doesn’t heal, this could also be an early warning sign or something more serious, or an infection, so you should seek professional medical advice from a doctor or dermatologist.
Lip texture and colour vary across globe, but the surface of healthy lips is visibly smooth and soft to touch, if the surface becomes damaged, thick or dries, the texture and appearance becomes rough and is usually a pre-cursor to cracked lips.
The colour of normal healthy lips is influenced by several factors, from the amount of natural pigment, to the thickness of overlying skin and even the colour of the underlying blood. This also why lips usually look red on most of the population – the surface skin is thinner than facial skin, so you can literally see through to the blood vessels underneath. Just think - the thinner the skin, the redder the lip.
Blood itself is only red if it contains oxygen – and it gradually loses the oxygen as it replenishes the surrounding tissues – so if you are cold and the blood does not circulate properly, then lips can appear pale and blue. You often see this in winter.
WHAT CAUSES DEAD SKIN ON LIPS?
One of the most common problems or queries when it comes to lips is: why are they cracking, chapping or drying out? Is it a bad skincare routine, external factors – or both?
Dead skin on lips can be caused by multiple factors, but we are most prone to these ailments during the winter. Chaoping is the most common, and we know this caused by the breakdown of the keratin surface layer – the main cause of this is dehydration and sun damage – so stay hydrated throughout the day and ensure you use a broad-spectrum SPF.
Dehydration of the lips occurs when lips are exposed to dry environments – and ironically this is during the colder months when we are exposed to artificial heat indoors. When we leave these environments, the changing temperatures can cause the lip area to become irritated and this is when we are most likely to lick our lips – but this should be avoided if possible. Frequent licking of the lips removes the natural protective oils within the lip tissue and allows the natural moisture on the lips to evaporate – it is this moisture loss that causes cracked lips.
In the summer, UV exposure can damage the keratin-producing cells which create the outer protective layer of the lips – don’t forget lips can sunburn and peel like the rest of the skin on the body, which is how you can get dead skin on lips. Like regular cells, once they are damaged, they break apart and fall off.
If this happens, and lip’s surface is damaged – the flexibility also decreases which in turn causes lips to crack more, as they cannot stretch without breaking (it’s a vicious circle) and this is why the regular application of lip balm throughout is key to the healing process.
DO CRACKED LIPS CAUSE COLD SORES?
We often get asked: what causes cold sores?
It assumed that when we are run down from cold or flu (or lips are in very bad condition) that cold sores can appear. The truth is that you have to have already been infected with the Herpes Simplex virus to get them – it is the sores from this virus that are commonly known as ‘cold sores’ or ‘fever blisters’ in the US.
Recent studies have shown that between 70 and 90% of the US population has been exposed to the virus, and this usually happened in childhood. Once exposed, the virus lives in the nerves where is first entered the body, which is why cold sores usually always reappear in the same location (gross, we know).
Contrary to popular belief, sunlight (UV radiation) is in fact the main trigger for recurrent cold sores, alongside things like stress or diet. If you suffer from cold sores, it is vital to care for them properly.
Don’t pick them, and If it starts to crust and scab (which is normal), ensure you speed up the healing process by using a lip balm to keep lips hydrated and supple – this helps prevent the sore, cracked lips from getting any worse.
In short, if you want smooth healthy lips, the secret is to ALWAYS stay hydrated with water, protect your skin with a good SPF, DON’T LICK YOUR LIPs, and always apply a balm three of four times a day – this goes up to seven if you are already experiencing any of the above symptoms or you can feel them beginning to dry out. It is a good habit to get in to and Bali Balm has been specially formulated to not only look after your lips, but give them a little joy – something fresh and delicious that treats your lips, day after day.