6 steps for softer lips

You can workout-proof your pout. Here's how.

There’s a painful realization one gets with chapped lips:I could have prevented this agony.The feeling is common this time of year. “The winter months can be especially taxing on the skin and can result in dry, cracked, and bleeding lips if proper care is not taken,” says Eric Schweiger, M.D., of Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City. “This can create both a cosmetic nuisance and you risk infection.” And as athletes, we invite chapping when we brave the elements for a hard outdoor workout, or when we towel-wipe our pouts during a particularly difficult class.

Your lips are delicate. But the science of keeping them soft is somewhat straightforward. To avoid snafus, follow these six steps from Schweiger.

Know Your Ingredients:Avoid the word ‘fragrance.’ Since dozens of synthetic and natural ingredients often used in production are allergens; scented balms, glosses, and lipsticks can irritate the skin. Schweiger also says to avoid menthol and camphor, “which give your lips that nice cooling sensation, but actually dry them out.”

Look for nourishing ingredients like vitamin E, cocoa butter, glycerin, shea butter, and petrolatum. Those last two act as both occlusives and emollients, meaning they hydrate the skin and preserve existing moisture. This is imperative for athletes who train outdoors, especially during dry, winter months.

Apply With Care:If you apply balm with a finger, it increases the likelihood of transferring bacteria to your lips. If there are any cracks in your skin, this could lead to a very painful infection. Instead, stick with products you can apply directly from the tube. We recommend: Caudalie Lip Conditioner.

Shield Yourself from the Sun:The skin on your lips is the most delicate of all; so, if you prefer exercising outside, always apply a balm with SPF to prevent sun damage and peeling. We recommend: Jack Black Intense Therapy Lip Balm.

Brush Away:Before bed, you brush your hair to keep it soft, you brush your teeth to keep them clean, and now you can brush your lips to exfoliate them. Pick up a gentle lip scrub to use before bed, then apply a balm to help restore moisture overnight. We recommend: Laura Gellar Lip Strip Sugar Scrub; or, if you’d prefer an exfoliating peel over a scrub, try Aquareveal’s Smooth Talker Water Peel.

Soften the Air You Breathe:Air conditioners and space heaters can dry out the air in your home. This is why you may wake up with chapped lips throughout a cold winter—those machines work tirelessly to monitor temperate, with little concern for the moisture in the air. Buy a humidifier that can gauge the moisture levels, and let it work against the other machines to restore some balance. We recommend: Aurora 1-Gallon Ultrasonic Humidifier.

Supplement Wisely:Cracks at the sides of your lips can creep up if you’re not getting enough vitamin D. This is especially common in the winter, when sunlight is lacking. Stock up on supplements (other pro-lip vitamins include A, B3, B12, and zinc), and take them year-round. Should you ingest more than needed, your body will healthily dispose of any excess.