Though many reasons could make you unhappy about the way your lips look and feel, there’s one thing that could help with all. And that is exfoliating your lips. We all deal with dry, chapped lips during colder months. Some people lick their lips, which exacerbates dryness. Some people deal with lines around the lips or thinning of the lips due to age. Others deal with lip discolorations. Either way, exfoliating your lips is a quick and easy way to address those issues. And if you’re not sure how it works and how to do it, here’s how to properly exfoliate your lips.
Lip exfoliation is the removal of dead skin cells and flaky skin from the surface of the lips by using a lip scrub to reveal smoother lips.
Even though it looks like it’s all about having fuller-looking lips, lip exfoliation is actually more about taking care of the skin with the added benefit of achieving plump, pink lips.
Because of the certain characteristics of the skin on your lips, your lips are more prone to concerns like pale-looking, flaky, and dry lips.
For starters, your lips don’t have oil glands (1). And because they can’t produce oils to stay moisturized, they’re more prone to dryness.
You don’t see any oil-free lip moisturizers, do you? Lip balms are all heavily emollient products because that’s what your lips need.
Additionally, the skin on the lips is incredibly thin (2), which makes them extra vulnerable to outside elements like cold weather, or wind.
If you’re not sure if you should exfoliate your lips, or how it could help with these issues, keep reading to learn more.
The Benefits of Exfoliating Your Lips
Below are the benefits of exfoliating your lips.
- Whether it’s from the cold weather or the hot weather, dryness, and flakiness on the lips are common issues. And gently exfoliating your lips can eliminate those skin flakes and scaly lips, which will prevent you from picking them too.
- Exfoliation, in general, removes the dead skin layer from the surface of the skin. With that useless barrier out of the way, the lips tend to look plumper and smoother with proper definition.
- Exfoliation stimulates microcirculation beneath the skin. And because of that, though temporary, the lips achieve a more vibrant color after exfoliation. That’s why exfoliating your lips can help you gain back the natural pink color of your lips, which looks more youthful.
- Most lip balms don’t even reach the skin on the lips because of the flaky skin that prevents it. By getting rid of that, your lip balm can actually work better to moisturize the lips.
- We all love a bold red lip look. But when you have dry, chapped lips, your lipstick doesn’t apply or look as smooth. By exfoliating your lips, you can amp up your lipstick game significantly and achieve a more sleek makeup for the lips.
What To Use To Exfoliate Your Lips
There are three different methods to safely exfoliate your lips at home.
1. DIY Lip Scrubs
The first one is by using a DIY scrub you can prepare at home. For this method, you need a physical exfoliant, anything with granules, and an emollient substance to properly apply the exfoliant to your lips. The granules can be sugar or coffee grounds.
And emollients can be nourishing oils like olive oil, jojoba oil, or shea butter. Because of the availability of these ingredients, a DIY scrub is a natural, easy, and budget-friendly way to exfoliate your lips at home.
2. Lip Products & Scrubs
The second method for exfoliating your lips is by using a lip scrub you can buy online or at the store. With these products, you don’t need anything else. You just apply the product directly to your lips.
There’s an advantage of ready-made lip scrubs over DIY options. Though they can be expensive, some products contain plant extracts or ingredients like enzymes that naturally act like chemical exfoliants.
They tend to be more effective than physical exfoliators. Additionally, products you buy also come in stick form, which is mess-free and usually more aesthetically pleasing than DIY options.
3. Towels & Cloths
And lastly, you can use a physical exfoliant like a towel to gently scrub your lips. Your towel or cloth would be the exfoliator because of the gritty texture of the fabric.
And preferably, you should first apply a lip balm on your lips or dab the towel into olive oil or shea butter to help the towel run smoothly on the lips.
DIY Lip Scrub Recipe
Even though there are a ton of lip scrub recipes out there, here’s my favorite DIY lip scrub recipe to exfoliate my lips surrounded by my very sensitive skin.
Ingredients & Directions
- 1 teaspoon of Turkish coffee
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- Mix the olive oil and the coffee grounds in a small bowl using your fingers or a teaspoon.
Turkish coffee is as gentle as it gets. And olive oil is incredibly nourishing for the skin. If you prefer, you can try sugar instead of Turkish coffee and honey instead of olive oil. It’s just another equally gentle and nourishing DIY scrub recipe.
How To Exfoliate Your Lips
Here’s how to exfoliate your lips at home.
- Make sure your lips are clean and there’s no makeup or product on them like lip balm.
- Use two fingers to get a little amount of your scrub and apply it on the lips.
- Gently massage your lips in circular motions.
- Make sure you go over the corners of the mouth and the lip lines too.
- Remember to be very gentle on the lip lines to avoid irritating the skin on the sides of the lips.
- You don’t need to do this any longer than a couple of minutes.
- After you’re done exfoliating, rinse your lips with water and follow up with a lip balm to lock moisture in.
How Often To Exfoliate Your Lips
There’s no rule out there on how often you should exfoliate your lips. But using common sense, you can infer that exfoliation, in general, isn’t something you do every day.
So it’s best to exfoliate your lips once a week. And if your lips need special attention during certain seasons, you can take it up to twice a week.
Can You Exfoliate Your Lips With a Toothbrush?
Some people use toothbrushes as a way to exfoliate lips, which I would never recommend to anybody. Even toothbrushes with soft bristles can irritate your lips. And this is something I did try, so I’m speaking from experience.
When I used the brush to exfoliate the outer corner of my lips, the brush rubbed on my skin and caused redness and sensitivity that lingered for a few days. I don’t know who thought this was a great idea.
A toothbrush is made to brush something super hard, a bone! Why would anyone use it to scrub something so sensitive and delicate like lip skin?
And did you know that in terms of sensitivity, your lips are like your tongue and fingertips (3)? They’re incredibly receptive to outside stimulation and prone to irritation. So no, I don’t think you should use a toothbrush to exfoliate your lips.
Can You Exfoliate Your Lips With Vaseline?
Vaseline is actually one of the most occlusive products you can get your hands on. In fact, vaseline prevents transepidermal water loss by more than 98% (4).
So it’s an amazing way to get rid of dry lips. In addition to moisturizing your lips with vaseline, you can use it to exfoliate your lips too.
You can mix 1 teaspoon of sugar with 1 tablespoon of vaseline and use it as a DIY scrub to exfoliate your lips and moisturize them at the same time.
Can You Exfoliate Your Lips Without a Scrub?
Even though a lip scrub makes it easier to exfoliate your lips, you can do it without a scrub too. As I mentioned, you can use a towel to exfoliate your lips.
Because a towel is still gritty enough to physically exfoliate but still gentle enough to avoid irritation. Damp the towel and gently rub your lips with it in slow, circular motions.
If you have visible flakiness and peeling, you can actually do more harm than good. In that case, apply a lip balm on your lips first, then gently run the towel over the lips.
So this is how to properly exfoliate your lips and what to use for the best results. Below are some tips that can help you keep your lips supple, smooth, plump, and pink.
Tips For Smoother Lips
Remember that there’s such a thing called over-exfoliation. And it’s true for your lips too. Avoid exfoliating your lips too often. Because you can irritate your lips, and cause cracks, which will make them more prone to things you’ve been trying to get rid of.
Just like the skin on your face, the skin on your lips is vulnerable to sun exposure. You can try lip balms made with SPF to maintain a healthy, smooth pout.
Try to be aware of the habits that may damage your lips. Avoid licking your lips, which makes them more prone to getting chapped and dried. Avoid biting your lips or picking skin flakes.
And lastly, make lip care a part of your skincare routine. You apply your serums and moisturizers. Don’t leave it there. Add a healthy and moisturizing lip balm or an overnight lip mask into your skincare routine.
Read Next: The Best Lip Scrubs
- Kim, J., Yeo, H., Kim, T., Jeong, E. T., Lim, J. M., & Park, S. G. (2021). Relationship between lip skin biophysical and biochemical characteristics with corneocyte unevenness ratio as a new parameter to assess the severity of lip scaling. International journal of cosmetic science, 43(3), 275–282. https://doi.org/10.1111/ics.12692
- Trookman, N. S., Rizer, R. L., Ford, R., Mehta, R., & Gotz, V. (2009). Clinical assessment of a combination lip treatment to restore moisturization and fullness. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology, 2(12), 44–48.
- Draelos, Z. D. (2015). Chapter 24: Lips and lipsticks [E-book]. In Cosmetic Dermatology: Products and Procedures (2nd ed., p. 184). Wiley-Blackwell. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118655566
- Sethi, A., Kaur, T., Malhotra, S. K., & Gambhir, M. L. (2016). Moisturizers: The Slippery Road. Indian journal of dermatology, 61(3), 279–287. https://doi.org/10.4103/0019-5154.182427