Chapped Lips: A How-To

Rosie Huntington-Whiteley
Michael Pitt
Kate Bosworth
Macaulay Culkin
Macaulay Culkin

Bare, naked, and fleshy, an au naturale pout says to the universe that you have way too many other things to do with your mouth than touch up your lipstick.  Shit, you might be such a busy women you can’t even apply lip balm with any consistency.  Lucky for you, ever-so-chapped lips are sexy. There is Kate Moss in every Corinne Day photo ever, with lips looking just bitten enough, and full. They look fairly dry (but not parched), kind of like after you've just bawled your eyes out and your lips are matte, a little puffy, stretched, and pinched (just me? Bueller? Bueller?). See also: Beck on the cover of Sea Change [1] or Adele Exarchopoulos in Blue is the Warmest Color—my obsession with her, at this moment, knows no bounds. A naked lip, it turns out, is nature’s lipstick. Really. A friend of mine who grew up on a commune said she would intentionally lick her lips to chap them in place of using commune-forbidden makeup. Forreal.

For something so subtle as a natural lip, it's amazing how many incarnations there are—from bitten and puffy like teenagers’ lips after too much making out (fun!), to a Laetitia Casta nude matte [4]. I know you were probably sitting there reading this like Why the fuck would I want chapped lips, this girl is off her shit, but you know what? No pain, no gain. Ha! Kidding. We can get there with super moisturizing products, so let’s talk about the look without the hurt:

The (Almost) All You: If your mouth is already the perfect color and you're like, "Just give me lip balm and I'm good, thanks" (BTW: Have you seen Michael Pitt [5] in anything and everything? It doesn’t hurt that his lips are literally about to pout their asses off of his mug, but they always look so superbly bee-stung and—sorry in advance—juicy, as do the Kool-Aid-stained lips of one Macaulay Culkin [8]. Whether he's causing a ruckus in Home Alone, or meandering around the streets of NYC clutching a Red Bull, his lips be juicy.), Marc Jacob's Lip Lock Moisture Balm in Makeout, is honestly, literally, emotionally, sexually, physically the best lip balm I've ever used. Its mild, grainy texture lightly exfoliates the lips, while the peppermint scent and taste makes gum obsolete (á la Nick and his Burt's Bees). But it's the thick, moisture-sealing, shea-buttery formula that has really turned me into a repeat offender.

The Pale Pearl: Remember Kate Bosworth in Blue Crush [6]?  I recall reading an article where she said the cast only wore sunscreen and Chapstick (I mean her skin is flawless in that movie, and I can't deal.  I WON'T).  For Bosworth/Emily Ratajowski-esque pale lips, most of us require a little color correcting. This is when my trusty Nivea A Kiss of Shimmer comes into play. I have been using this palest of pinks balm since I was ten, so I can assure you, what looks like shimmer in the tube will not translate to sparkly on your mouth—it’s pearly. Apply it straight from the tube to your lips, then get bonus dewy points by using it as a highlighter as well.

The Pink: Then, of course, there are the pink-taupe-rose-colored-you-make-me-feel-like-a-natural-woman-esque shades. Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s flotation devices [2] are seriously the most flushed perfection of all time. For the unreal, billowy, moisturized RHW-ish (I say "ish" because there can be no comparison) mouth, YSL Rouge Volupte lipstick in Rose Infinite is the closest anything over the counter will get you. Editor tip: layer over one coat of Nivea A Kiss of Shimmer for a lit-from-within vibe.

The Red: Rosemary Cross from Rushmore [3] is one of my favorite characters of all time (how was she missing from this Wes Anderson ladies article!?).  I love how she always looked so flushed, like she was coming in from a brisk walk and is now “just having a little snack." Bite Beauty has a satiny, brick-red lipstick that should be called Rosemary Cross (it's actually called Zivoli) with a scent so appetizing you will want to eat it—and you actually can because all Bite products are food grade.  For true Rosemary-an perfection, warm a little Zivoli on the back of your hand and lightly press into Homeoplasmine-moisturized lips. Bright white eyes and a clip-littered ponytail will be necessary to complete the homage.

The Matte: My personal favorite way to wear the chapped look is matte. Pair your dry lips with a cat eye and it’s the 1960s all over again. Givenchy Le Rouge Intense Color Sensuously Matte Lipstick in Rose D’Exception is my everything. It looks natural, soft, and rosy without being too feminine or pink, and, since it’s not moisture-depleting, it wears like a dream. In my fantasy life, it makes my lips resemble those in the photo of Laetitia Casta from the September issue of French Elle, circa 1994 [4].  Swoon. It’s also amazing warmed up and applied to the apples of your cheeks.

Now, how do you do a naked lip?

Jesse Breeden

Jesse Breeden is a Brooklyn-based beauty fiend and michelada connoisseur. Check out her tumblr and Instagram.

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  • Isabel

    I completely get what you mean with this 'look'. I have naturally red, full lips (all through my teens I wanted the pale lip look and put foundation on them all the time; not a good look) and thanks to my habit of compulsively biting my lips they're permanently a bit chapped. I never wear lipstick or lip gloss because it would just end up on my teeth!
    I'm just waiting for the tube of Homeoplasmine I ordered after seeing it on here to arrive so I can complete the look.

  • Kelly

    Lovely post!

  • Yaz

    Really love all your quirky articles, however they would be greater if you could also add people with different skin colours as all your suggestions are fantastic for only white skin tones!

    • ITGLacey

      Point taken—we try to create posts that speak to as many people as possible, but we also want to stay true to the author's unique perspective. We're always on the lookout for contributors, so please do email us at with ideas and pitches!

  • kathS

    yes. everything. my version is a little mac spice lip liner with the nivea chap stick in cherry

  • katie

    Having some carrots?

    • thesixthbeatle

      Sure, I'll have one.

  • renp

    love Rosemary Cross from Rushmore too!

  • sophie

    his lips be juicy haha

  • Marie

    Chapped lips are so sexy! For me rouge coco mademoiselle is the best. And I don't use any lip balm under ... Ouch!

  • Isabel

    Thanks for the reply! Couldn't wait to get it after reading yet another recommendation. My Homeoplasmine arrived today and I've been using it mostly on my lips. Its definitely moisturising, so far I like it a lot, however I've read a lot on this website that it leaves a matte finish, and for me it doesn't! Am I using it wrong or something?

  • Isabel

    Wow since replying to this I've found another use for Homeoplasmine I don't remember seeing mentioned on here before (or maybe I'm just being dense and not remembering); eyebrows! I have thick eyebrow hairs (I've used conidtioner on them in the past, its embarrassing), I just put a tiny bit of this stuff on them and combed them into place and its worked better than any eyebrow gel I've ever used! My eyebrows look so much fuller and healthier and it took about two seconds.

  • biancarichards

    by illustrating your article with this beautfiul album cover of Beck was exactly what i was thinking about - nude lips. i do not often wear lipstick i'm more a kind of balm or gloss girl, altough i use a Rimmel 128 lipstick "starry eyed" which is perfect as a blush on my cheeks and for a kind of dark rose colour on my lips. I like to use Rosebud's balm and sometimes Nivea gloss shine. As an african/european type of skin, i like to wear dark pink shades, burgundy or dark purple.

  • biancarichards

    it reminds me of this kind of teen girl 90's face, really simple but cute. The Clinique chubby sticks are a perfect match if you want to lightly color your lips and protect them, maybe i'll try Burt's Bees gloss next time. Blush+gloss are my favourites for everyday makeup

  • pamb

    What you're really recommending is a nude lip, not a chapped lip. I don't think anyone really wants cracked, flaking lips, do they? A provocative headline, which got me to click, but really another article on the 'no lipstick' look, which still requires lip products to pull off.

  • Jessa

    none of the lips in these images look chapped. they look healthy and well-moisturized. stop trying to make a trend's not "grunge" or cool. It simply looks unhealthy and unattractive. If you were to actually post some images of chapped lips that looked appealing, that would be another story.


marc jacobs
Marc Jacobs Lip Lock Moisture Balm
ChapStick Medicated Skin Protectant External Analgesic Lip Balm
Nivea A Kiss of Shimmer Lip Care Dual Pack
Bite Beauty
Bite Beauty Luminous Creme Lipstick Zivoli
Givenchy Le Rouge Intense Color Sensuously Matte Lipstick 206 Rose D'Exception

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