The Full Lip Routine


In beauty, there’s misinformation (well-meaning but misinformed), clever marketing (enticing, but often a lie), and then there are pipe dreams. The thing you wish were true (and think might be, somewhere?) so you keep trying product after product hoping to find it. Lip balm, the humble goo, is a good example of the latter. You want it to: feel good, look good, stay on all day, hydrate, moisturize, keep flaky bits from forming, walk your dog, grow a business empire... And, simply put, a lip balm can’t do all that! If you expect it to do all the heavy lifting it takes to maintain plush, healthy lips when it’s cold enough outside to literally freeze your face off, you’ll never be satisfied. Here’s the catch: you probably have everything you need for softer, smoother lips sitting in your bathroom already. For everything you wish your ol’ reliable could do, here’s the full lip routine.

Step 1: De-Scale

The first order of business when reviving a flaky winter pout is getting rid of the flakes. Exfoliating will make an instant difference in how your lips look (smoother) and feel (more flexible), and also allow what comes next to actually penetrate the skin. But the skin on your lips is thinner than skin on the rest of the skin on your face, so you need to be even more gentle. Try your best to not pick or bite, and grab something to help. A new generation of lip treatments like Kaplan MD’s Perfect Pout Lip Mask and Stacked Skincare’s Hydrating Lip Peel chemically exfoliate with fruit enzymes and edible-grade acids. If you prefer a scrub, Dior’s Lip Sugar Scrub is the cleanest and easiest to use—but a washcloth or toothbrush works well in a pinch. Make light circles on your lips and watch as baby fresh lips are revealed. Suddenly your lips don’t look like a scorched earth. Progress!

Step 2: Give ‘Em A Drink

Now that your lips are prepped, pat on something nourishing that can absorb into skin quickly. Using a thinner cream under a heavier balm will lock in hydration and keep lips feeling healthy for longer. In the morning, take a tip from Sir John and hydrate with an eye cream rich in hyaluronic acid. Bubblewrap fits the bill. Or opt for another makeup artist trick: Eight Hour Cream. It’s a bit richer as far as emulsions go, and full of a mixture of heavy and lightweight oils. At night, Laneige’s Lip Sleeping Mask can’t be beat.

Step 3: Balm On

OK, now try putting on that balm. But choose the right one! Even though everyone thinks their lip balm is the best lip balm, some are objectively better than others. There’s this one in a pot, Nuxe Rêve De Miel Lip Balm, with honey and beeswax to nourish and soothe. There’s Avène Cold Cream Lip Balm, your best bet if you prefer a stick. And then there’s Aquaphor Healing Ointment and Glossier Balm Dotcom, which I lovingly refer to as party Aquaphor. You might want to lick it off, but don’t! Licking off your lip balm, or licking your lips in general, can worsen chapped lips as the moisture freezes in cold air. Keeping your lip balm square on your lips will keep whatever moisture you just applied from evaporating away, and also protect your lips from harsh winter temperatures.

Step 4: Shine And Color

Want a colored lip? OK! To really keep your lips happy, choose a product that marries tint and shine with hard-working lip protection. A thinner balm goes well under Bite’s Agave Lip Mask . Smashed, a flattering red made infamous by MUA and ITG regular Shayna Goldberg, is the best shade. Or, opt for a lip oil—they slide on well over thicker balms, and their oils keep lips feeling healthy and comfortable. Kiehl’s Love Oil is a classic, and Tower28’s Lip Jelly rounds out the shade lineup with a purple, orange, and shimmering gold.

Come the day you decide to trade in your shine for something matte and longwearing instead, your lips will be ready. They’ll also be ready for: outdoor walks, kissing, and very wide smiles. Enjoy!

—Ali Oshinsky

Photo via ITG