Our lips are a special part of our bodies. They show when we’re happy, when we’re sad, and when we think something is lip-smackingly delicious. The rest of our skin behaves one way, but the skin of our lips is unique compared to the rest.
Lip Skin: A cellular difference
The skin of our bodies, like on our arms and legs, is a heavy-duty organ built to protect us from pathogens in the outside world, but it is also porous enough to let some molecules in. It protects us from damaging sun and light, from the elements, and from impacts.
Our skin is composed of many, many cellular layers stacked on top of each other. These cells are constantly growing from within—that’s why you shed dead skin cells so often. It’s a little gross, but also a very natural process.
On our face, there can be up to sixteen cellular layers. However, when it comes to your lips, there are only three to five. That is a massive difference when it comes to durability. Naturally, because of how many less layers of cells there are, your lips can get damaged far more easily than the rest of the skin on your face.
In conjunction with this, there are less cells that produce pigment—melatonin. This is why your lips are lighter than your skin tone. Because of this, however, your lips are more susceptible to UV damage and require sun protection – SPF 30 is highly recommended.
What makes a kiss feel like a kiss?
Some parts of our bodies contain more nerve endings than others. You can test this easily yourself—press your fingernail gently into the pad of your finger, then your palm, the back of your hand, and finally, the back of your arm. Note the obvious difference in sensation. Your fingers and palm have a lot of nerve endings, making them more sensitive, while the back of your hand and arm have far less, which makes the touch less noticeable.
It’s the same for your lips compared to your face. Your lips contain millions of nerve endings, which is why the kissing sensation in the lips feels so pleasant. It’s the scientific reason to kiss your loved-ones more!
These nerve endings hide beneath the layers of skin cells along with something else—glands! You are likely very familiar with sebum glands, which produce the natural moisture on our face and occasionally cause acne and other complexion issues.
We definitely all have a love-hate relationship with sebum, because while it can be the bearer of pimples, sebum is very important to maintaining moisture and protecting skin. But your lips actually don’t have these sebaceous glands at all! This means they don’t get any natural moisture of their own, besides saliva.
Saliva itself is a double-edged sword for our lips. While it can provide some short-term moisture relief, saliva contains food-digesting enzymes that can, over time, damage your lips more than it helps.
In addition, the evaporating saliva actually speeds up drying lips. Habits like biting and chewing lips makes this problem even worse. This all can lead to chapped lips in no time, that’s why applying a lip moisturizer is so important.
How to spot the best lip balms?
First a foremost, a good lip balm provides moisture and nourishment. Clean lip balms (we’re partial to our cult favorite Nourishing Lip Balm, which is both effective and cute) do this through plant-derived butters and oils, replacing the function of sebaceous glands through their omega fatty acids.
For example, our natural and tinted lip balms contain kokum butter, which also has powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, making it perfect for helping to repair damaged and dry skin.
Besides just the overall wellness of your lips, lip balms also improve their appearance. Well-nourished lips are less prone to wrinkles and fine lines, making them look and feel younger – just like baby lips.
Hydrated lips also lend to better application of lip products. Lipstick goes on smooth and lasts longer when preceded by a lip balm. If you’ve ever tried to apply lipstick with dry and cracked lips, you’ll know that not only is the application process more difficult, but the end result doesn’t look as good.
Many pigmented lip products are drying themselves, too. Lip scrubs can help with dry, chapped lips.
A great lip balm not only means healthy lips, but can improve the rest of your lip products and give any lipstick that premium look. It’s a step in your daily routine that can’t be missed.