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I used to think that lip exfoliation was pretty much an absurd and unnecessary thing to do, particularly the kind that happened on the regular. Sure, I’d hastily scrub ’em down with a damp washcloth from time to time whenever they felt a little flaky or before I applied a particularly unforgiving matte lipstick, but I’d always been more focused on exfoliating my face and body. Lips? Not so much.
But this winter, I found my lips chapped in a way they had never been previously. They’ve always been prone to dryness, but this was next-level, and didn’t let up no matter how frequently I layered on the balm (or which balm I used). Obviously I loved it, because what’s not to love about raw, cracked, peeling, straight-up painful lips?
In the end, it wasn’t my favorite $45 lip balm that saved me. It was a dry toothbrush rubbed aggressively against my compromised, balm-coated lips. It’s true, you guys—to properly, adequately moisturize chapped lips, you need to get rid of the flakes and dead skin cells before your hydrating balms can really get in there, because otherwise the balm just sits on top of the sad situation. Now, I’m a lip-exfoliating convert. See also: evangelist.
I’ve since evolved past the desperate toothbrush stage to become a hoarder of designated lip scrubs. (Like I really needed another thing to obsess over.) As a self-proclaimed expert on the subject, here you’ll find five of my top picks, should you, like me, choose to purchase your scrub rather than DIY the situation with practical kitchen ingredients like sugar, olive oil, and maybe honey or something. (But you can always do that, of course.) Just be sure to limit your exfoliating to twice a week or so—the skin on your lips is super thin and fragile, so going overboard can create a vicious cycle. Delicate balances and all.
The LUSH lip scrubs are some of my very favorites—I own three and have narrowly avoided eating the sweet Coca-Cola-scented Santa’s Lip Scrub (sadly, a limited-edition holiday release) on more than one occasion. They’re just the right amount of grainy and not at all irritating, so your lips will be soft, smooth, and definitely not ravaged. This flavor is delightfully packed with peppermint for a tingly feeling, and the high concentration of jojoba oil leaves plenty of moisture behind. Also, puns. LUSH Mint Julips Lip Scrub, $9.95
Not at all surprisingly, the “lip polish” offered by the brand responsible for the world’s best tinted lip balms is pretty damn great, too. It is, indeed, formulated around a base of real brown sugar, accompanied by super-hydrating ingredients like jojoba oil, shea butter, meadowfoam seed oil, and grapeseed oil. Just make sure you have a damp washcloth on hand to wipe it away afterward—it contains molasses, which makes the whole situation kind of sticky postscrub. Fresh Sugar Lip Polish, $24
The O.G. of finally making people realize that they could really benefit from a lip scrub, the Sara Happ scrubs are exactly as good as you’ve heard they are. They are petrolatum-based, so if you’re looking for something a little more natural to go that close to your mouth, these might not be for you, especially considering the flavors are rather tempting to taste—the Sparkling Peach, in particular, smells so, so good. Sara Happ The Lip Scrub in Sparkling Peach, $24
So here’s your more natural alternative! It’s also gluten-free, if that is something that concerns you. If you like beeswax-based lip balms, this scrub will be right in your wheelhouse. It’s also got shea butter, sunflower seed oil, and peppermint oil to hydrate and leave lips feeling fresh. Perhaps its biggest boon is a touch of vitamin C, which works as a natural exfoliant to help remove the dead cells. Because that’s what chapped lips are—dead cells. Tarte Maracuja Lip Exfoliant, $16
Be honest: You might not look to mineral makeup legend Jane Iredale for your lip care needs … but maybe you should start. I feel very enthusiastic about this double-ended product—on one end it’s a solid, sugary exfoliant, and on the other side it’s a natural, hydrating lip plumper, not the kind that feels like your lips will never stop tingling but rather an antioxidant-packed formula that plumps with moisture. Genius! Also, because it comes in a lipstick-like tube rather than a little tub, it’s perfect for tossing in your purse to use on the go or while traveling. Jane Iredale Sugar&Butter Lip Exfoliator/Plumper, $25