Luscious Lips: How to Remove Dead Skin & Stop Peeling

February 9, 2024

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Our lips lack oil glands and shed dead skin cells easily, making them prone to dryness, flaking, and peeling. When lip skin starts sloughing off in transparent sheets or ragged patches, it not only looks unpleasant but also makes lips vulnerable to infection. By understanding what causes lips to peel and learning proper exfoliation methods, moisturizing tricks, and protective care, we can get – and keep – lips healthy, hydrated, and smooth.

What Triggers Peeling and Chapped Lips

Lips peel, crack and become chapped for an array of reasons. Common causes include:

  • Dehydration – Insufficient fluid intake deprives skin cells of moisture needed for flexibility.
  • Dry air – Heated or cold, dry air pulls water content from exposed lip tissue.
  • Sun damage – UV light breaks down collagen structures within the thin vermilion border.
  • Vitamin deficiency – Inadequate B vitamins, iron, or antioxidants lead to nutritional imbalance.
  • Lip-licking – Habitual licking or biting strips away protective oils and cells.
  • Allergies – Reaction to chemicals, foods or irritants like smog sparks inflammatory skin changes.

Understanding and avoiding these triggers wherever possible prevents the lip moisture loss, malnutrition and tissue damage that manifests as embarrassing peels.

How to Exfoliate Peeling Lips

As dead skin builds up on the lip surface, gentle exfoliation helps lift and remove the dehydrated flakes to reveal the healthy skin underneath. But take care not to over-scrub this delicate tissue. Here’s how to exfoliate properly:

Make a Sugar Lip Scrub

Granulated white sugar offers a soft yet effective medium for sloughing off dead cells. The grains dissolve as they remove debris and won’t scratch lip tissue like abrasive salt or microbeads. Combine with moisture-rich oils or butters to prevent irritation.

  • In a small bowl, mix 1 tablespoon sugar with 1 teaspoon olive, coconut or almond oil. For thicker balm texture, melt in 1/2 teaspoon beeswax or shea/cocoa butter.
  • Store in an airtight container. Exfoliate by massaging a small amount onto lips using circular motions. Rinse then apply lip balm.

Try a Wet Washcloth Rub

For effortless lip renewal, a warm, wet washcloth gently works surface dryness free. Soak cloth in warm water. Wring out thoroughly then wrap index fingers in cloth corners. Massage lips in small circles for 20-30 seconds using minimal pressure. Finish with lip balm to moisture.

Use a Toothbrush

A very soft-bristled toothbrush serves as an exfoliating tool for flaking lips. Wet the head then sprinkle on a pinch of sugar. Lightly brush over lips for 20-30 seconds using delicate touch – just enough to lift dead skin. Rinse then apply preferred lip product.

Regardless of method, take care not to overdo exfoliation more than 2-3 times per week maximum to avoid irritation. Harsh scrubs cause microtears that actually provoke more peeling.

How to Soothe, Moisturize and Protect Dry Lips

Once exfoliated, dry lips demand extra moisturizing and protection to stay smooth. Boost hydration while preventing future peeling with these tips:

Drink More Water

Hydrating from the inside out prevents lips (and skin) from drying and cracking. Aim for at least sixty-four ounces spread throughout the day. Infuse with cucumber, lemon or strawberries for flavor and added nutrients.

Apply Hydrating Lip Products

Hydrating, nourishing lip formulas reverse roughness by replenishing lost water content while reinforcing the moisture barrier. Weleda Skin Food Lip Butter, Egyptian Magic Lip Balm and Chapstick Total Hydration with vitamin E and shea butter all penetrate to smooth and condition.

Use Humidifiers

Running ultrasonic, warm mist or evaporative humidifiers, especially in bedrooms, introduces needed moisture into dry air that otherwise pulls water out of lips contributing to peel and chap.

Avoid Lip Licking

It might provide momentary relief but licking chapped lips worsens matters by removing protective oils and exposing tender lower layers. The enzyme amylase in saliva also erodes lip tissue.

Protect with Sunscreen

Just as unprotected sun exposure damages facial skin, lips lack natural protection from aging UV rays. Choose a balm with SPF 15+ and reapply every two hours in direct sunlight.

When Are Peeling Lips a Concern?

Occasional minor flaking isn’t unusual with lip tissue. But if severe, persistent peeling and cracking occurs or you notice any of the following, seek medical advice to address an underlying issue:

  • Unexplained rashes, blisters, redness or swelling
  • Color changes – white, dark red, purplish, blue
  • Persistent dryness and peel despite hydrating care
  • Cracked skin won’t heal or is oozing
  • Fevers, chills or feeling ill

5 Key Questions About Lip Peeling and Care

Still seeking solutions for smoothing your pout? Here’s help with common queries:

Why do my lips peel so severely in winter?

Frigid temperatures and blustery winds associated with wintermonths draw precious moisture from exposed lip skin faster. Using warming scarves and hydrating balms helps minimize seasonal peels.

How can I stop biting/licking my lips to prevent peeling?

Consciously break this habitual cycle by using fidget tools and sticker reminders. Apply bitter topical deterrents and keep DIY exfoliating scrubs handy to rub instead of teeth.

Is it possible to “reverse” wrinkled lip lines once they form?

Not completely. But a strategic routine with retinol skin serums followed by a deeply hydrating nighttime lip mask can help plump out etched lines over time. Microneedling and laser resurfacing also improve texture.

Should I exfoliate at night or morning for better results?

Dermatologists actually recommend exfoliating before bedtime. Scrubbing off dead skin allows thicker night creams, masks and ointments to better penetrate and work their reparative magic overnight.

Can men use lip scrub and balm too or are they “just” for women?

Anyone can and should care for their lips! Dryness and sun damage affect all genders. Scrubs slough off dead skin while balms protect against moisture loss. Caring for your skin is genderless.

Smooth, Flake-Free Lips Are Within Reach

Battling lackluster lips starts by knowing what causes flakes and peels so you can customize caring, corrective routines. With strategic exfoliation to reveal fresh skin followed by deeply moisturizing balms and lifestyle tweaks to retain hydration, those embarrassing bits of shedding skin soon give way to a healthy, smooth pout.

Summary Takeaways

  • Gently exfoliate with sugar/oil scrubs or damp washcloths 2-3 times per week to lift dead skin.
  • Drink ample fluids and use humidifiers to hydrate lips internally and environmentally.
  • Always follow exfoliation with thick, nourishing balms and treatments to moisturize.
  • Protect with SPF lip balms when outdoors to help prevent future damage.
  • Seek medical guidance if severe cracking, blisters, oozing or color changes develop.


  1. Kraft, J. Nina, and Lynde, Charles W. “Moisturizers: What They Are and a Practical Approach to Product Selection.” Skin Therapy Letter, vol. 10, no. 5, 2005, p. 1-8.
  2. Danby, Simon G. “Biological Variations in Skin Barrier Function: From A (Atopic Dermatitis) to X (Xerosis).” Current Problems in Dermatology, vol. 49, Karger, 2016, pp. 47–60.
  3. Hammond, Billy, and Carl, Christina. “Chapped Lips: Symptoms, Treatments, Prevention & Safety Tips.” American Skin Association, Mar. 2021,
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