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As the temperature starts to drop and wind speeds start to pick up, your lips may require some additional TLC. The lack of moisture in the dry winter air can do a number on your lips if you’re not careful, leading to painful cracking and bleeding all season long. If you prepare ahead of time, a lip mask can help prevent this painful condition — the skin care staple is designed to create a barrier between your lips and the harsh winds to retain moisture. We spoke to dermatologists to learn more about how lip masks work, plus rounded up their lip mask recommendations.
How to shop for a lip mask
Both of the dermatologists we spoke to noted that it’s important for a lip mask to contain moisturizing ingredients that “moisturize, soften and soothe dry lips.” Moisturizing ingredients to look out for include sunflower oil, sesame oil, vitamin E, omega fatty acids, linoleum acids and coconut oil.
In addition, there are some other ingredients you should look out for to ensure you’re giving your lips the proper care:
- Humectants: These “attract water from deeper layers of your skin and the environment,” said Jeriel Weitz, DO, a dermatologist at Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City. Popular humectants include hyaluronic acid, glycerin and honey.
- Occlusive ingredients: These “seal in moisture to help even deeper penetration of other ingredients,” Annie Chiu, MD, board-certified cosmetic and general dermatologist and founder of The Derm Institute, explained. Popular occlusives include petroleum, shea butter and other plant-based oils and waxes.
- Exfoliating ingredients: An exfoliator will “rid the dry, dead cells so other ingredients can better penetrate the lip skin,” according to Chiu. Examples of exfoliating ingredients include pumpkin extract and sugar molecules.
- Antioxidants: Both experts noted that antioxidants can protect your lips against premature aging and UV damage.
- Collagen: Though not a necessity in a lip mask, Weitz said that collagen can be a good ingredient to look for as it “can help to plump the lips.”
The best lip masks in 2021
We asked dermatologists for their favorite lip masks, ranging from overnight lip masks to single-use sheet masks.
Laneige’s Sleeping Mask is “a consumer favorite rich in antioxidants and hyaluronic acid,” Chiu said. It comes in various scents, including Vanilla and Berry, and each container is packaged with a tiny applicator so your hands never have to touch your lips. At Sephora, the lip mask has a 4.4-star average rating from more than 13,700 reviews.
Chiu said that Tatcha’s Kissu Lip Mask is ideal for more sensitive lips since it’s fragrance-free and “one of the most lightweight masks on the market.” She highlighted that the product is made with squalene, a “natural occlusive and a precursor to the skin's naturally made fatty acids in the lip,” as well as peach extracts that “soften and heal the lips without any stickiness.” Weitz also recommended this lip mask and noted that it’s “super hydrating.”
According to Weitz, this lip mask from Jouer Cosmetics will “leave your lips soft and luscious” thanks to ingredients like jojoba oil, shea butter, vitamin E and hyaluronic acid. The mask is specifically designed to be worn overnight and wiped off in the morning.
Chiu said that Ilia’s treatment mask “pretty much hits all the ingredient categories you look for in a lip mask.” Notable ingredients in the mask include exfoliating papaya enzymes, hydrating hyaluronic acid and “deep moisturizing skin occlusives” like shea butter that create a barrier without being overly sticky.
Nooni’s Applebutter Lip Mask is a relatively affordable and effective option, according to Chiu. “[It] contains gentle lactic acid to improve skin cell turnover for mild exfoliation,” she explained. “Deep moisture comes from shea butter [and] jojoba oils, and microcrystalline wax is the occlusive to seal all that goodness in.”
Clinique’s overnight lip mask is designed to restore and lock in hydration, Weitz said. “[It] has ingredients like murumuru seed butter and hydrogenated castor oil, both of which are excellent moisturizers,” she added. The mask comes in a tube for easy application and is fragrance-free.
If you’re not particularly fond of the idea of dipping an applicator (or your finger) into a jar over and over again, you might prefer these single-use lip masks from Burt’s Bees. They’re made with natural ingredients like almond oil and sunflower seed oil that “deeply moisturize and penetrate the lip quickly,” according to Chiu.
Chiu called this lip mask “luxuriously thick” and noted that it “keeps the lips moisturized for hours with USDA-certified organic avocado and rosehip oils and beeswax.” This might not be the best mask for overnight use, though: According to the brand, it contains sea buckthorn, which can stain your pillowcase if you sleep on your stomach.
Ranger Balm is designed to be used as everything from a moisturizer and beard balm to lip mask and hair mask. Don’t let this deter you, though: According to Weitz, it “makes an ideal lip mask because it’s rich in fatty acids, restorative ceramides, vitamins and antioxidants.” “This is one of my favorite masks to hydrate, nourish and soothe dry or cracked lips,” she added.
This lip mask is a good option for daytime use since it has “multiple antioxidants along with a plumping effect,” according to Chiu. “Papaya extracts exfoliate, while high and low molecular weight hyaluronic acids attract moisture,” she added.
What is a lip mask?
The skin on our lips is very thin and delicate, so it requires a lot of extra care. Because it is so thin, the skin has a tendency to dry out and become chapped — to combat this, a lip mask creates a barrier and seals in moisture. This is why many people wear lip masks overnight: Our core body temperature rises when we sleep, which causes an increase in transepidermal water loss and dries out several areas of the skin, according to Chiu. “A nightly lip mask is a great way to combat that dehydration,” she noted.
Even if you don’t often suffer from chapped lips, Chiu said that you can still benefit from using a lip mask, especially during the winter months or while traveling on a plane. “Everyone can benefit from a lip mask because even low grade dryness can lead to chronic inflammation, which can irritate or cause the lips to have a crinkly, aged appearance,” she said.
Lip masks versus lip balm: What’s the difference?
Though both lip masks and lip balm are formulated to heal and hydrate the lips, they have different use cases.
Lip balms are “typically formulated a bit lighter,” which makes them better for layering over lipstick throughout the day. A lip mask, on the other hand, is designed to help your lips “when they feel particularly dry” due to “more occlusive ingredients” and “actives that are more concentrated for specific benefits like exfoliating or antiaging,” according to Chiu. An occlusive like an oil or a wax “works by preventing evaporative water loss and thus locks in moisture,” Weitz explained.
“Lip masks are generally a more intense version of regular lip balms and [they] are meant to sit on the lips for hours without the messiness of eating or talking a lot,” Chiu added. Weitz noted that they “should not replace regular chapstick,” but should be used “in conjunction with your normal lip care routine.”