It’s no secret that super hot showers can wreak havoc on your skin—while standing under scalding water for lengthy periods of time may feel relaxing for some, this routine can strip your skin of its natural oils and dry it out, as well as cause redness and irritation.
What you may not know, however, is that too many hot beverages—be it tea, coffee, cocoa, or your favorite hot cocktail—can have a similarly detrimental effect on your lips.
Indeed, while hot drinks in moderation may not be enough to cause problems (read: there is absolutely no need to completely renounce your beloved morning oat milk latte), drinking them from sunup to sundown can take their toll on your pout. That’s because too much exposure to hot liquids can weaken the lipid barrier (the skin’s natural fats) on the surface of your lips, says board-certified dermatologist Tracy Evans, MD, MPH, FAAD, medical director of Pacific Skin and Cosmetic Dermatology. A key function of the lipid barrier is to retain moisture, so anything that disrupts it can result in dehydration. “Some people drink coffee or tea or even lemon water all day, which can lead to transepidermal water loss,” says Dr. Evans.
According to Dr. Evans, while your lips can dry out if they are constantly exposed to any type of moisture, including from cold drinks, heat can cause the lipid barrier to break down even faster. Even a single sip of a scalding beverage can be enough to burn the lips and the tongue, she says—ouch. “We’re always worried about water being lost when the barrier of the skin is broken. So if you’re always drinking, and hot beverages can be worse than anything else, you’re going to always be exposing your lips to some water loss,” Dr. Evans adds.
Drinks like coffee that contain caffeine, a known diuretic, can compound the problem by causing systemic dehydration. “You see that in the lips pretty quickly,” Dr. Evans says.
All of this is partially due to the fact that the skin on your lips is thinner than the skin on the rest of your body. “Lip skin is mucosal skin, so it has really high absorption and is also more exposed to the elements,” says Dr. Evans. “If you think about why your lips get chapped in the winter when your skin doesn’t get as chapped, it’s because the lip skin is very thin. And when it’s wet, that barrier function, which would keep things out, is affected.”
Dr. Evans also warns that if you unconsciously find yourself constantly licking your lips when they are dry, you could end up with an even more uncomfortable inflammatory condition known as lip-licking dermatitis, which is caused saliva exposure.
However, according to Dr. Evans, you can avoid dry, chapped lips by simply being mindful of how many hot beverages you are consuming on a daily basis, keeping your body hydrated, and also remembering to apply lip treatment that contains a mineral oil or petroleum base—think Aquaphor—in between sips of your latte or herbal tea. She’s also a big fan of lip products that contain moringa oil.
“You have to be cautious if you’re drinking a few [hot drinks] everyday,” says Dr. Evans. “You also want to always apply something that’s a protector and be conscious of not overdoing it.”
Need to chill on your hot beverage habit? Try making this cold-brewed floral infused water instead:
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