Is it just us, or does it seem that every month a new product comes onto the market touting some type of AHA, BHA, PHA, enzyme, or physical exfoliator? As much as exfoliation is amazing for sloughing off dead skin cells, decreasing fine lines and wrinkles, diminishing hyperpigmentation, and even minimizing the number of breakouts a person experiences, this surplus of exfoliation information is honestly a lot to take in all at once. So today we are going to be talking about a sect of exfoliation that flies under the radar a tad bit: lip exfoliation. Surely, you’ve likely heard of lip scrubs before and may have even tried a few for the supple and soft effect they have on your lips. Yet, lip peels might be your secret weapon for full and perky lips this summer.

So what is a lip peel? Lip peels are similar to chemical exfoliators for the face, as they typically contain some type of hydroxy acid (whether it is lactic or glycolic) to gently dissolve the top layer of dead skin from the lips. “Lip peels are a gentle method of exfoliation and don’t risk injuring the delicate skin of the lips the way scrubs do. The acids in a peel gently remove dead skin cells and promote cell turnover without the harsh and sometimes harmful rubbing associated with a lip scrub. [Lip peels] remove dead skin cells and improve lip smoothness and brightness,” says Dr. Dendy Engelman, board-certified cosmetic dermatologist and Mohs surgeon at Shafer Clinic.

Now, does this mean we can use any old chemical exfoliator that’s already sitting in our medicine cabinets on our lips? *Certainly* not. “The skin on our lips is thinner, has fewer layers, and has a unique top layer in comparison to the rest of our face,” says Anna De La Cruz, licensed aesthetician and executive director of brand development and education at Glo Skin Beauty.

Lips exfoliate themselves through the process of cell turnover, meaning that chemical exfoliators *can* assist in amping up the amount of exfoliation that happens. However, De La Cruz warns to “make sure [you’re using] a formula suitable for the lips versus something stronger designed for the face or body.” Since the skin on the lips is thinner and more delicate than the skin on the rest of our bodies, using the same exfoliator on them would wreak havoc and cause damage. Plus, since lip peels are designed to go onto the lips, they are typically made from edible-grade ingredients, which might not be the case with the chemical exfoliator you use on your blackheads.

Since lip peels work gently to slough off dead skin cells instead of harshly scrubbing at them, virtually anyone can use a lip peel for softer, fuller, and brighter lips. De La Cruz reveals to Coveteur, “Lips have a tendency to become dry and chapped because they do not contain sebaceous (oil) glands which can help condition as well as protect against the elements. Mature/thinning lips will be more prone to these conditions. A gentle lip peel can be beneficial for these individuals, especially when followed with a product designed to hydrate, nourish, and seal in moisture.” Dr. Engelman warns, however, “People with mature, thinning, or sensitive lips should be careful with peels. They can still be effective but risk irritating more sensitive lip skin.” Start off using a lip peel with a slow-and-low method of one to two times per week, and make sure to moisturize your lips after applying a peel.

So how do we use a lip peel? It’s possibly the simplest exfoliation method we’ve ever tried: Simply swipe the lip peel onto your lips, hydrate with a lip oil or balm after, and you are good to go. The ease of swiping on a lip peel just like you would a lip gloss definitely can lead you to apply a lip peel each time you feel your lips are flaky. Dr. Engleman warns, however, “Since the skin of the lips is so thin and sensitive, exfoliating too much can cause damage. I recommend exfoliating only once or twice per week, at most.”

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