Lip Guide – All About Lips

By Emma Hobson: www.dermalinstitute.com.au

We often tend to neglect our lips when it comes to facial skin care, except of course for the odd collagen injection for those in pursuit of the perfect pout.

And yet our mouth and lips are so vitally important for an array of reasons including enabling us to make various facial expressions, speaking and let’s not forget kissing!

What’s in a kiss?

The lips are an erogenous zone due to the high content of nerve endings. When you kiss; it carries messages from your lips, tongue and face to your brain.

Your brain responds by ordering your body to produce:

• Oxytocin, which helps people develop feelings of attachment, devotion and affection for one another

• Dopamine, which plays a role in the brain’s processing of emotions, pleasure and pain

• Serotonin, which affects a person’s mood and feelings

• Adrenaline, which increases heart rate and plays a role in your body’s fight-or-flight response
Our lips are composed of skin, muscle and mucosa. They have no bones, oil glands or infrastructure. The skin is very thin compared to the rest of our facial skin and it’s comprised of three to five cellular layers. As we age, this already thin layer becomes progressively thinner.

Why are our lips red?

It’s because the mucous membrane of the lips, being full of capillaries (tiny blood vessels) and close to the surface give them a reddish colour, and also because the lips contain less pigment melanin in them (the lighter the skin the less melanin pigment is contained) so the skin is more translucent.

Is a pout important?

According to sexual psychologists, tests have found that men find a woman with full lips to be more sexually attractive than those with thin lips. Apparently it’s all due to a woman’s estrogen, the higher the level of estrogen the larger the eyes and the fuller the lips are. Plump lips therefore serve as a biological in­dicator of a woman’s health and fertility. No wonder then the demand for lip plumpers and collagen injections!

Lips and the ageing process

Without proper care, lips can age faster than other areas of our skin. Think of your lips as a sponge, “When exposed to moisture, they absorb water and plump up. When dehydrated, they dry out and shrink,” explains Bruce Bart, M.D., a dermatologist at Hennepin County Medical Centre in Minneapolis. Because our lips are always exposed, they’re prone to dehydration, particularly during the cold, dry, winter months.

One of the major culprits of premature ageing around the mouth is due to smoking. Smokers are also more likely to develop lines around the mouth because of the use of the perioral muscles to hold the cigarette. Smoking increases the hits of ageing free radicals by about a million per inhalation. Generally, heavy smokers age 10 years earlier than their non-smoking counterparts.

In addition if that was not enough, smoking decreases the secretion of oestrogen from ovaries, and it also is thought to make the liver destroy oestrogen supplies, (nicotine activates enzymes in the liver that metabolise sex hormones, speeding up the rate at which they are removed from the body) causing the earlier onset of menopause.

Our lips need more moisture and conditioning as we age. The cumulative damage to the lips and the skin resulting from years of overexposure to the sun, cold air and harsh weather pay their toll. The negative effects of the environment frequently result in the drying, chapping, cracking of the mouth and increases the risk of inflammation, infection and burning sensations. Greater care of your lips can reverse the signs of ageing and trauma.

Is it Possible to Reduce the Effects of Environmental Damage and Ageing on the Lips?

Using a lip care product with a sunscreen (SPF 15+) and effective moisturisers can help reduce the effects of two of the main contributors to an aged appearance; sun damage and moisture loss. Since the lips have little or no melanin they have little or no protection from the damaging effects of UV rays, hence the lips can prematurely age as well as contract skin cancer.

lipcare

Why do some lipsticks irritate the lips and mouth?

Normally this is because of a condition called Cosmetic Dermatitis which results when an individual develops sensitivity to certain ingredients (such as dyes in lipsticks or flavouring agents). Allergies are unpredictable and can happen when using well-manufactured products made by reputable companies and can occur from an ingredient in a product you have used for years.

Why do people get pigmentation just around their mouth?

This is often due to photosensitivity either from an internal condition or from something being applied to the skin which causes a reaction when exposed to sunlight. It often results from past exposure to photoactive chemicals found in certain medications, supplements or cosmetics.

The symptoms resemble sunburn: redness, pain, burning or swelling. This may happen with even brief sun exposure soon after the application of a lipstick or other cosmetics. It’s important to discontinue use of the cosmetic or chemical triggering the reaction immediately. The application of a lip care product containing SPF15+ is highly recommended.

“A lipstick can last for years!”

Actually it can’t, you’ll need to be strong and throw out all your favourite discontinued colours as the average shelf life of a lipstick is normally about 12 months. You can get an allergy because your lipstick is too old! For hygiene purposes wash you brush/applicator at least twice a week and never share your lip gloss/stick with friends – unless you want their cold sore or their bacteria!

Should you wear a lip balm as well as your lipstick?

Yes, it’s a great idea. Lip balm works best when worn under lipstick; they normally contain protective and moisturising ingredients. Using a balm under your lipstick will improve the application as the colour will go on more evenly and the lipstick should last much longer and is less likely to dry out the lips.

If you wear a lip balm and your lips are still dry what could be another cause?

We can often blame the weather, but take a look at how your diet may change as we move into the different seasons or how you are currently dealing with stress and anxiety. The Eastern practitioners believe that if you have cracked lips it is a sign of gastric stress and excess licking of the lips is a sure sign of anxiety. They also believe that dryness at the corners of the mouth is stomach stress of the duodenum whereby there is too much acid in the body.
In Eastern Diagnosis the mouth represents the organs of the spleen & stomach. The stomach being the upper lip, and the transverse colon the lower lip. An over protruding, pouty lower lip is related to an overloaded colon and a curling up, protruding upper lip means there is too much acid in the stomach. Tight lips, tight intestines.

Can you become addicted to lip balms?

What feels like an addiction is a psychological effect. According to Dr. Charles Zugerman, Associate Professor of Clinical Dermatology at North-Western University Medical School, people do not become addicted to lip care products or the ingredients in them. Rather, people may become habituated to the soothing feeling of having a lip care product on their lips. Should this happen, the person can stop using the product and experience no withdrawal symptoms. There is no such thing as physical addiction to lip balm.

Can you exfoliate the lips?

You can with caution and the use of very gentle exfoliants such as rice bran powder. Never over exfoliate – once per week max. Dr. Monte Meltzer, Chief of Dermatology at Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore states “Some lip products contain salicylic acid, an ingredient of unproven safety when applied to lips. Lips are not hyperkeratotic skin, when salicylic acid is applied to the lips, it can erode through the outer stratum corneum to damage living skin layers beneath”.

How do lip plumpers/primers work?

There are an array of ingredients used for this function; a common one is red chilli. They work by causing localised skin irritation whereby the lips become irritated and swell. It’s a good time to remind ourselves it has been proven that where there is inflammation in a site of the skin it can lead to an increase in the ageing process.

Why do we get those tiny blackheads around our lips?

They are usually caused by using comedogenic lip products, the biggest culprits being the lipsticks that contain the red D & C coal tar dyes.

So what are the good and not so good ingredients in lip care?

The ingredients you need to ideally look for are:

• Vitamin E
• Cocoa Seed Butter
• Hyaluronic Acid
• Palmitoyl Oligopeptide
• Arginine/ Lysine Polypeptide
• Avocado Oil
• Rice Bran Oil
• Wheat Germ Oil
• Shea Butter

The ingredients to avoid are:

• Artificial fragrance
• Isopropyl Esters (Myristate, Palmitate, Lanolate and Linoleate)
• Myristyl Lactate
• Sweet Almond Oil
• Coconut Oil
• Sesame Oil
• Lanolin Wax (Lanolic Acid)
• Red D&C Dyes

How do lip plumpers/primers work?

There are an array of ingredients used for this function; a common one is red chilli. They work by causing localised skin irritation whereby the lips become irritated and swell. It’s a good time to remind ourselves it has been proven that where there is inflammation in a site of the skin it can lead to an increase in the ageing process.

Why do we get those tiny blackheads around our lips?

They are usually caused by using comedogenic lip products, the biggest culprits being the lipsticks that contain the red D & C coal tar dyes.

Find out more:

E-mail: ehobson@dermalinstitute.com.au
Phone: 1800 659 118
Visit: www.dermalinstitute.com.au

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