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NOW READING Lip Treatments vs. Balms – Understanding The Difference Will Save Your Dry, Chapped Lips
March 3, 2021

Lip Treatments vs. Balms – Understanding The Difference Will Save Your Dry, Chapped Lips

Top medical doctors share the difference between lip balms and treatments + four treatments that are worth the hype. 


When it comes to our daily skincare routines, many of us pass right over one of the most important (and visible) areas looking right back at us in the mirror: our lips. Environmental factors like dry weather and face masks can do a number on our pouts, requiring some TLC that goes beyond a simple lip balm. 


Dry Lip treatment
Our lips require some TLC that goes beyond a simple lip balm.


“Like every other part of your skin, your lips require care,” says MACRENE actives founder Dr. Macrene Alexiades, M.D. Ph.D., Associate Clinical Professor at the Yale University School of Medicine and Founder & Director of the Dermatology & Laser Surgery Center of New York. In fact, due to their sensitive nature, lips may require even more attention. 


“The skin on your lips is different from the rest of your body because it is thinner and more delicate. Skin on your face can be up to 16 cell layers thick while the skin on your lips is only three to five layers thick,” adds Dr. Kay Durairaj, one of the greater LA area’s top facial cosmetic surgeons. For this reason, “Sun exposure, wind, exposure to toxins, and other stressors can damage the lips. Due to [these elements], the sealant of the lips will break, causing chapping, inflammation, redness, and peeling.” Yikes.


While a lip balm can temporarily ward off these effects, they are mainly designed to address chapping on the surface barrier of the lips and should be applied four to five times daily, says Dr. Durairaj. “The main ingredients in a lip balm include beeswax, camphor, acetyl alcohol, lanolin, paraffin, and petrolatum, among others,” she says. Side note: A good lip balm should also include SPF. “Sun exposure destroys collagen, a protein that is abundant in the lips, [so it will] eventually make lips thinner.” It’s also important for preventing skin cancer, she adds. 


Lip Treatments vs. Balms
Lip balms help with hydration throughout the day, to prevent cracking or chapping of the lips, according to Dr. Kay Durairaj.


“While lip balms work for hydration throughout the day, to prevent cracking or chapping of the lips, especially during harsh climates, a lip treatment is best,” says Dr. Durairaj.


Dr. Alexiades agrees. “A treatment not only covers and protects, but also rejuvenates, repairs, and nourishes.” Adds Dr. Durairaj, “A lip mask provides more powerful ingredients that fortify the skin barrier to seal in moisture, has longer-lasting effects, and coincides with natural skin repair.”


Bottom line: Chapped lips be gone with an effective lip treatment, even when the balm on top has run dry. 


Before you click “add to cart” on the first lip treatment you find, though, Dr. Alexiades recommends double-checking the ingredient list. “It is very important that the product be non-toxic and organic,” she says. “Think about [this]: Whatever you’re putting on your lips, you’re actually ingesting!” (Shout-out to the cotton candy Lip Smackers of our youth, but we’re pretty sure those wouldn’t make the cut here.)


Dr. Durairaj also recommends looking for treatments that utilize fine-line busting peptides and hyaluronic acid for added moisture, in addition to soothing and moisturizing ingredients such as lanolin, beeswax, and ceramides (which can be found in some lip balms as well). She is also a fan of natural lip treatments including “aloe vera, which contains vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatories that soothe and rehydrate damaged skin; coconut oil, which soothes and softens the skin; honey, which contains antioxidants and antibacterial properties to help prevent infections in extremely dry or cracked lips; and green tea, which is rich in antioxidants and minerals and contains polyphenols, which reduce inflammation.”


Lip Treatments vs. Balms
Time to kiss those dry lips goodbye!


For the non-DIY route, here are four lip treatments we love, plus their ingredients that’ll give your pucker a new lease on life. Time to kiss those dry lips goodbye!


Macrene Actives High-Performance Lip Filler


We’d be remiss not to begin with this plumping, chap-healing lip treatment by Dr. Alexiades herself. “When I formulated the MACRENE actives Lip Filler Treatment, there was nothing like it on the market,” she shares. “I had a genius moment of micro-encapsulating hyaluronic acid so as to inject it into the lips, needle-free!” In addition to plumping hyaluronic acid (which holds onto water molecules for lasting hydration and anti-aging effects), Dr. Alexiades also included peptides to boost collagen and topical ceramides to heal chapped, inflamed lips. And medicinal therapeutic essential oils round out the formula.


Of course, “Macrene Actives is made with organic ingredients that are plant-based and toxin-free exemplifying my quest in clean beauty,” she shares. It also comes in a sleek glass tube, so there’s no exposure to potentially harmful plastics.


Ilia Beauty Lip Wrap Hydrating Mask 


Ilia’s recently launched lip mask wears like a balm but works like a softening treatment. It works by helping to slough away dead cells and chapped skin with gently exfoliating papaya extract, then deeply moisturizes with hyaluronic acid and salicornia (also fondly known as sea succulent), a unique skincare ingredient that hydrates lips and protects against oxidative stress for anti-aging benefits. For added ease of use, this mask is designed to be left on lips, and can even be worn under drying lip color. 


SkinCeuticals Antioxidant Lip Repair Lip Treatment


Made with (you guessed it) hyaluronic acid, an array of botanical emollients, and science-backed antioxidants vitamin E and silymarin, SkinCeuticals’ Antioxidant Lip Repair Lip Treatment is a fan favorite for good reason. In addition to helping lips retain water, it also relieves tightness, heals dryness, and fights visible signs of aging (like a less defined lip border, or vermillion border, in technical terms). 


Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask Berry


Wake up with baby soft lips thanks to K-beauty icon Laneige’s Lip Sleeping Mask. Made to be worn overnight, active ingredients including moisturizing hydro-ion mineral water and fatty acid-rich evening primrose root extract help firm and plump lips while you catch some well-deserved zzz’s. 

Alexa is a Denver-based writer, editor, and marketing pro who covers all things wellness, travel, beauty, and lifestyle. She has written for Women’s Health, Woman’s Day, Runner’s World, Self Magazine. When she’s not crafting content, you can find her hiking or skiing (depending on the season), drinking red wine, or planning her next travel adventure.



I have started using CARE:NEL berry lip night mask and it has helped give volume to my lips. I used to use coconut oil and since it's comedogenic, it made my lips worse! Thankfully mine aren't extremely dry, but they are thin.


Oooh, must try this one. Thank you!

Terrific article. I’m so excited that lip treatments are gaining popularity. My fav are the sleep masks, so all the magic can happen while I’m snoozing.


Exactly - sleep your way to brighter, more beautiful skin!

Nothing worse than dry chapped lips.

Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask is my go-to! I wake up everyday with hydrated, supple lips that last through the day. Skin on our lips can be delicate, as brought out in this article, so it is important to give that area a little extra TLC!


It has cult status for a good reason, right?!


It’s important to know the difference between lip balms and treatments. Some lip balms have actually dried out my lips. Dr. Macrene’s High Performance Lip Filler is my go-to. It really does make your lips feel extra plump. Plus, it hydrates beautifully.

I am a lip balm / treatment junkie ! I love the feeling of smooth hydrated lips. Therefore you will find a balm on my desk , in my bag , in my coat pocket . wherever whenever they may be a lip hydrating need I will have it covered ! That being said , if you haven't already tried the Laneige lip sleeping mask in berry you absolutely have to ! Its a part of my morning and night routine 100%.


Never have tried lip scrubs, will surely try it soon!


We forget that our lips are also part of our skincare needs. Keep them supple and they will look healthier giving your smile a subtle but noticeable vibrance.


I just started using the Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask Berry and its so good! It's crazy to think of the type of chapsticks I used as a kid. I will say, I do use Aquaphor's lip treatment with spf and it's worked pretty well for short term results.