Winter wreaks havoc on our lips for a whole variety of reasons. Maybe you live in a very cold climate: Minnesota, Siberia, the North Pole. Maybe you live with a heating system that seems to leech moisture from your skin so that you’re sure you’re going to wake up one morning mummified. Or maybe you’ve spent your whole life slathering on cherry Chapstick and are overcome by the sneaking suspicion there’s something better out there.
And you’d be right: Dermatologists say flavored lip balms can actually make chapped lips worse because the added fragrances can irritate skin and increase the potential for chapping.
So what lip balm should you be using? We talked to people who live and work in some of the world’s coldest, harshest conditions: scientists and related professionals in Barrow, Alaska; people who fish the Alaskan waters for a living; and a career ski instructor in Aspen, Colorado. They told us which products they use to protect their pouts from sun, wind, snow and crashing waves.
Here are the products they recommend for maximum moisture and healing:
Jamie O’Connor, fisherman and Alaska Marine Conservation Council member
“I wouldn’t trade my life as an Alaska fisherman for anything. It’s soul-nourishing to be part of an industry that gets me out in nature while supporting our coastal communities and feeding my neighbors and the world,” O’Connor said. “It’s rewarding work but rough on my skin!” Her daily balm is Burt’s Bees All-Weather SPF 15 Moisturizing Lip Balm.
Before bed, O’Connor applies the brand’s Res-Q Ointment, which she has used for more than a decade. “I like the herby smell and the way it heals my lips overnight, no matter how hard the tide the day before,” she said. “Fun side benefit: It looks like tobacco in my pocket and keeps the fishboys on their toes.”
Lisa Waldman, ski instructor, Aspen, Colorado
Waldman has been teaching budding athletes to shred for 32 years. Suffice it to say she knows a thing or two about protecting lips from cold and sun. “You have to have SPF protection, particularly in the spring, when the days are longer,” she told HuffPost.
She currently uses Essential Lip Naturals Lip Balm. “I like the smell, I like the scent, I like the feel of it,” she said, but noted, “I’m not as concerned about the brand as I am about SPF protection and constant reapplication.”
Andy Mahoney, research associate professor of geophysics, University of Alaska Fairbanks
Mahoney has been involved in polar research in both the Arctic and Antarctic for 20 years. Typically, he said, he grabs “whichever brand of lip balm they have at the airport when I’m leaving town.”
To prevent his hands from drying out in Alaska’s harsh climate, he keeps a tin of Badger Balm or Burt’s Bees Hand Salve nearby, both of which can be used for lip balm in a pinch. “It stops my hands and lips from cracking, and one application seems to last most of the day,” he said.
Kaare Erickson, logistics provider with UIC Science, Barrow Arctic Research Center
Erickson has been working at BARC for six years. “When I go on long snow-machine trips in the cold, I usually get bad windburn and cracked lips,” he said. While admitting that his usual lip treatment is “anything that is available,” he said he leans toward “preferably something thicker, like Carmex.”
He’s also the lucky recipient of a homemade salve. “My auntie, MaryJane Litchard, is one of the best traditional healers in Alaska and makes amazing salves,” Erickson told HuffPost. “I also use this on my lips every morning. The primary plants used in her salves are wormwood and wild celery root.”
Shannon Ford Ward, captain of the Paul Revere, Bristol Bay, Alaska, and Issaquah, Washington
Ward has spent her entire life working in Alaska’s fishing industry. “I was officially put on the payroll at 9,” she said. “My daughter is 3 years old and started at 6 months.” She uses Lemongrass Spa’s Healing Elements Balm. “I have sensitive skin, and the salt air, wind, and temp changes are murder on my lips and face,” she said. “I slather this stuff on all summer. Helps with sunburn, windburn, bug bites, you name it.”
The balm’s gentle formula is non-irritating, she said, so it doesn’t sting her eyes in the event of rain, sweat or the sudden crash of a wave. It’s also good for the environment. “I care about what goes in the water, and this company makes natural products right here in the USA,” Ward said.
Craig E. Tweedie, environmental scientist, El Paso, Texas
Tweedie is a professor at the University of Texas at El Paso who studies the impacts of climate change in different ecosystems around the world, particularly arctic and desert areas. His research often takes him to the freezing climates around BARC and elsewhere. “We definitely put our lips through the wringer of environmental extremes,” he said. He likes Burt’s Bees Beeswax Lip Balm and Balmshot, noting that the Burt’s Bees product “goes on thick and one application lasts a good chunk of time.”