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You’re probably all too familiar with mask acne (a.k.a. maskne) by now and would have also read about the rise of contact dermatitis, yet another skin problem caused by our face masks.

Guess what? There’s a new face mask-related skin ailment: mask lip. Puzzled? Keep reading to find out what mask lip is all about.

What is a mask lip?

We all know wearing a face covering is essential and we’ve very much embraced it with many of us curating a mask wardrobe of different patterns, colours, and materials to use depending on the day (and mood). But there’s no denying that face coverings create a unique set of conundrums, from steamy glasses and maskne to sore ears and even pressure marks.

Now, there seems to be another issue surfacing – this time, around the effect wearing a face mask has on the lips. From research, it seems like mask lip was first identified by Dr. Tijion Esho, a British cosmetic doctor and founder of The Esho Clinic, who claimed to have experienced a 20 per cent increase of his patients seeking treatment for symptoms such as dry and chapped lips.

what is mask lip photo source vlada karpovich pexels

Photo source: Vlada Karpovich/Pexels

According to Dr. Angeline Yong, MOH-accredited dermatologist and founder of Angeline Yong Dermatology in Singapore, mask use can actually cause aggravation of pre-existing lip dryness and lip eczema issues.

“Patients who already have a tendency towards having dry, peeling, chapped lips will find their condition aggravated by frequent, constant mask-wearing as this causes more heat to be trapped, which makes the already sensitive skin more reactive,” she shares.

“The constant wearing of masks may also alter some of our pre-existing skin habits as we re-apply protective lip balms less often now that this may feel uncomfortable and/or inconvenient under a mask, which leads to further dryness of the lips. I’ve been seeing at least two patients a month who are presented with mask lip.”

Dr. Joyce Lim, accredited dermatologist and founder of Joyce Lim Skin & Laser Clinic, also estimates that she’s been reviewing one to two cases monthly that are linked to dry lips caused by mask wear.

Dr. Kelly Tang, a renowned Taiwanese dermatologist, adds that stress may also cause excessive dryness of lips to be more severe, along with grease from the food we eat, hot beverages, cigarette smoke, and temperature fluctuations.

How exactly does stress worsen the issue, you ask? First, it’s important to understand that our lips have very little cornified tissue and melanin, therefore making them very sensitive to even the slightest of triggers, says Dr. Gladys Teo, head of R&D at ést.lab.

Dr. YX Lum, a medical doctor at IDS Clinic, further explains, “Not many people are aware of this but stress reduces the saliva production in the mouth. Also, people may develop the habit of licking their lips more due to stress and hyperventilation from anxiety, which can dehydrate the oral region even more.”

So, what can we do to treat mask lips?

how to treat mask lip photo source engin akyurt pexels

Photo source: Engin Akyurt/Pexels

So, masks are obviously important – there’s no getting away from that, and since taking the mask off isn’t an option, here’s something can we do to prevent mask lip.

1. Choose the right mask

mask lip fabric

Photo source: Anna Shvets/Pexels

The onset of maskne has shown us that the type of mask you wear matters and is crucial to protecting your skin – and lips.

So, try to avoid using harsh materials for masks. Instead, reach for those made of light cotton or silk as these materials are gentler against the skin and will reduce friction to the surface of the lip.

Dr. Teo Wan Lin, accredited dermatologist and medical director of TWL Specialist Skin & Laser Centre, recommends opting for lighter colours too, as light-coloured masks are better at reflecting heat than dark colours – this helps to keep the lip and its surrounding area cool.

2. Make sure you’re hydrating

mask lip drink water

Photo source: Daria Shevtsova/Pexels

The excess mask use and increased humidity in the area lead to increased loss of water from the lip surface, leaving lips more prone to becoming dry and cracked. Drink at least two litres of water every day to relieve dryness or keep it at bay.

3. Exfoliate your lips

Dry lips and friction can result in a build-up of dead skin cells, which is what makes regular exfoliation key to maintaining healthy lips. But not all lip scrubs are created equal, says Dr. Teo. “Some lip exfoliators can be quite harsh on your delicate lip area. Find one that is gentle and offers moisturising benefits.”

One that comes to mind is a DIY trick that involves honey and sugar: all you need to do is mix both ingredients together and use a wet soft toothbrush to gently brush off the dead skin.

4. Moisturise your lips

mask lip moisturise

Photo source: Burst/Pexels

Dr. Lim advises using a non-fragranced lip balm all the time before you put on your protective face covering. Meanwhile, Dr. Yong recommends slathering on a repairing lip balm whenever you are at home and can do away with the masks – you can apply a generous layer on your lips before you sleep too.

5. Avoid triggers as much as possible

If you can, steer clear of aggravating factors such as hot, oily, and spicy foods, says Dr. Yong. She also advises against licking your lips as this only worsens the drying, peeling lip.

Additionally, both Dr. Yong and Dr. Teo suggest using non-minted toothpaste to avoid further irritation of the lips.

6. Protect your lips from UV

We forget that our lip surface is much like our skin – it’s also susceptible to damage from variable levels of UVA and UVB rays as well as environmental free radicals. Since we’ve been spending a lot more time outside, it’s important to apply sun protection on your lips every day – just like you do with your skin.