Should you use retinol for lips? Benefits and how to apply
Here’s the thing: Some people already use gentle (emphasis on tender) retinol around their lips. “If you can tolerate retinoids in that area, it will help with very superficial fine lines and wrinkles by blending and thickening the skin,” Rachel Westbey, MD, board-certified dermatologist at Marmur Medical, tells mbg about lip lines.
But remember that the skin around your lips is one of the thinnest areas of your face (apart from the delicate areas under your eyes), which means it can be more sensitive to harsh substances.
For many, retinol can easily cause irritation in an area that people often mistake for the common winter skin. If this sounds like you, it’s best to stay away from the area altogether; You can even apply a layer of lip balm to protect sensitive skin from the retinoid.
However, a retinol product formulated specifically for lips is likely to be much gentler on this sensitive skin, so you can reap all the skin’s repairing and softening benefits without the irritation. “Retinol for lips is ideally formulated with plenty of nourishing emollients to help offset the potentially irritating effects of retinol,” adds board-certified dermatologist Geeta Yadav, MD, founder of FACET Dermatology. “Retinol also needs to be in a very low concentration because the skin on the lips is incredibly thin.”
She even recommends opting for a plant-based retinol alternative, such as bakuchiol, instead of traditional retinol for the lip area. For example, this Ageless Phyto-Retinol Lip Cream from bareMinerals has features Bidens is hairy (aka Picão preto), an ingredient of vegetable origin have a retinol-like effect on the skin2.
“It will be less sensitizing, but will have comparative benefits,” she says of retinol alternatives, such as collagen repair and cell turnover. “This cellular turnover also fights hyperpigmentation and discoloration, so if you’re prone to freckled lips, a retinol lip treatment can help, too,” she notes.
Essence? Yes, lip retinol can help you maintain fuller, smoother lips for a long time—just make sure you choose a formula with plenty of moisturizing buffers to prevent irritation.