by Team Henné <3 / 7.21.22

Lip Licking – Why It’s Bad and How To Do It Less Often

We've all been there. Dry lips, forgot your lip balm at home. You want a quick fix, so you lick your lips for instant relief. Problem is that five minutes later, they feel even more dry than before, and now you're trapped in a vicious cycle. But why is that? And what really happens when you lick your lips?

What Does Saliva Do to Your Lips?

Saliva is comprised of over 99% water; no surprise there. This is why we get the feeling of short-term feeling of moisture after licking our lips (which is why we do it, right?), but after that water evaporates, you're left with the other stuff.

What's the 'other stuff,' you ask? Among other things, it includes digestive enzymes such as lipase, amylase and salivary acid phosphatase. Their main function is to break down foods you consume. When you lick your lips frequently and there's no food in sight, they start working to break down the skin on and around your lips instead. If you lick your lips frequently, they can end up being dry and flaky, and even worse, cracked and bleeding. Ouch!

Also, if you're an habitual lip licker, you might develop something called lip licker’s dermatitis, which is an eczema-like skin inflammation that affects the area around your lips. So while it can be challenging to quit licking your lips, this is one habit you definitely want to break up with.

How to Stop Licking Your Lips

The first step is to remove the main cause behind your desire to keep licking your lips: dead skin. Do this by gently exfoliating your lips with a lip exfoliator.

Next, work on repairing your lips. Apply lip balm regularly throughout the day, and use an extra layer overnight. Not only will the lip balm help your lips recover and prevent moisture from escaping by acting as a seal, it’ll also make it easier to resist the urge to lick your lips and even limit the negative effects of lip licking.

If you have a hard time stopping cold turkey, try to do it in increments, and hold yourself accountable. Some people work better with a reward system, others work better with some slight negative reinforcement. You could reward yourself with your favorite coffee or beverage for successful day of less lip licking. Or you can use the rubber band method, where you leave a rubber band on your wrist and snap it back each time you lick your lips. If you opt for the latter method, please don’t do it too hard! It’s supposed to be a reminder, not a punishment.

Another way to lick your lips less is to avoid situations that could quickly cause dry lips and that might have made you lick them in the first place. Avoid too much sun exposure during peak hours and stay hydrated - especially if there's alcohol thrown into the mix.

Finally, put a lip balm in your handbag(s) or next to your keys. That way you'll always have one on hand whenever you feel the need or urge to lick your lips.

Creating or getting rid of a habit doesn't happen overnight, so don't be hard on yourself if you can't quit cold turkey initially. Just being aware and making a conscious effort to do it less will make a difference, and gradually over time, you'll notice that you lick your lips way less often...maybe hardly at all!