Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

How to Get Perfectly Pouty Lips

One of the more frequent questions I get asked is, “How do you keep your lips looking nice?” I’ll share my own routine, any secrets I have that I use on my own lips, and additional beauty tips to keep your lips in tip top shape.

The Perfect Pout Toolkit

It is important that you have the right tools in your beauty stash to help your lips stay pretty, so you should make sure to have these on hand at all times…


  • Product Suggestions: Jojoba Oil + Sugar, Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment ($23), Sara Happ The Lip Scrub ($24)

Daily Lip Balm

  • Product Suggestions: Yes to Carrots Lip Butter ($3), Rosebud Lip Balm ($7), Smashbox Lip Treatment ($15)

Nightly Lip Balm

  • Product Suggestions: Carmex ($3), Vaseline ($5), Philosophy Kiss Me Intense Lip Therapy ($20.00)

The Perfect Pout Routine

In the morning, check to see if your lips are dry, cracked, or flaking. If it seems minor, putting a little toner on a cotton pad and wiping lips always helps me. (For this, I love NARS Hydrating Freshening Lotion ($36), because it’s very lightweight and never pulls moisture from my lips; it also has grape seed oil and aloe in it.) You can also take a soft-bristled toothbrush and a little warm water or an oil like jojoba oil and softly brush against lips for an easy, at-home scrub. If it’s not a big deal, go easy and just be gentle; you want to get dead cells off, but you don’t want to over-do it. I usually don’t find myself needing to do this step daily, but I might do it before I do several lip swatches or as needed.

  • To-do list: gentle, morning exfoliation when lips seem to need it

During the day, apply a good daily lip balm every few hours. You shouldn’t have to reapply hourly, and your lips shouldn’t feel like the moisture has been sucked out of them after a few hours, either. You want a lip balm that helps to protect your lips and retain moisture. The more emollient a lip balm (often oil-based or with a waxy base), the more likely it is to create a better, thicker barrier against the elements. If you’re going outdoors or into cold weather, opt for a thicker lip balm and slick it on more often than you think you need to. Make sure you’re drinking several glasses of water/liquid throughout the day; it’s good for, well, pretty much everything beauty-wise, but it also helps keep lips from drying out.

  • To-do list: apply a moisturizing lip balm three to four times a day, protect lips from harsh conditions and cold weather

At night, I like to do a more intensive exfoliation or scrub down two or three times a week. I personally use The Lip Scrub by Sara Happ ($24), which is a sugar-based scrub that you gently work onto lips and then wipe away with a tissue. I also use a warm washcloth that’s been wrung out to remove the scrub, though. Gently remove it, though – you don’t want to violently wipe away any bits! You can always make your own scrub using any thick lip balm or oil (again, jojoba oil is my favorite to use) and add in some sugar.

  • To-do list: exfoliate/scrub lips once to three times weekly

Before bed, apply a thick lip balm. The thicker the better! I often use Vaseline ($5) or Philosophy’s Kiss Me Intense Lip Therapy ($20), and don’t be shy about how much you use.

  • To-do list: apply a thick, emollient lip balm or treatment before bed

When You Wear Makeup

Before you apply lipstick or gloss, make sure your lips are moisturized. I like to apply a jellyish lip balm on my lips about a half hour before I apply lipstick, then I kiss the back of my hand to remove any excess, then apply lipstick or gloss as usual. If you’re applying a gloss, I’ve found that you don’t need to remove as much excess beforehand; with lipstick, the oil from lip balm often breaks down the product faster, which is why removing excess is important. It is also important to use lipsticks and glosses that don’t dry out your lips! I know I’ve personally found that many lipglosses dry out my lips and cause them to peel, which is both painful and ugly to go through, so I often go for lipstick (even something sheer) underneath my gloss so that doesn’t happen.

Tips & Tricks

  • Sunscreen is always helpful in a daily lip balm, so consider picking up one that contains SPF — there are a lot more on the market nowadays compared to a year or two years ago.
  • If you don’t feel the lip balm, it might not be enough for you. Lip balm is often more of a protectant than anything else, so if it’s so sheer and invisible, it might not be doing the job you want it to. During the day, I like something thick enough to feel, but not so thick that it’s like a coat of jelly on my lips (e.g. Vaseline is too much during the day, but perfect at night).
  • Lip lines can be aggravating, particularly if color regularly sinks into them. Consider a lip plumper or line filler for use on the lips (I like MAC’s Prep + Prime Lip or Line Filler). A lip plumping gloss or lipstick can also help make lines look less noticeable and lips appear fuller, but be prepared for a sting if you do (it will vary from person to person, depending on their tolerance and sensitivity).
  • Soothe cracked lips by gently exfoliating away dry parts and by using very emollient, rich, and thick products — you may even find a rich cream works better than your average lip balm. Avoid licking, biting, or peeling lips, because these are all behaviors that exacerbate the problem rather than curing it. If you have a tendency to lick your lips, avoid flavored lip balms and glosses. I personally find MAC Tinted Lip Conditioner to taste like sunscreen, and maybe that’s a way to cure your desire to taste!

Share your favorite lip care tips in the comments!

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39 thoughts on “How to Get Perfectly Pouty Lips: Smoothe, Moisturized Lips

  1. – exfoliating with a tooth brush
    – using olive oil as a night time lip treatment

  2. I enjoyed reading this guide. I definitely need to be more vigilant about taking care of my lips!

    My lips are extremely dry for a few different reasons, and while I’ve worked on not picking at them and keeping myself adequately hydrated, I apparently breathe through my mouth at night when I sleep so I just inevitably wake up with dry, cracked lips. It used to get so bad that my lips would literally be “chunky” and bleeding most of the winter. When my lips get like that, any kind of sugar scrub, commercial or DIY, just isn’t very effective and can often tear up my lips even more. What I found to work best for me was actually Physicians Formula Plump Potion! I know it sounds super weird, but it’s the best lip peel I’ve ever used. It’s a really thick, moisturizing gloss and so I just slap a generous amount on my lips and let it sit for an hour or two, and then I can simply take my finger and rub off all the dead skin without any tearing or bleeding at all! I can’t really speak to its plumping effect since I don’t actually wear it, but it doesn’t sting at all either. It only has a slight cooling effect if anything. It’s actually so effective that I only have to use it once every two weeks or so now. =)

    It also took me a really long time to find an effective lip balm since my lips are realllllly sensitive (allergic). I’ve tried a LOT of products, and my all time favorite is Soapalaya Soaps Green Tea lip butter. In my opinion it’s really the best out there and so affordable too ($3.50)! I think it’s very similar to Garden Botanika’s Vit. E lip treatment, except you get 2x the amount for ~1/3 the cost. I wasn’t at all impressed by Korres Lip Butters or Yes To Carrots balms though, so I think I just have *super* dry lips.

    Because of the chronic dryness I’ve had, I do have pretty deep liplines. I’m currently using Peter Thomas Roth’s Unwrinkle Lip Treatment, and I do think it works! I’m on my second bottle of it… I think you just have to be very vigilant about applying it every morning and every evening and it takes a few weeks to see results.

    • Thanks so much for sharing your favorites and tips, Catherine! I know that you’ve just helped out many, many others who suffer from chronic cracked and dry lips :)

      I like PTR a lot, so I might have to put that on my list next! I have a lip balm by PTR in a pot that came in a three-piece lip set that I adore and is so, SO soothing.

      • My pleasure. =)

        Oooh, I actually haven’t ever seen that balm (I guess it’s not sold at Sephora LOL) but I’m definitely going to look into it! It looks fantastic!

        I do really like the Un-Wrinkle Lip treatment, it’s just kind of frustrating to see the slow progress get undone everytime my lips get all chapped and icky again. You do really have to be VERY vigilant about it to see results, but it does deliver. It has a little bit of a burning sensation if you use too much though, so be careful! It only takes about half a pump, maybe even less, to adequately cover my lips, so I’m not sure why they designed the packaging the way they did.

    • Alicia

      I’m going to have to check some of these out, thanks!

    • Alex

      You can also try chapstick medicated at night, even when my lips are bleeding, the next morning they’ve healed significantly. You can actually feel the healing taking place and a soft cooling effect!

  3. Sylvia


  4. Nicole

    I adore Sara Happ’s the Lip Scrub in Brown Sugar sooooo much! I want to try Vanilla Bean too…

  5. K

    Oh goodness. I need to be kinder to my lips. They’re always chapped, and my rosebud salve is being depleted at record time!

  6. Ophelia

    this is really helpful, thank you!

  7. Sarah

    lush makes some great lip balms, too!

  8. Faith

    Where can you find Yes to Carrots?

  9. kpenn09

    I love me some rosebud salve (not to mention I use it for about 50 other things, so it’s a multi-multi-multi purpose investment), and I really like Smashbox’s lip exfoliant because it does the trick without being overly harsh and painful like some other exfoliants. I use Vaseline when I’m in crisis (i.e. have a super bad cold that dries out my whole face), although I hate the feeling of it on my lips for some reason – maybe because I associate it with sickness? Not sure.

    • Rosebud salve is great :) I’m gonna have to try the Smashbox one soon…

      I’m like that with tomato soup. I ate it for days when I had my wisdom teeth out years ago, and now I can’t touch it!

  10. Nicole

    When my lips are really dry and they start to hurt, then i use a little bit of vaseline and i can feel how they regenerate and heal. Perfect stuff and cheep as well.

  11. Alicia

    I love to use Mary Kay’s “Satin Lips” scrub/balm when my lips need exfoliating. I admit, I’m a lip biter so when my lips get extra dry and peely, I slather them up with good old chapstick so keep from biting at them!

  12. Roxanne

    Sometimes, when my lips are pretty dry, I’ll apply some lipglass. Sounds weird, but a lipglass has Jojoba oil in it and after wearing it for an hour or so, my lips feel much, much better! :) I wouldn’t be wearing it out though, you know, chapped lips with lipglass all over them… kinda icky…

  13. Torie

    I received Laura Geller’s lip scrup 2x as a sample from sephora bc i loved it so much and then guess what…they don’t sell it at sephora anymore! Go figure.
    I think it’s like $16 but it is yummy it’s also the sugar and I think peppermint oil-does not sting at all.
    Is it ok to use a scrub like this everyday? Sometimes I might skip a day or so if I’m not leaving the house but do like to use it before going out. I didn’t know if I was creating more damage than good. Like an addiction. LOL

    • Aww, that sucks! I think Laura Geller is moving mostly to QVC these days…

      LOL, if your lips aren’t looking worse for it, it’s probably fine :)

  14. Gao

    Thanks for the TIPS!! :]

  15. C

    If you plan to be outdoors for a ski trip perhaps, it’s recommended that you use a lip balm (or anykind of skin lotion) without water in order to avoid frost bite or well, dry skin.

    When working outdoors everyday I use Försvarets Hudsalva (it works like a charm) and even when temperature sank to -30 Celcius it saved my poor lips. Oh, and it’s real budget friendly too.

  16. Mora

    Thank you for sharing this tipps with us.

    In winter I have very dry lips an then I always start so chew mi lips. (sounds weird…)
    I don’t now if you know “Blistex” in the US, but in Europs its a quite popular brand for lip caring products. I love Blistex and its the only lip balm that really makes my lips soft and moisturized.

  17. Steph B

    Aquaphor at night and a humidifier are my saving graces. I also like Lip Slip by Sara Happ for a slightly glossy natural look. Burts Bees Pomegranate lip balm is fabulous — not waxy and smells delish. I’m prone to cracks where my upper and lower lips meet. A bit of hydrocortisone cream from the drugstore and lip balm vigilance take care of it.

    • Haven’t tried Lip Slip, but I love her Lip Scrub, so I’ll have to try that!

      I use a lot of hydro cortisone, too, but my lips react to weird things all the time, lol.

  18. Maren

    I love honey as a lip treatment because of its anti-infammatory and soothing effect. I put a thick layer on my lips (I prefer the crystallized, thicker honey), leave it on as long as possible (at least 10 min.) and then lick it off. It leaves my lips incredilbe smooth, is cheap, tastes good and doesn´t have any “bad” ingredients I might react against.

  19. K

    Great and very helpful post. Thanks Christine!

  20. I like using olive oil too. All natural. Nice article.