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Set of different lip balms on white background
Pixel-Shot | Adobe Stock

The Ultimate Guide to Travel Lip Care

I have suffered from dry lips for as long as I can remember, especially when I travel. I’ve found myself cursing when I forget to throw my favorite lip balm into my carry-on bag, knowing my lips will start drying out as soon as I set foot on the airplane. 

Travel can wreak havoc on your body, from jet lag and digestive issues to dry skin. If you’re like me, along with everything else comes dry lips, which can (literally) be a pain. With the dry air in the airplane, notorious dryness in hotel rooms, and the general changing of the weather, your lips can get seriously damaged when you travel – especially during the winter months. 

Taking care of your lips in winter is especially crucial due to the harsh environmental conditions that can lead to dryness and chapping. Cold temperatures, low humidity, and windy weather strip the delicate skin on the lips of moisture, leaving them vulnerable to damage. Warmer months bring a different issue: sun damage. 

What causes Lip Dryness While Traveling?

Cracked dry lips of man's face. The man's face contorts in pain dry mouth and skin. Care for chapped lips in the cold season. Concept of a healthy lifestyle.
raisondtre | Adobe Stock

While many factors contribute to dry, cracked lips when you travel, the main issues are:

  • Changes in Climate

Traveling to regions with different climates, especially those with low humidity, can cause moisture to evaporate more quickly from the lips, leading to dryness.  Just heading from one climate to another is enough to cause your body to react. 

  • Airplane Cabin Conditions

The air inside airplane cabins tends to be dry due to the controlled air circulation and pressurization; if you’re still masking, that adds even more dryness. This dry air can wear down moisture from the skin, including the lips, resulting in dryness and chapping.

  • Dehydration

Traveling often involves being on the move or being so wrapped up in your activities you forget to drink; which can lead to dehydration if you’re not drinking enough water. Dehydration can manifest as dry skin and lips.

  • Sun Exposure 

While we often think of colder weather as the main cause of dry lips, traveling to sunny destinations or during the summer without adequate lip protection can lead to sunburn, causing dryness and discomfort.

  • Stress 

Delayed planes, making connections, unfamiliar surroundings, and more make traveling stressful. This can affect the body’s hydration levels and overall skin health, including the lips.

Essential Tips for Lip Care

Hydration is Key: Drink Plenty of Water 

Many issues with our bodies can be solved with the simple task of drinking water. When you’re on the go, it can be easy to forget to stay hydrated. Bring a water bottle you can easily refill while out and about to ensure you get enough water throughout the day. Better yet, stay on trend and get yourself a Stanley cup, keeping your lips moistened while looking in vogue. 

Protect Lips from the Elements 

A cold winter wind will not do your lips any favors, so ensure you protect them before heading out. Luckily, a moisturizing lip balm won’t take up much space in your bag. Tried-and-true Blistex works great, or you can splurge and get Fenty Beauty Plush Puddin’ Intensive Recovery Lip Mask at Sephora.  Another simple way to protect your lips is by covering them with a scarf or mask when you go out in the cold wind. 


Exfoliating your lips helps keep them from getting chapped by removing the layer of dead skin cells that can build up on the surface. When dead skin accumulates on the lips, it can prevent moisturizing products from penetrating effectively, leading to dryness and chapping. By exfoliating regularly, you ensure your lips are smooth and free from flaky, rough patches, allowing lip balms and other hydrating products to absorb more efficiently. This helps maintain the lips’ moisture barrier, preventing dehydration and reducing the likelihood of chapping. Additionally, exfoliating promotes blood circulation to the lips, encouraging healthy cell turnover and renewal, further supporting lip health, and preventing chapping. We love French Girl Rose Lip Scrub and Chapstick Total Hydration Conditioning Lip Scrub

Avoid Licking Your Lips

Avoiding licking your lips is important for maintaining their moisture and preventing them from becoming dry and chapped. When you lick your lips, saliva evaporates quickly, leaving the lips even drier. Saliva contains enzymes that break down food particles, but these enzymes can also irritate the delicate skin on your lips, leading to inflammation and potential cracking. Licking your lips can also strip away the natural oils that protect them, further exacerbating dryness. Over time, frequent licking can contribute to a cycle of dryness and chapping, making it essential to break the habit and opt for hydrating lip balms or moisturizers. 

Use Humidifiers Indoors

Modern air humidifier on table at home
New Africa | Adobe Stock

Hotels are notorious for being dry, so bringing along a portable humidifier could make a world of difference regarding dry lips. Heat can remove moisture from the skin, leading to dryness, cracking, and chapping. Using one while you sleep will prevent overnight dehydration of your lips. 

Luckily, there are compact options you can easily pack in your carry-on to bring with you when you travel. The JayWayne Portable Mini Humidifier is USB-powered and fits into any cup, making it the ultimate portable solution to humidifying your space. Homedics Portable Humidifier is a compact, traditional humidifier that directly adds water to a built-in well. 

The Best Lip Balms to Combat Dryness

When choosing the suitable lip balm for you, there are a few things to consider before you make your purchase. 

  • If you are looking for Moisture and protection, opt for balms with ingredients like petrolatum or shea butter, which create a barrier, and humectants like hyaluronic acid, which draw in moisture. 
  • If you have flaky lips, look for a lip balm with gentle exfoliating ingredients like sugar or crushed jojoba beads. 
  • If you like a little color for your lips, tinted lip balms offer a hint of color while providing hydration.
  • If your primary concern is dryness and chapping, look for ingredients like shea butter, beeswax, ceramides, and hyaluronic acid, which lock in moisture and aid healing.
  • If you spend time outdoors, choose a lip balm with SPF 15 or higher to prevent sun damage.
  • If you have sensitive lips, avoid fragrances, dyes, and ingredients like phenol, menthol, and salicylic acid, which can irritate sensitive lips.

Top Ingredients for Effective Lip Balms

Riverchase Dermatology lists the following ingredients as the most effective for combating dry lips: 

  • Petroleum jelly (petrolatum)
  • ​​Sunflower oil
  • Cocoa butter
  • Sweet almond oil
  • Argan oil
  • Castor seed oil
  • Ceramides
  • Dimethicone
  • Hemp seed oil
  • Mineral oil
  • Shea butter
  • Titanium oxide or zinc oxide (sun protective ingredients)

Similarly, they suggest you avoid the following, which could have the opposite effect on your lips and cause more dryness: 

  • Camphor
  • Eucalyptus
  • Flavors such as cinnamon, citrus and mint
  • Fragrance
  • Menthol
  • Octinoxate or oxybenzone
  • Phenol (phenyl)
  • Propyl gallate
  • Salicylic acid

Natural Lip Balm for Dry Lips – Alpyn Beauty Sweet Agave + Willow Plumping Lip Mask

This lip balm combines the ingredients of sweet blue agave leaf for hydration, hyaluronic acid for adding fullness, and Jackson Hole willow bark for exfoliation. Need another reason to buy this all-natural lip balm? Alpyn Beauty partners with 1% For the Planet, so a portion of every purchase goes directly to forest restoration efforts. 

Moisturizing Lip Balm for Dry Lips – Vaseline Lip Therapy

There is a reason Vaseline has been a trusted brand for over 140 years—it works! This four-pack of lip balm sticks is as basic as it gets. They contain petroleum jelly to lock in moisture and added vitamin E to leave your lips feeling soft. 

Tinted Lip Balms for Dry Lips – Keys Soulcare Comforting Tinted Lip Balm 

Should we be surprised that avocados are not only a superfood but a super vegetable in general? Keys Soulcare Comforting Lip Balm contains avocado oil, leaving your lips soft, silky, and moisturized. In addition to the avocado oil, this balm contains camellia seed oil, shea butter, and castor seed oil for the utmost moisturizing, soothing, and repair of your lips. It comes in five colors and one clear option. 

Best Lip Balm with SPF Protection – SALT & STONE Lip Balm SPF 30

This water-resistant, reef-safe lip balm is the perfect addition to your toiletry bag for a sun-filled vacation. It’s fragrance-free, settles right into your lips, and protects your lips from the sun’s harshness. 

Long-Lasting Lip Balms for Dry Lips – Jack Black Intense Therapy Lip Balm 

This paraben-free, super-hydrating lip balm feels great when it goes on and won’t make you feel like you immediately have to reapply it—containing Grapefruit and ginger to soothe your lips,  shea butter and avocado oil to soften and condition, and the addition of  Vitamin E, green tea extract, and antioxidants for added protection.  As a bonus, it is SPF 25 for even more protection on sunny days. 

Best Overnight Lip Balm – Laneige Lip Sleeping Mask Intense Hydration with Vitamin C 

Full disclosure: this is the lip mask most of the team uses here at Smartertravel. One editor claims it “saved” her lips, while the other says the gummy bear flavor brings nostalgia to her senses. We love the fact that a little really goes a long way, and one pot of it should last years. Available in berry, gummy bear, vanilla, and sweet candy flavors, it brings intense moisture to your lips while you sleep.

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