Pucker up for PERFECT LIPS; BEAUTY STYLE Winter may be taking its toll, but with the number of lip balms, salves, moisturising lipsticks and lip treatments available, we should have no excuse for neglecting our kissing zone, says Hannah Stephenson.
There seems to be no let-up in the cold and blustery winter weather we've been suffering, which plays havoc with one of our most sensitive facial features - the lips.
Every time we go out in this kind of weather our lips are prone to dryness, chapping and cracking if we don't protect them properly.
The skin on your lips is actually thinner and finer than the skin on the rest of your face, including the delicate skin around the eyes.
It lacks some of the body's protective substances including a lipidic barrier which helps retain moisture in the skin, keeping it soft and supple.
But with the number of lip balms, salves, moisturising lipsticks and lip treatments available, we should have no excuse for neglecting our kissing zone.
First, though, it may be necessary to give your lips a little home treatment before investing in moisturising lip balm to keep them plump and smooth.
Lara Nugent, beauty editor of Best magazine, advises: 'If your lips start to flake, you can put your normal face cleanser on them and then gently buff the flakes off with a flannel or an old toothbrush. You can do this once a week but don't buff too hard and end up damaging your lips.'
Licking your lips is the worst thing you can do, she adds, as it will make them even drier. The lips don't contain sebaceous glands to keep them soft, which makes them more prone to chapping.
The best protection for them is a lip balm or salve, she suggests. They are made of fatty substances such as beeswax or carnuba wax, which acts as a barrier to retain moisture.
The skin around the lips also needs to be kept moist to avoid fine lines appearing. For this, it's best to use a moisturiser containing vitamin A, C and E and a sunscreen to protect the area from oxidating damage caused by free radicals and which can lead to signs of premature ageing, particularly if you are a smoker.
So, what should we be looking for as we scour the cosmetics counters for lip savers?
Avoid long-lasting and matt finish lipsticks if you want to protect your lips from the elements, Nugent advises.
'The ingredients which make long-lasting lipsticks work are quite drying.
'Don't use flavoured lip balms because that encourages you to lick your lips, which makes them worse. Just buy a plain lip balm which is of a thick consistency but not too oily. Vaseline is actually the best thing you can put on your lips.'
Instead switch to a moisturising lipstick. Nugent recommends Maybelline Moisture Whip (pounds 4.99), which comprises 66 per cent moisturisers including vitamin E and aloe vera.
Top beauty journalist Jo Glanville Blackburn, author of Make The Most Of Your Lips (HarperCollins, pounds 4.99), says: 'You can buy many lip balms and lipsticks now which contain a high sun protection factor (SPF) to wear when you are outdoors - even in winter.
'This is considered by dermatologists as vital protection since the lips contain little or no melanin (the body's natural mechanism against sun), so are easily burned and damaged.'
Try Clinique's Liquid Lipstick SPF 15 (pounds 10.50), with a moisturising formula including aloe extract and Vitamin E, which provides moisture and protection in one.
Another good buy is Versace's Lips (pounds 15), a range of lipsticks containing Vitamin E and trehalose - which helps protect lips from dryness - and coralline algae which aims to help control skin ageing.
You can also give your lips extra protection by applying lip balm under your lipstick. However, this will often result in reducing the intensity of the colour of your lipstick.
There are also various treatments available to get your lips into shape before you apply colour to them.
Clinique has a new lip treatment called All About Lips (pounds 15 for 12ml), a lightweight lotion to put on underneath lipstick to give the lips and surrounding skin a smoother, less lined appearance. Each application gently exfoliates, easing away roughness until lips feel silky.
Another effective lip treatment is Lancome's Primordiale Levres, a rejuvenating treatment containing Flexium, a combination of nutritive waxes, oils and soft powders forming a supple mesh which is highly resistant to water and to changes in temperature (pounds 18 for 15ml pump dispenser).
Valmont's Day Lip Repair (pounds 39 for 15ml) is formulated to protect, hydrate and nourish the epidermis of the lips, containing a combination of jojoba oil and evening primrose oil, proteins and plant-derived fatty acids. Available only from Harrods - mail order on 020 7730 1234.
There are many lip balms on the market. Among the best are Crabtree and Evelyn's Aromathology Lip Balm (pounds 4.95 for 7.5g), containing essential oils of orange and clove, or Kiehl's Lip Balm (pounds 5) from Space NK (0870 1699999).
Another rich protector is Lush's Patented Lip Balm (pounds 2.75 for 12g), which contains cocoa butter, shea butter, avocado oil and bananas to soften the skin.
Glanville-Blackburn advises: 'Try to increase your water intake (especially if your lips seem permanently dry) and try to avoid stress to prevent frown lines around the mouth.
'Most of all be aware of the condition of your lips. Just like the rest of your skin, it's a barometer for the way you live your life.'
Versace's Lips (pounds 15), are a range of lipsticks containing Vitamin E and trehalose which helps protect lips from dryness