Derm-Approved Ingredients For Your Next DIY Lip Scrub

Photographed by Caroline Tompkins.
A quick search for "DIY lip scrub" will pull up thousands of recipe tutorials on YouTube, including a clip of actress Priyanka Chopra creating her go-to sea salt lip treatment for Vogue (that particular video has generated over 16 million views). Whether you use sugar or salt or an old toothbrush, exfoliating the lips is a crucial step in any beauty routine.
Before you put on your favourite matte lip colour, a DIY lip scrub can get rid of any flakes for a smoother application. And you can use the same concoction to remove all traces of long-wear lipstick that just won't budge. Even if your go-to lipstick is actually a clear balm, a scrub can remedy dry, chapped lips in minutes.
But with so many videos and recipes online, we wonder: What ingredients are actually the best to use? So, we asked the pros to determine what ingredients you should be grabbing from your kitchen cabinets and fridge to create the best lip scrubs. Here's what they had to say.


Sugar is undoubtedly one of the most trusted ingredients when it comes to lip scrubs, and it's also derm-approved. However, before you scrub, you should mix your crystals with oil because using sugar alone can damage skin tissue. "The lips are made up of thin, fragile skin, so the idea is to exfoliate gently," says Gretchen Frieling, M.D. "Mix it with a moisturising oil, like jojoba or olive, so it’s not too harsh."

Natural Oils

Speaking of natural oils, they are one of the most beneficial ingredients to add to any lip scrub recipe, says Dr. Frieling, especially if you're tackling dryness. In addition to an instant moisture boost, all the essential fatty acids and natural antioxidants in oils provide protection from environmental stressors. Dr. Frieling recommends coconut, olive, jojoba, and almond oils for your DIY beauty shopping list.


Dr. Frieling says you can also reach for papaya while you are in the produce section at the grocery store. "It's a great source of natural enzymes that help break down buildup on the lips, leaving them softer and more moisturised," she says. One caveat: Since papaya has high water content, Victoria Fu, a cosmetic chemist and the co-founder of Chemist Confessions, warns against storing a scrub recipe with this ingredient for future use. "Any formula that’s water-based requires preservatives to keep microbes from thriving in your formula," she says.

Raw Honey

Another popular ingredient that has the green light from both Frieling and Fu is raw honey. It works similar to a chemical exfoliator, clearing dead skin cells from your lips without the abrasive particles that can cause micro-tears. "Honey is a natural source of mild hydroxy acid that exfoliates without being overly harsh," says Dr. Frieling.

Aloe + Vitamin E

The mixture of aloe and vitamin E can help soothe your lips, as it does for your skin post-sun. It's a great source of hydration after wearing an extremely dry lipstick or eating spicy foods all night. If you're looking for the "scrub" factor, you can add sugar. Aloe vera also has significant water content, so Fu notes that it's best to use it all in one exfoliating session.

Green Tea

While it's well-known that drinking green tea is A+ for our health, it's also one of the most potent, natural skincare ingredients in our kitchen cabinets, says Dr. Frieling. You can open up your tea packets and use the leaves, which contain powerful antioxidants, as a lip scrub. "Green tea can soothe [the skin] and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles," she says. You can mix the green tea leaves with any of the ingredients listed above, but be sure to add a liquid so that the tea isn't too harsh on the lips.
Now, that you have your list of pro-approved ingredients, you can dig into your cabinets more confidently. However, while you're rummaging for DIY solutions, there are a few ingredients to avoid. Dr. Frieling says cinnamon, eucalyptus, mint, camphor, and peppermint oils are all irritants. Dr. Frieling also says that over-exfoliating is possible. "Don’t exfoliate more than twice a week," she advises. "Start with once a week so you avoid irritating your lips." You should also avoid scrubbing if your lips are visibly cracked or bleeding. With these tips in mind, you're one step closer to achieving smooth, soft lips.

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