How Nipple Cream Saved My Skin This Winter

As someone who's never birthed anything but a monogrammed gift basket for my sorority-appointed "pledge daughter," I can assure you I've not once thought about nipple cream. This is because for the most part (unless you count the times I've squeezed into an ill-fitted push-up bra at Victoria's Secret), I've yet to experience the same kind of irritation on the area that a breastfeeding mother might.
But in a rare moment of desperation on a long, moisture-sucking flight to Mexico, in which my lips, hands, and elbows were practically chipping away from dryness and there was no Aquaphor in sight, I broke the golden rule of air travel: Thou shall never disrupt thy neighbor... especially if a screaming baby is involved. I turned to the mother in seat 28B and pleaded, "You don't happen to have any lip balm, do you?" She shook her head no, and instead pulled a fresh tube of Lansinoh nipple cream from her bag. "It's not just for diaper rash," she told me with a wink.
I did vaguely remember Margot Robbie once swore by nipple cream for softer lips, so I applied a teeny dab of the waxy formula to mine. Instant relief. I patted on a little more to an itchy dry patch on my neck. Then my cuticles. By the time I landed, I had all but converted to the church of nipple cream.
Of course, pure lanolin — the active ingredient in Lansinoh, and most other creams from the same category — has been quelling diaper rash and breastfeeding-related irritation for decades. Its thicky, goopy texture lends the same consistency as a vat of Vaseline, but unlike petroleum jelly, "lanolin forms a non-occlusive barrier between the skin and outside factors, like wind or moisture, so the skin can still breathe through it," explains aesthetic plastic surgeon Paul Lorenc, MD, FACS. I saw this as the perfect excuse to slather it on my every inch of chapped skin since that fateful flight.
The only time you shouldn't use lanolin-based products, according to Dr. Lorenc, is if you're prone to breakouts or have wool allergies (the ingredient is derived from sheep wool). "Also, sheep are sprayed directly with pesticides to prevent pests, so lanolin can contain pesticide residue," he claims. "These are most likely low levels that may not pose a harmful effect on humans, but you can buy organic lanolin, which is pesticide-free." We'd also add that you should steer clear if you're vegan, since lanolin is an animal byproduct. And, while there is debate on the subject, many cruelty-free advocates argue against using products containing this ingredient as well.
At the end of the day, our breasts go through a lot. They're squeezed, studied, neglected, scrutinized, and, sometimes, sucked. The fact that the result of their discomfort has also ended with a cure for my chronically chapped lips? It makes me appreciate them even more.
Lansinoh HPA Lanolin Minis, $10.49 for set of three, available at Target.

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