The Best Lip Scrubs Will Get Rid of Flakes in One Use

I never thought my lips could be this soft.

best lip scrubs on a purple background
(Image credit: Future)

I’m a girl with chronically chapped lips—but I’ve learned to compensate. I have lip balm by my side 24/7 and use exclusively hydrating lip oils for color. The unsung heroes responsible for removing my flakes, rough texture, and cracks, though, are, without a doubt, the best lip scrubs. Taking a gritty exfoliant to a dry, dehydrated area seems counterintuitive, but these scrubs are key to a lip reset.

“A good lip scrub should have exfoliating and emollient ingredients,” explains makeup artist Lisa Aharon, who swears by lip scrubs for a smooth lipstick application. Gentle grainy ingredients will create a clean slate, while moisturizing ingredients, like shea butter or avocado oil, can lock in hydration.

girl using one of the best lip scrubs to exfoliate lips

Lip scrubs will remove dead skin cells and reveal a softer, smoother surface for lipstick application.

(Image credit: Sephora)

A little bit of product (think: pea-size) and 30 seconds of scrubbing will remove dead skin and reveal a smooth base. Lip scrubs offer a quick fix in a pinch, but when I use them consistently, the results are transformative. Shop my favorites—and picks from the pros—ahead.

What Is a Lip Scrub?

Lip scrubs, which are physical exfoliants tailor-made for the lip area, entered the modern lexicon circa 2005, when Sara Happ, now known as the lip expert, created the category. “I made the first-ever lip scrub in my kitchen 19 years ago because none existed,” she shares with Marie Claire. “It’s a finely ground sugar and juicy essential oil blend that exfoliates lips the same way we exfoliate head to toe.”

They aim to remove dead skin and restore hydration to create a smoother, more supple surface. “The process primes your lips to ensure the perfect canvas for application while preventing dry, chapped lips,” explains Aharon. “You’ll get a much smoother and more polished finish as they won’t be dry or flakey.”

The Best Lip Scrubs

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What Ingredients Should Be in a Lip Scrub?

Lip scrubs can be super simple. You can even concoct your own from the comfort of your kitchen. Most will feature sugar, coffee grounds, or another natural grainy ingredient alongside a hydrator. “Emollients like shea butter, coconut oil, avocado oil, coconut butter, rapeseed oil, jojoba oil, and cocoa butter work well for moisture,” says Aharon. You will find beeswax in many lip scrubs, which is an important note if you prefer a vegan formulation.

How to Use a Lip Scrub

“All you need is your finger and a tissue,” says Happ. Scoop a bit of product onto your finger and rub gently in a circular motion. When you feel you’ve exfoliated every area sufficiently, wipe the excess product away with a damp cloth or rinse with warm water and check to see how your lips look and feel. “Either repeat or apply your choice of balm to finish and you’re good to go," adds Aharon.

girl using one of the best lip scrubs to exfoliate lips

Refy's lip scrub is unique, using a brush to remove dead skin cells instead of a gritty natural ingredient.

(Image credit: Sephora)

How Frequently Should I Use a Lip Scrub?

It depends on personal preference. Happ likes to use her lip scrub every morning after brushing her teeth, but you can also use it before makeup application or more heavily in the winter.

Meet the Experts

Lisa Aharon

Lisa Aharon is a New York-based, Vancouver-born makeup artist. She specializes in highlighting her clients’ natural beauty by creating flawless skin looks, working regularly with a wide variety of high-profile clientele, the likes of Rachel Brosnahan, Florence Welch, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Bock, and Anna Kendrick, among others.

Her work lives in the pages of Cosmopolitan, L'Officiel, The New York Times, Elle, Schön! Magazine, et al, and Aharon has worked with major brands and photographers such as Ralph Lauren, David Yurman, Annie Leibowitz, and Jurgen Teller.

Sara Happ

Since inventing the first-ever Lip Scrub in her kitchen in 2005, Sara Happ has become known as The Lip Expert, setting out to solve every lip problem imaginable with luxurious, effective formulas unlike any other. Eighteen years in, Sara and her all female team continue to be first to market with what beauty editors call the, "Why Didn't I Think of That?" products all of us need.

Samantha Holender
Beauty Editor

Samantha Holender is the Beauty Editor at Marie Claire, where she reports on the best new launches, dives into the science behind skincare, and shares the breakdown on the latest and greatest trends in the beauty space. She's studied up on every ingredient you'll find on INCI list and is constantly in search of the world's glowiest makeup products. Prior to joining the team, she worked as Us Weekly’s Beauty and Style Editor, where she stayed on the pulse of pop culture and broke down celebrity beauty routines, hair transformations, and red carpet looks. Her words have also appeared on Popsugar,,,, and Philadelphia Wedding. Samantha also serves as a board member for the American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME). She first joined the organization in 2018, when she worked as an editorial intern at Food Network Magazine and Pioneer Woman Magazine. Samantha has a degree in Journalism and Mass Communications from The George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs. While at GWU, she was a founding member of the school’s HerCampus chapter and served as its President for four years. When she’s not deep in the beauty closet or swatching eyeshadows, you can find her obsessing over Real Housewives and all things Bravo. Keep up with her on Instagram @samholender.