Chapped or dry lips are a common problem that can be painful and unattractive. Common symptoms are dryness, redness, cracking, flaking, and tender or sore lips.
CAUSES OF CHAPPED LIPS
LICKING YOUR LIPS
When lips become dry, we tend to repetitively lick them in a futile attempt to restore moisture. Even though licking your lips may, for a few seconds, make them feel better, it is actually making matters worse! Your tongue transfers saliva from your mouth to your lips which actually eats away and destroys the thin layer of skin covering the lips. This can easily become a vicious cycle leading to painful, cracked, sore lips. Whatever it takes, do your best to avoid licking your lips when they begin feeling dry.
Lips don’t contain oil glands like your skin does, so they can dry to become chapped very easily. In fact, dry lips is also one of the signs of more widespread body dehydration. If you don’t drink enough during the day, your lips may become dry.
NOT PROTECTING THEM
Don’t forget your lips when applying sunscreen. Look for a lip balm that has sunblock in it for extra protection, or just put a bit of sunblock on your lips before you leave the house. Keeping your lips moisturized throughout the day with petroleum jelly or beeswax will help to keep them from drying out, too.
Having air constantly pass over your lips serves to dry them out. People who snore or have sleep apnea have this problem and frequently wake up with chapped lips. In each of these situations, it’s best to keep your lips moisturized throughout the day, especially before going to bed. And work with your doctor to correct the underlying problem.
Many types of toothpaste contain the ingredient sodium lauryl sulfate, and reports in popular media indicate this ingredient can be irritating enough to causing dryness and chapping of the lips. If you are struggling with chapped lips, try switching toothpaste, but also take a look at other products you use on your lips. Many have dehydrating alcohols in them, which you should also try to avoid.
CITRUS AND CINNAMATES
The acid in citrus fruits can irritate the lips. Tomato sauce can also be irritating and painful when someone already has chapped lips. Cinnamates, which are used in candy, gum and toothpaste, among other things, can also have the same effect.
TOO MUCH VITAMIN A
If you’re consuming too much vitamin A, or are taking too many supplements, this may be causing your chapped and pealing lips. If you take more than 25,000 IU of vitamin A per day, you’re consuming too much of this vitamin. By the way, dry cracked lips can also be associated with deficiencies of certain B vitamins.
There are many allergies that can cause chapped lips including allergies to cobalt and nickel. If you take too many vitamin B12 supplements, you may develop an allergy to cobalt, which may lead to lips that are dry and appear crusty.
Certain prescription medications, like Accutane for acne or wrinkles, propranolol for blood pressure, or prochlorperazine for vertigo, can cause chapped lips.
Autoimmune diseases may cause your lips to become sensitive to the sun and therefore, cause chapped lips, so if you have an autoimmune disease, wear a lip balm with SPF 15. A thyroid disease and psoriosis can also cause dryness of the lips. Perleche, or angular cheilitis, can cause dryness around the mouth as can diabetes. Those with Down’s syndrome commonly have dry, chapped lips as do those with actinic cheilitis, which is caused from too much sun exposure. The list goes on, so pay attention to any other symptoms and don’t hesitate to see an expert to help you do the detective work.
HOW TO CURE AND PREVENT CHAPPED LIPS
What can you do to keep them safe?
USE LIP BALM
A good balm can buffer your delicate lip skin from the elements. Choose one high in emollients. Don’t limit yourself to products with the word balm in them, either. Lip ointments are just as good a choice.
APPLY EARLY AND OFTEN
Whatever type of product you choose, apply it before you put on lipstick or lip gloss, not after. To keep your lips protected, reapply frequently. You need about six to eight coats during the day, so apply first thing in the morning, last thing at night, and every couple of hours during the day. To make this easier, stash a tube in your purse, one in the car, a third your desk, and another near the bed.
PROTECT YOUR LIPS WHEN YOU’RE OUTSIDE
You cover your hands and feet when the temperature drops; do the same for your lips. Wear a scarf or a ski mask that covers your mouth when you go out in the cold. And remember to choose a lip balm with sun protection year-round.
DRINK ENOUGH WATER
You know it has tons of benefits for your body. One of those is to fight the dehydration that leads to chapped lips.
USE A HUMIDIFIER INDOORS These devices provide the moisture your lips and skin crave. It’s great to have one at work as well as at home, especially in the winter. Turn it on at night to replenish your skin while you sleep.
DON’T LICK YOUR LIPS
While it might seem like a good idea at the time, running your tongue over your lips is the worst thing you can do for them. As your saliva dries, it takes more moisture from your skin. Reach for your lip balm instead.
DON’T PEEL OR BITE FLAKY SKIN
The skin on your lips is thin and delicate. Picking at it can cause it to bleed and hurt, slow the healing process, and cause more irritation.
It can cause further damage to chapped lips. Instead, apply plenty of balm or ointment and turn on the humidifier.
LISTEN TO YOUR LIPS
Some treatments can do more harm than good. Ingredients like eucalyptus, menthol, and camphor can dry or irritate your lips. Stay away from them, especially if you have dry skin.
If you’re allergic to plant-based oils and moisturizers like beeswax, shea butter, castor seed, and soybean oil, switch to a petroleum jelly-based product.
CALL THE DOCTOR
See a dermatologist if your problem persists. Chapping that doesn’t heal, despite regular use of lip balm, can be a sign of infection or a more serious problem, like cancer or a pre-cancer condition called actinic cheilitis.
Never letting your lips be "naked" can actually keep your lips in beautiful shape regardless of the weather.