Characterized by cracking, fissuring and peeling of the skin of the lips, chapped lips or also known as cracking lips can be really annoying and uncomfortable for most people.
This condition does not only happen to people who live in cold countries because as the skin on the lips is much thinner and more delicate than other parts of the body, it could easily get dry, sore and scaly, especially when you don’t take special care of them.
When you suffer from dry lips, you might experience any of the following symptoms on or around your lips:
Peeling or flaking
Unlike the skin that covers the rest of the body, our lips does not contain oil glands and thus are prone to drying out.
Lack of moisture can make the problem worse, whether it’s weather-induced or related to self-care.
“Everyone can get chapped lips, particularly if they have dry skin.”
And there are a number of reasons and factors which can contribute to this chapped lips condition.
Controlling these factors can help treat and even prevent chapped lips or stop them from getting worse.
If you think licking your dry lips can add moisture to them, you might wanna reconsider it again.
While licking may temporarily moisten the lips, this habit will make the condition worse.
Moisture will be pulled from the surface of the lips as the saliva evaporates, leaving it even drier than it was.
Whether you are aware of it or not, your dry, cracking lips could be caused by ingredients from your lip products.
Some lip balms, lipsticks, and similar products contain ingredients that can make dry lips worse.
These ingredients include:
Humectants, such as glycerin
Take note that some common ingredients in lip products, especially pigments or fragrances might cause allergic reactions to some people with sensitive-skin type.
Using a lip product that contains these allergens can cause the lips to become dry, red and chapped.
Exposure to cool, dry temperature, for example in the air-conditioned room tends to draw moisture from the skin.
The decline in humidity levels is the reason why people often experience chapped lips during colder periods of the year.
Prolonged exposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays can cause significant damage to the lips and lead to dryness and cracking.
Medications such as antihistamines, diuretics, vitamin A, lithium (commonly used to treat bipolar disorder) and chemotherapy drugs can cause dehydration as a side effect.
Salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide that is commonly present in topical acne medications can dry out the lips. If these ingredients come in contact with the lips, it can lead to chapping.
If you suffer from chronic dry lips and you find that it simply won’t heal, there may be an underlying condition to blame and you should see a doctor.
Cheilitis or inflammation of the lips is often to blame for severely chapped lips. This is a condition marked by cracked skin at the mouth corners and several cracks on your lips.
If you have this condition, your lips may:
Appear red or dark pink in color
have a lumpy texture
have white plaques on the surface
Cheilitis is often attributed to infections and inflammatory diseases, such as Crohn’s disease.
Chapped lips can get infected, as bacteria can enter through cracks and abrasions.
Adults and children who wear orthodontic braces, dentures or have experienced dental trauma are all susceptible to developing cheilitis.
If you often experience symptoms like lightheadedness, constipation, dry mouth or decreased urine output, you might be dehydrated.
In severe cases, a person suffering from dehydration may experience low blood pressure, fever, rapid breathing, or a rapid heartbeat.
Additional symptoms such as muscle weakness, decaying teeth, bloated stomach or bone fragility may indicate malnutrition.
Those on limited diets (for example, vegetarians) are more prone to suffer from vitamin deficiencies, so it’s important to make sure they are getting enough of the required vitamins.
If you suspect you are dehydrated or malnourished, see your doctor right away.
Did you know that your cracked lips may be a sign of a yeast infection? This is especially true if you have cracks around the corner of our mouth.
"We all carry yeast on our skin," - Dr. Shawn Allen, dermatologist.
The saliva generated from licking your lips may be the cause of the overproduction of yeast. So the best cure is to drink lots of water and avoid licking your lips.
Chapped lips can usually be treated at home. The first step is to make sure that your lips have enough moisture. This can be accomplished by:
Staying hydrated, inside and out. Be sure to drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration. Also, use a humidifier if you are exposed to cool, dry, air-conditioned environment.
Avoid licking your lips. Licking your lips only dries them out even more.
Apply lip balm with sunscreen. Use lip balm that contains a minimum SPF 15 before heading outdoors. The balm helps to moisturize the lips and minimizes further drying effects.
Say “No” to flavored lip balms. While flavored lip balms may be fun, they can lead to a dry, cracked mouth as you are tempted to lick your lips even more.
Gently exfoliate. When your lips are chapped, they can be rough and start to peel. Apply a gentle exfoliator like a sugar scrub with your finger. Be sure to follow with a good moisturizer.
Moisturize regularly. Products containing beeswax, lanolin or petroleum work to hold moisture in. Slather on more at night before you go to sleep.
Steer clear of allergens. You may have sensitive lips that get irritated when they come in contact with perfumes, dyes, or fragrances. So keep cosmetics and products with these ingredients far from your mouth.
We all suffer from dry, chapped lips at some point. And in most cases, a few lifestyle adjustments may be enough to heal chapped lips and prevent the issue from returning.
Those with chronically chapped lips or who have not had success even with multiple remedies should contact their healthcare provider to discuss potential underlying causes and treatment options.
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Cynthia Cobb, A. (2019). How to get rid of chapped lips: 6 ways. [online] Medical News Today. Available at: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324281.php.
Healthline. (2017). What Causes Chapped Lips?. [online] Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/chapped-lips.
Healthline. (2018). How to Get Rid of Chapped Lips. [online] Available at: https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-get-rid-of-chapped-lips.
Willingham, J. (2016). What Your Chapped Lips Could Really Mean. [online] Bustle. Available at: https://www.bustle.com/articles/133706-7-ways-chapped-lips-could-be-a-sign-of-something-else.
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