Why Your Lips Are Chapped (and How to Help Them)

Why Your Lips Are Chapped (and How to Help Them)

You’ve had them at some point in your life and you may even have them now. Here's what you can do to help your chapped lips.

Your Health

You’ve had them at some point in your life and you may even have them now. They feel dry, maybe uncomfortable and you feel like you’ve tried everything but they just keep returning. They’re called chapped lips.

Chapped or cracked lips is the term commonly used to describe dry lips. You may experience symptoms around your lips like flaking, scales, dryness, swelling, cracks, bleeding, sores or swelling. 


Causes
Like other parts of the skin, lips don’t contain oil glands. That means they’re more susceptible to drying out and becoming chapped. Lack of moisture can worsen the problem. 

Chapped lips can also be caused by weather. Little humidity in the air during the winter months is known to cause chapped lips. Frequent sun exposure in the summer can also worsen your condition.

Certain medications (like vitamin A, retinoids, lithium and chemotherapy drugs) can cause chapped lips.

Another common cause of chapped lips is habitual licking. Saliva from the tongue can strip the lips of moisture, causing more dryness.

How to help your lips

You don’t have to live with chapped lips. Here are some tips to help heal dry and cracked lips and give you ones that are soft and suppled.

Apply the right products
You want to use non-irritating lip balm, lipstick and other products on your lips. Products shouldn’t feel like they’re stinging, burning, tingling or uncomfortable on the lips. That’s a sign that you’re irritating them. Avoid products with flavoring (especially mint, peppermint, cinnamon and citrus), fragrance, menthol, eucalyptus, camphor, lanolin and salicylic acid. Ingredients that can help heal chapped lips include hemp seed oil, mineral oil, castor seed oil, white petroleum jelly and shea butter.

Avoid licking your lips
It may feel natural to wet lips when they feel dry. But, saliva evaporates quickly. That leaves lips drier than before you licked them. If you tend to lick your lips, you especially want to pass on flavored lip balm, which may tempt you to lick your lips even more. You also want to avoid picking or biting lips, which can prevent them from healing.

Stay hydrated
Chapped lips are dry. So be sure to stay hydrated by drinking more water. You also want to use a humidifier to help keep the air in your home moist.

Beware of the elements
When it’s cold, wrap your mouth with a scarf so you’re lips are protected from wind and cold temps. Always apply (and reapply often) a non-irritating lip balm with SPF before going outdoors, regardless of the temperature. The balm will help moisturize the lips and prevent them from drying. Plus, sun can burn chapped lips more easily. And that can trigger cold sores. 

Breathe through your nose
Breathing through your mouth can cause your lips to dry out.

Don’t hold metal items in your mouth
Jewelry, paperclips and everyday products can irritate lips that are already sensitive.

If chapping is severe and unresponsive to at-home treatment, consult your doctor. You may be experiencing chelitis (cracked skin at the mouth corners and cracks on your lips), malnutrition or dehydration. Or you may have an allergic relations or yeast infection. Rarely, persistent chapped lips may indicate an underlying problem.

ADVERTISEMENT

How the Coronavirus Spreads Through the Air: 5 Essential Reads

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has given confusing guidance on how COVID-19 spreads through airborne particles; here are the facts.

Science and Technology

Pregnancy During a Pandemic: the Stress of COVID-19 on Pregnant Women and New Mothers Is Showing

The pandemic has dramatically changed the pregnancy experience and the U.S. may have 500,000 fewer births as a result.

Pregnancy & Postpartum