7 Reasons Your Lips Are Chapped—and How to Heal Them
Unless you know why your lips keeps getting dry and cracked, you’ll be a slave to lip balm all winter long. We asked two board certified dermatologists about what causes chapped lips and how you can keep your pout soft, smooth, and happy.
You have a sunburn
Your lips, as you may be aware, are extremely sensitive, largely because the skin covering them is very thin. “Because they are so thin, they are more prone to sun damage, and you can even get skin cancers in this area as well,” says Jill Waibel, MD, owner of the Miami Dermatology and Laser Institute. Make sure to use lip balm with SPF anytime you will be outside, and if your dry and chapped lips don’t clear up, make an appointment with your dermatologist. Sun damage can cause a pre-cancerous condition known as actinic cheilitis. Once diagnosed, your doctor may pursue treatment options like cryotherapy, medical photodynamic therapy, or topical chemotherapeutic creams. Check out these lip balm hacks you’ll wish you knew all along.
You have an undiagnosed allergy
If your lips are always dry but you can’t quite nail down the cause, take a look at the products on your vanity. According to Dr. Waibel, an allergy could be the root cause of chapped lips. “Allergic Contact Dermatitis is a very common diagnosis for dryness in your lips,” she explained. “You can have become allergic to either your toothpaste, mouthwash, or something in your lipstick—coloring for example.” Take breaks from products for two weeks at a time to see if your lips begin to heal. If they don’t, Dr. Waibel suggests checking in with your dermatologist to talk about treatment. Your doctor may suggest a patch test to help you figure out exactly what you are allergic to so you can avoid that ingredient in other products. Additionally, until your lips are back to normal, a topical steroid might be prescribed to help with the dryness, redness, and inflammation
You have chronic dry lips
Sometimes the simplest explanation is the best explanation. In some cases, if your lips are always dry, it’s because you have chronic dry lips. “This can be very common in patients with a history of dry skin conditions, for example, psoriasis or eczema,” says Dr. Waibel. Treatment may involve applying an ointment like Aquaphor to the area twice a day and/or to apply Dr. Dan’s Lip Balm, which contains hydrocortisone, and which can help dramatically with dryness. Avoid these common mistakes that cause you to have dry lips.
You are dehydrated
If your lips are dry, a few glasses of water may be all you need to get them back to normal, according to Tsippora Shainhouse, MD, board-certified dermatologist and instructor at the University of Southern California, who says that dry lips are one of earliest signs of dehydration. That’s because lip skin is very thin and has no oil or sweat glands. “Water loss through the lips is actually 3 to 10 times greater than through the skin on the face or other skin on the body,” Dr. Shainhouse says. “When you notice that your lips are dry, down a few glasses of water to help replenish some of your body’s stores.”
You’re a mouth breather
Mouth-breathers, as the name suggests, breathe in and out through their mouth instead of their nose. “Not a big deal, except that it can leave your lips feeling dry and tight due to the evaporation of moisture when your mouth is open all night,” Dr. Shainhouse says. Mouth-breathing can be caused by chronic allergies and nasal congestion, which prevents you from breathing through your nose. You could also have other nose and throat issues that may be causing snoring. If you wake up with dryness in your mouth and on your lips, try applying Vaseline, Aquaphor or Vitamin E oil, before bed to help keep lips moist. You can also run a humidifier at night. Of course, if you have chronic allergies or a snoring problem, you should also make an appointment with an ear, nose, and throat doctor or an allergist to tackle the problem behind your chapped lips. Your incessant snoring may also be annoying your partner. Try these helpful tricks to fight dry skin.
You lick your lips
We get it, licking you lips relieves the dryness for a few minutes, but it won’t help in the long run. In fact, once the saliva evaporates, your lips can actually become more dry, warns Dr. Shainhouse. “Chronic or habitual lip licking can actually create a vicious cycle of dry, irritated lips that just won’t heal. When lips get dry, they can feel tight and might even crack and sting. Be conscious of this habit, and ask others to point out when you are doing it, so that you can actively work on quitting,” Dr. Shainhouse sats. “Keep your lips moist with emollient balms and occlusive ointments, which will reduce the tight, dry sensation.” Some of our favorite lip emollients are Avene Cold Cream Nourishing Lip Balm, Lanolips 101 Ointment MultiPurpose Super Balm, and Junetics Pure Energy Lip Balm E24 Complex.
The weather is dry
Just as low moisture in the body can dry lips, so can low moisture in the environment. Dry air is one of the most common culprits behind chapped lips. While you may not be able to control the weather, there are steps you can take to protect your skin and lips from becoming to dry and chapped. “Dry weather literally sucks the moisture out of your lips to ‘help add moisture’ to the environment,” says Dr. Shainhouse. “Winds just add to the problem by increasing the evaporative water loss.” If dry weather is leaving your pout parched, Dr. Shainhouse suggests using a moisturizing lip balm to hydrate your lips and a waxy chapstick that will lock in the moisture before you head out into the winter weather. Don’t miss these homemade remedies for dry, chapped lips.