Chapped Lips: The Remedy Depends on the Cause

Cynthia Bailey, MD|December 22, 2009

FlickerLipImageWinter weather is hard on all of your skin, including your lips. If your lips are chapped due to the weather they will improve when you moisturize them with a simple, but high quality lip balm. Unless you’re a big time lip licker, or constantly out in harsh weather (think fishermen and skiers), your lips should respond to lip balm. If your lips don't heal with consistent use of a good lip balm, you could be allergic to a food or to your lip care products; find the allergen and heal your lips! I see a lot of patients with chapped lips. Before they’ve seen me, they’ve tried numerous chapped lip remedies, all without improvement. When I see that both the top and the bottom lips are chapped, I suspect an allergy as the cause. In my practice, the most common lip allergens are:

  1. Citrus: This includes the twist of lemon in your beverage, drinking orange juice, eating an orange etc. This is my lip allergen. I get chapped lips every time I squeeze lemon in my water or use it generously on food. I have citrus trees and love using the fruit. I know to expect dry, scaly lips after ingesting citrus and because I love the fruit I do it anyway. I can lessen the chapping by wearing Ceralip (see below) as a barrier, using a straw if I’m drinking the citrus and washing my lips soon after the exposure.
  2. Mint: Mint is in many products including gum, breath mints, dental products etc. I have a patient whose chapped lips were caused from regularly drinking mint tea.
  3. Cinnamon: Cinnamon products are less common but there is cinnamon in some dental products, teas and beverages. One of my patients developed dry lips from the cinnamon in Good Earth’s Original Flavor herb tea, which is loaded with cinnamon.
  4. Lip balms: Many ‘healing’ lip balms designed to treat chapped lips actually contain well intended allergens that you can be allergic to. The product I see the most problems with is Bert’s Bees Lip Balms, but there are many other products patients bring me that are loaded with allergens. The common lip product allergen ingredients include vitamin E (tocopherol), rosemary, eucalyptus, mint, lanolin, non mineral sunscreen ingredients as well as the fragrance and flavors in the lip products.

If your chapped lips are due to an allergy, they become chapped within a few days after exposure to the allergen, and can take a week or more to heal. If you think that you may have chapped lips due to an allergic reaction, try avoiding the allergens that I listed above for a month. Moisturize your lips with a simple, low allergen product. My favorite is Ceralip.  Best hypoallergenic healing lip balm Ceralip When you are outdoors in the sun you need a hypoallergenic and healing lip balm that also blocks the sun's harmful UV rays.  For this job my favorite product is EltaMD UV Lip Balm SPF 31. Best sunscreen Elta Lip Balm SPF 31 Other options include pure shea butter (L’Occitane has a nice Mini Pure Shea Butter tin with 100% pure shea butter). You can also try plain vasaline, but it’s irritating to some people. When your lips have healed, retest just one of the allergens. If your dry lips reoccur you have your answer. If you found this post helpful, you may also want to read: Essential Winter Skin Care: 2 Simple Tricks To Healthy Winter Skin Dermatologist's 3 Simple Steps for Sandal Ready Feet by Spring Dermatologist's Simple Tips for Athlete's Foot Fungus Treatment Brilliant Skin Care For The New Decade Pandemic Of Dry Hands: Hand Sanitizers, The Swine Flu And Tips To Save Your Hands Dermatologist's Tips For Dry Flaky Skin on Your Face and Scalp-Tis the Season for Seborrheic Dermatitis Making Sense Of The Vitamin D Dilemma And Sun Exposure Photo attribution: / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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