Do you suffer from cracked, dry lips? Chapped lips are painful, unsightly and can be hard to heal. What’s worse, some “healing” lip balms can exacerbate the situation and cause further dryness.
The key to healing dry lips is to understand the reason why they’re chapping.
The skin on your lips is uniquely fragile and requires special care. Once you understand the reason behind the problem, you can finally heal your dry lips for good!
Chapped lips have four main causes:
- Environmental chapping from harsh weather and wind.
- Irritation from excessive lip licking.
- Harsh ingredients in skin care products such as anti-aging skin care products or acne products that migrate to the lips.
- Allergic reactions to foods, beverages, lip balms and dental products that come into contact with your lips.
Get my dermatologist-recommended information and tips for your chapped and dry lips
If your dry, chapped lips won’t heal, here’s what to do:
If your lips are chapped due to the weather:
Exposure to harsh weather and wind pull moisture out of your skin, including your lips. The solution is to moisturize your dry lips with a simple, high quality lip balm.
The two tried and true products that I use in my practice are Nutritic Lip Balm and EltaMD Lip Balm SPF 31. Both are deeply hydrating and will soothe chapped lips. They both come in convenient tubes so that you can easily carry them with you and use them throughout the day.
The Nutritic is ideal for anytime use. When you are outdoors in the sun, use the EltaMD because you need to protect your delicate lip skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Unless you are constantly out in harsh weather (think fishermen and skiers), your lips should respond quickly once you are using the right lip balm.
If constant lip licking is causing your cracked lips:
Lip licking is a chicken and egg question; do you lick your lips because they are dry, or is your licking actually causing the dryness? If you lick your lips frequently, try keeping your lips constantly covered with the Nutritic or EltaMD lip balm instead of licking your lips. You should see improvement within a month.
Are your skin care products the culprit?
If you’re using anti-aging or exfoliating products, they may be migrating to your lips and causing dryness. Apply the Nutritic or EltaMD Lip Balms to your lips before applying these skin care products. Try to keep these products away from your lips and use a wet washcloth to clear off any excess. During the day, apply the Nutritic or EltaMD lip balm to help create a protective barrier so that drying product ingredients don’t migrate to your lip surface.
What if you have an allergy?
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. I see a lot of patients whose chapped lips are due to an allergic reaction. Before they've seen me they’ve tried numerous chapped lip remedies, all without improvement.
The lip chapping that happens from an allergic reaction is called allergic chelitis (chelitis means an inflammation of the lip skin). The key is finding the allergen that causes your lips to dry and chap.
In my practice, the most common causes of allergic lip chapping are:
- Citrus: Even small amounts of citrus can have a huge impact on your lips. This includes the twist of lemon in your beverage, drinking orange juice, eating an orange etc. I’m allergic to citrus so I get to live out this rash every time I squeeze lemon in my water or use it generously on food. You can lessen the chapping by wearing Nutritic before you eat or drink citrus, using a straw if you’re drinking the citrus and washing your lips soon after the exposure. This doesn’t entirely prevent the rash, but it helps a little.
- Mint: Mint is in many products including gum, breath mints, dental products etc. One of my patients developed chapped lips from regularly drinking mint tea.
- Cinnamon: Cinnamon products are less common but there is cinnamon in some dental products, teas and beverages. Another one of my patients developed dry lips from the cinnamon in Good Earth’s Original Sweet and Spicy herb tea, which is loaded with a delicious amount of cinnamon.
- Lip balms: Many ‘healing’ lip balms designed to treat chapped lips actually contain well-intended healing ingredients that are also allergens! 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 and 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. Again, my favorite hypoallergenic lip balm is Nutritic. Other options include pure shea butter (L’Occitane has a nice Mini Pure Shea Butter tin with 100% pure shea butter and nothing else). You can also try plain Vaseline, but some people find it slightly irritating and unpleasant tasting.
Once your lips have healed you can retest just one of the allergens. If your dry lips reoccur you may have your answer.
Please remember, the information presented on Dr. Bailey Skin Care’s Blog and web site, and any related links, is provided for general information and educational purposes only and are the opinions of Dr. Cynthia Bailey. Consult with your physician or health care provider for any specific medical conditions or concerns that you have. (This also applies to patients in her medical practice; the information here is not a substitute for, or an extension of, the medical care she provides for you). Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you have read here.