Chapped lips, or cracked lips is the term commonly used to describe dry lips. Chapped lips can be caused by several factors, that include:
- excessive licking of the lips
- certain medications
This is a common condition that only occurs for most people. But some people may develop a more severe form of chapped lips called cheilitis. Cheilitis can be caused by an infection, characterized by cracked skin at the corners of the lips.
You can usually treat dry lips with simple treatment and preventive measures. If your lips continue to be severely dry and cracked, you should consider make an appointment with a dermatologist.
Chapped Lips: Symptoms
You may experience any of the following symptoms on or around your lips:
Chapped Lips: Causes
Lips don’t contain oil glands like other parts of the skin. This means lips are more susceptible to drying out and becoming chapped (cracked). Lack of moisture can make the problem worse, whether it’s weather-induced or related to a lack of self-care. 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.
Another common cause of chapped lips is habitual licking. Saliva from the tongue can further strip the lips of moisture, causing more dryness.
Chapped Lips: Risk Factors
Everyone is susceptible, particularly if they have dry skin.
Taking certain medications can also increase your risk. Medications and supplements that can cause cause it and includes:
- vitamin A
- retinoids (Retin-A, Differin)
- lithium (commonly used to treat bipolar disorder)
- chemotherapy drugs
People who are dehydrated or malnourished are also more likely to get this conditions than other people. Dehydration and malnutrition are both serious conditions that require immediate medical attention.
Chapped Lips: Seek Medical Attention, If…
The severe dryness and cracking doesn’t improve with self-care, you should see a dermatologist. Cheilitis 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:
- be dark pink or red in color
- have a lumpy texture
- develop ulcers
- have white plaques on the surface
Cheilitis is often attributed to infections and inflammatory diseases, such as Crohn’s disease. Dental trauma and excessive saliva production may also turn a regular case of chapped lips into cheilitis. Bacteria can enter through the cracks and cause infection. Adults and children who have orthodontic braces, wear dentures, or use pacifiers are all susceptible to developing cheilitis.
A dermatologist can determine whether your dry lips are simply chapped or if you have cheilitis.
Chapped Lips: Treatments
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:
- applying lip balm throughout the day
- drinking more water
- using a humidifier at home
- avoiding cold weather conditions or wrapping your mouth with a scarf
Sun exposure can also cause chapped lips, especially as you age. Apply a lip balm that contains a minimum SPF 15 before heading outdoors. The balm helps to moisturize the lips and the sunscreen minimizes further drying effects.
The best and most effective lip balm is petroleum jelly.