What Are Chapped Lips?
Your lips are chapped when they become dry, scaly, or cracked, which can happen for a number of reasons. Chapped lips can be irritating and even painful.
Cheilitis is the medical term for severely scaly, cracked, or inflamed skin on or around the lips.
Luckily, there are several steps you can take to treat chapped lips.
What Causes Chapped Lips?
The skin on your lips is thinner than on the rest of your body, so it's more susceptible to dryness and chapping. Some common causes of chapped lips include:
- Exposure to dry or cold weather
- Too much sun exposure
- Frequently licking your lips
Some people are sensitive to ingredients in certain foods, and contact with these foods can make the skin on and around the lips feel itchy and inflamed. Common foods in this category are mangos, citrus fruits, and cinnamon.
Some lipsticks, lip balms, and other personal care products — including toothpaste, mouthwash, and sunscreen — contain ingredients that can make the lips feel itchy and irritated.
Certain medications, such as retinoids (a form of vitamin A), can dry out the lips. Retinoids are sometimes used to treat skin conditions like acne and psoriasis.
Some skin conditions and other chronic disorders can also affect the lips, leaving them feeling dry, cracked, or irritated. These conditions include:
How to Prevent and Treat Chapped Lips
There are a number of steps you can take at home to prevent and treat chapped lips:
- Try not to lick your lips too much.Saliva evaporates quickly and can leave your lips feeling even more chapped.
- Protect your lips.Wear a lip balm (such as Burt’s Bees, ChapStick, or Palmer’s), and choose one with SPF sun protection if you're outside for long periods during daylight in cold or dry weather. For maximum moisture and protection, choose a lip-soothing product that contains beeswax or petrolatum (petroleum jelly, such as Vaseline).
- Cover up.Cover your face with a scarf on cold, windy days.
- Stay hydrated.Drinking plenty of fluids and even using a humidifier can help, especially in the colder, drier months of the year.
- Avoid irritants.Don't use any personal care products, fragrances, or foods that cause irritation.
- Close your mouth.Breathe through your nose instead of your mouth.
Chapped lips typically heal on their own with at-home treatments.
If your chapped lips won't go away — or if your lips become severely cracked or swollen — see your doctor. These may be signs of an underlying medical problem.
Chapped Lips in Newborns
Babies can get chapped lips just like adults. Dry weather is one possible cause.
Some babies lick or suck on their lips. This can also lead to chapping.
Chapped lips in newborns can cause problems with sleeping or feeding. It's important to treat chapped lips in newborns as soon as possible, and to take steps to prevent the condition from returning.
Placing a humidifier in your home or nursery can keep the air moist and help your baby (and you) avoid chapped lips.
Rubbing a little nipple cream or breast milk onto your newborn's lips can help soothe and heal their lips if they become chapped.
Video: What Causes Chapped Lips?
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