When you are suffering from extremely dry or chapped lips, it can be all you think about. They can often be uncomfortable, and even painful and bloody. Treating chapped lips can be a challenge because there are so many possible causes of the condition. To make treatment even more complicated, the medicated lip balms you buy over-the-counter to treat your lips can actually make the condition worse.
Why Lip Skin is Unique
The lips are unique compared to the rest of the skin on your body. They act as the barrier between the skin of your face and the oral mucosa, the membrane that lines the lips, cheeks and mouth.
Unlike the skin on your arms or face, your lips are covered with a very thin layer of dead skin cells to protect them. Because of this, they are much more fragile, prone to water loss and dryness and more susceptible to irritation. Lips are also full of capillaries that sit right below the skin which makes them bleed much easier.
Reasons for Chapped Lips
While there are many reasons why your lips might become chapped and dry, there are four common causes that most dermatologists see.
Environmental causes such as weather and wind
For people who live or perform sports activities such as skiing or sailing in cold, windy locales, you may experience chapped lips frequently. Even dry, hot weather and too much sun exposure can remove moisture and result in chapped and uncomfortable lips.
Excessive lip licking can also cause redness and irritation on and around the lips. The frequent licking can cause the skin to thicken, redden and increase saliva production.
Reactions to skincare products
Some skincare products can be perfectly safe and effective for your face, but too strong for your lips. Certain acne medications and anti-aging products can contain ingredients that are too harsh for delicate lip skin.
Allergic reactions to foods, drinks or products you apply to your lips
Also known as allergic cheilitis, this is an allergic reaction to a food, drink or even an ingredient in your lip balm. Some of the most common triggers for an allergic reaction on your lips includes mint, cinnamon and citrus. Lipsticks and balms can contain potential allergens such as lanolin, fragrances and sunscreens.
Keep in mind that allergic reactions can come in a variety of surprising ways. Certain dental products, nail polishes or other things that contact your lips such as pens or musical instruments.
Treatments for Chapped Lips
If you are experiencing dry, chapped lips, the first thing you want to do is identify the root cause. You should start by taking stock of the lip and skincare products you use and eliminate them all for 7 days. If the condition goes away during this time, the chances are likely that the lip irritation was due to a reaction to a skincare product. Slowly reintroduce your products one by one to monitor for a reaction.
If your chapped lips are due to harsh weather or environmental conditions, use a natural lip moisturizer to replenish the lost moisture. Maintain the moisture frequently throughout the day. If you will be outdoors, be sure to use a lip balm with an SPF to protect them from further irritation.
If you believe you might be having an allergic reaction to a food, drink or other item that comes into contact with your lips, follow the suggestion about about eliminating potential allergens for 7 days and then slowly reintroducing them one by one.
Other tips for preventing dry, chapped lips include:
- Wear a lip balm made of simple ingredients such as coconut oil, shea butter or almond oil
- Wear a lip balm that contains a mineral sunscreen
- Rinse your lips with warm water and a mild soap after coming into contact with certain foods and drinks
- If the condition persists, schedule an appointment with your dermatologist.
Leading Atlanta Dermatology Office – Buckhead Dermatology
The skin on your lips is very sensitive and can react quickly to harsh weather conditions, sun exposure and allergens in food and skincare products. Finding the underlying cause of the problem and the right products to help you protect your lips is the key to treating them.
If you are struggling to heal your chapped lips, contact the dermatology office of Buckhead Dermatology today. Dr. Straughn is a leading, board-certified dermatologist who is skilled at treating a wide variety of skin conditions.
Contact our team today to schedule an appointment at our Atlanta or College Park office.