- Your lips may be dry if you spent the day in the sun, as lips burn very quickly.
- Dehydration and air damage can also dry out your lips and cause chapping.
- Avoid lip balms with ingredients such as camphor, menthol, lanolin and fragrance.
Almost everyone has experienced dry, chapped or chapped lips.
In fact, “lips are particularly prone to dryness unlike skin elsewhere on the body,” she says Dr. Brian Tudermatologist at Providence Mission Hospital and clinical professor at the University of Southern California School of Medicine.
This is because the skin on your lips:
- It’s thin, it is more sensitive.
- It is constantly exposed to the elements, unlike parts of the body such as feet that are usually protected by shoes or socks.
- It has no sweat glands, which secrete oils that keep the skin hydrated and protected.
Find out what may be contributing to your dry lips and how to get rid of dry, chapped and uncomfortable lips for good.
Since the skin on your lips is thinner than the skin on other areas of your body, it can projection first the signs of dehydration. So if you’re experiencing dryness and cracking, a good first step is to make sure you’re drinking enough water.
What to do about it: Make sure you drink enough water: Men should aim for 125 fluid ounces each day and women should aim for 91 fluid ounces. While water is an important part of this, you can also measure liquids like coffee and tea, plus liquids found in foods like fruits and vegetables.
If you notice that your lips are dry or sore after a day in the sun, it could be a sunburn. Your lips are even more likely to burn than other parts of your body because the skin on your lips has none melanina pigment that protects the skin from harmful UV rays.
If you have burnt lips, you will notice symptoms such as:
- Tenderness, stinging or burning
What to do about it: Use a lip balm with at least SPF 15. “A lip balm will protect the skin’s barrier and reduce moisture loss, keeping lips supple,” says Toy.
If you don’t have an SPF lip balm handy, that’s okay — you can apply regular sunscreen directly to your lips.
Reapply lip balm or sunscreen every two hourssince it can come off when you eat or drink.
3. Wind damage
Because the lips are exposed to the elements, wind and weather can affect them. The wind can weaken and dry out the outermost layer of skin and remove moisture from the skin, making it more prone to drying out. This leads to a condition known as windburnwhich is especially common on the lips.
So if you’re boating, skiing, or doing other outdoor activities that leave you exposed to the elements, you should prioritize lip health.
What to do about it: While you’re out in the sun, use a lip balm with SPF. After you’re done and inside, use a petroleum jelly or Aquaphor lip balm to restore moisture. These thicker balms protect the skin but can leave you prone to sunburn, so don’t use them while you’re out in the sun.
4. Irritation from cosmetics
If you experience dry lips after switching personal care products, cosmetics may be to blame, says Ugonabo.
“Sometimes people are sensitive to certain ingredients in these products and so their lips become more irritated with use,” she says.
When you feel the need to reapply lip balm frequently—more than every two hours—it may be a sign that your lip products are actually drying out your lips instead of moisturizing them, says Toy.
What to do about it: If your lips sting or tingle after application, discontinue use immediately and wash off the product with soap and water. Choose balms with healthy ingredients, avoiding harsh ingredients.
5. Yeast infections
A yeast infection around the mouth, also known as thrush, can cause dry lips and chapping at the corners of the mouth, says Toy.
If you have thrush, you will notice it symptoms including:
- Painful cracks in the corners of your mouth
- Redness or pain at the corners of your mouth
- White patches inside the mouth and gymnasiums
Eventually, this can lead to a condition called angular cheilitis, where people develop painful cracks at the corners of their mouths. It’s more common in people who drool when they sleep, says Toy, as the moisture allows the yeast to flourish.
What to do about it: See your doctor. You will need to be treated with an antifungal cream. Additionally, you’ll want to stop drooling, as moisture helps bacteria thrive. If you drool while you sleep, talk to your doctor about ways to stop drooling, including treating seasonal allergies and acid reflux that may be causing your drooling.
6. Vitamin deficiencies
If you don’t get enough vitamin B12, you may experience dry lips and crack at the corners of the lips. This is because vitamin B12 helps your body repair cellsso if you don’t have enough, it’s harder for your body to repair the normal damage to the lips.
Vitamin B12 deficiency is quite rare, affecting approx 6% of adults under 60 in the US. However, about 20% of people over 60 are deficient. Vegetarians are also at higher risk, since vitamin B12 is not readily found naturally in plant-based products, says Toy. However, there are ways to meet your B12 goal if you’re a vegetarian, including eating nutritional yeast and shiitake mushrooms.
What to do about it: Make sure you get enough vitamin B12. Most adults should consume 2.4 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin B12. To achieve this, eat more foods such as fish, eggs and other animal products that naturally contain vitamin B12. or B vitamin-fortified breakfast cereals.
Talk to your doctor about whether a vitamin or supplement is right for you. If you have severe deficiency or other underlying conditions, you may also qualify for B12 shots, so ask your doctor if these might be right for you.
When to see a doctor
If your dry lips don’t go away in about a week, it’s time to see a doctor. You should also see a doctor if you have persistent or severe peeling or cracking, which can leave you vulnerable to infection.
In rare cases, dry lips can be a sign of an underlying medical condition including:
The best lip balms
Dry lips are common because the skin on the lips is thin and exposed to stressors like the sun and wind. However, “lips generally heal very quickly because of the abundant blood supply,” says Toy.
So if you have persistent dry lips you should talk to a doctor. They will help rule out any underlying conditions and help you manage your dry lips.
“Consider seeing a board-certified dermatologist for further evaluation to make sure there’s nothing more going on,” says Ugonabo.