The reason your lips are chapped may surprise you

The reason your lips are chapped may surprise you

Lips are truly one-of-a-kind. Did you know, unlike the rest of your skin, your lips don’t have oil glands to keep themselves moisturized? The skin on your lips is also the thinnest and most sensitive compared to the rest of your body’s skin. Add the fact that your lips are the most exposed, and it’s no wonder they can become dry, cracked and sore.

“During the winter, chapped lips are a common condition for many,” says Dr. Daren Diiorio, a dermatologist at Aurora Health Care. “But cold weather isn’t the only culprit.” Dr. Diiorio says there are several reasons your lips may be chapped, including:

The weather outside

Dry, winter air can steal moisture from your lips. The sun, wind, and dry, hot conditions any time during the year can, too.

The air inside

Especially in winter when the furnace is cranked up, the air in your home can be extremely dry, leading to dried out lips and skin. Not drinking enough water or other liquids during the day can drain your skin – including your lips – of moisture.

Snoring or open mouth breathing

The continual flow of breath across your lips can quickly dry them out.

Nervous habits

Frequently licking or chewing your lips when you’re nervous or experiencing other stressful situations can be common habit – and you might not even realize you’re doing it. Saliva can dehydrate and irritate your lips and the area around your mouth.

Reaction to certain foods or products

Some salty, spicy or acidic foods like orange juice or tomatoes can irritate your lips. Certain ingredients in products like your lipstick or even toothpaste may also cause your lips to chap.

Medical conditions or reaction to a medication

Allergies, thyroid disorders or yeast infections can cause cracked lips. Certain medications can also cause dryness.

Fortunately, Dr. Diiorio says there are some easy steps you can take to help prevent or heal chapped lips. These include:

  • Apply petroleum jelly or a lip balm with glycerin, mineral or castor seed oil throughout the day and before going to bed. “The key here is to apply it liberally, often and consistently,” Dr. Diiorio says.
    • Avoid balms or ointments with fragrances, menthol, eucalyptus, camphor or waxes, as they can irritate chapped lips.
  • Before heading outside and every two hours, apply SPF 30 or higher to not only your exposed skin but your lips, too. Some lip balms contain sunscreen and should be worn all year round.
  • Drink more water.
  • Use a humidifier to put moisture back into the air in your home. At night, run it in your bedroom.
  • Find healthy ways to manage stress, such as making time for yourself, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep.
  • Avoid foods and products that you’ve found cause irritation.
  • Seek help to find the source of your snoring, such as sleep apnea.

If your lips aren’t healed after a few weeks, it may be time to make an appointment with a doctor. Find one that’s right for you in Illinois or Wisconsin, or do a virtual visit from home.

Related Posts


Subscribe to health enews newsletter

About the Author

Mary Arens
Mary Arens

Mary Arens, health enews contributor, is a senior content specialist at Advocate Health Care and Aurora Health Care. She has 20+ years of experience in communications plus a degree in microbiology. Outside of work, Mary makes healthy happen with hiking, yoga, gardening and walks with her dog, Chester.