Struggling with Chapped Lips? Tips from a Board Certified Dermatologist

woman applying chap stick onto lips

Chapped lips are an inflammation of the lips that causes them to be reddish, scaly, and excessively sensitive. We’ve all suffered chapped lips at some point. But how much do we know about the causes and treatment of chapped lips?

In this article, Dr. Arash Akhavan –Board Certified Dermatologist, Castle Connolly Top Doctor for 6 years in a row, and founder of The Dermatologist and Laser Group in Midtown, Manhattan shares valuable insights about the causes of this irritating skin condition, and how it can be treated.

Causes of Chapped Lips

So what causes chapped lips?

picture of dry desert sunlight

Well, in a lot of cases certain poor habits could be the culprit. Yep – repeatedly licking your lips, not hydrating enough, smoking, and consuming salty or spicy food could cause your lips to dry and become flaky.

Ironically, saliva can dry your lips considering saliva is moisture, and normally moisture should keep your skin moist. Turns out there’s a scientific explanation for why your saliva dries your lips instead of moistening them.

Among the components of saliva are two prominent enzymes of the digestive system – amylase and maltase –which ‘digest’ the thin skin layer of the lips leaving it dry, flaky, and annoyingly sensitive.

Other causes of chapped lips that might not be entirely your fault include:

  • Environmental factors. This includes cold or dry weather and too much sun exposure
  • Certain medications like chemotherapy drugs, some skincare products, antibiotics, antidepressants, et al
  • Underlying medical conditions such as thyroids, vitamin deficiencies, Crohns’s disease, and the inflammatory bowel disease, among others
  • Allergic reactions to some skincare products

Simple Remedies for chapped lips

Chapped lips can be ruthless and utterly uncomfortable, but it is also manageable. We share common remedies for dry lips, some that are fast-acting and can help soothe your dry lips almost immediately.

  1. Stop licking your lips

It is possible that licking your lips is what gave you chapped lips in the first place. Continuing licking them for the short-term thrill could only worsen the condition. You should stop licking your lips especially when you discover that they are drying up no matter how tempting it could be.

  1. Get a good lip balm

A good lip balm can provide almost instant relief from the effects of chapped lips. As Dr. Akhavan warns, “not every product with the words lip balm on them can be good for your dry lips.” He recommends being picky and opting for a high quality lip balm only, and using it consistently is key.

Which begs the question –how do you identify the good stuff from a packed shelf of different brands all purporting to the “The world’s Best”? Simple. “Choose a lip balm with moisturizing and healing properties, and that has at least 30 SPF” Dr. Akhavan advises. And while at it – avoid everything that can worsen the condition.

The good lip balms that will shield your delicate lips from the devastating effects of the elements contain ingredients like petroleum, lanolin, beeswax, and ceramides. Petrolatum is another great ingredient that locks moisture in your lips preventing cracking. Dimethicone, on the other hand, repairs the cracks on your lips thus reducing irritation especially when the lips come in contact with dry air.

You should avoid lip balms with menthol or mint flavoring since they provide temporary soothing and then torture your lips afterward. Other ingredients that will probably dry your lips include camphor and phenol.

  1. Apply sunscreen on your lips

As we’ve established earlier, over-exposure to sunlight’s UV rays could cause significant damage to your lips, which could lead to dryness and cracking. If you plan to hang out in the sun for prolonged periods it is recommended to apply sunscreen on your lips to prevent the effects of over-exposure to the sun’s UV rays.

  1. Stay hydrated

Chapped lips occur when your body is dehydrated. When there’s not enough moisture in the body to keep your skin and lips moist, dryness happens. Cosmetic products like lip balm can only provide temporary relief especially when the condition is caused by dehydration.

To solve dehydration you need to drink adequate water most of the time even when you’re not feeling thirsty. Moisture-rich fruits can also do the trick if you don’t like drinking liters of sparkling water multiple times a day. Consider flavoring your water if you’re not a big fan of plain water.

  1. Avoid allergens that irritate your lips

It is advisable to avoid certain allergens if you’re convinced they are responsible for your chapped lips. It could be a certain facial product, dye, perfume, or food. As cliché as it may sound, ‘prevention is better than cure.’

  1. Steer clear of flavored lip balm

The flavor itself might be harmless, but sometimes you can’t resist the temptation of licking off your strawberry-scented lip balm. Avoid using products that might tempt you to lick your lips as we’ve established that saliva does more harm than good to your lips.

About The Dermatology and Laser Group

The Dermatology and Laser Group is a medical & cosmetic dermatology clinic with state-of-the-art laser and minimally invasive treatments, including facial fillers, lip fillers, body contouring, and much more.

To schedule an appointment, please contact the office at (212) 444-8204 and our patient care coordination will get back to you promptly.