Chapped lips can be so annoying, and at times, these sores can be extremely painful, irritating you to tears. Besides being just plain uncomfortable, chapped and peeling lips can also make you self-conscious about your looks.
Sometimes you probably think that this problem is something you just have to learn to live with for the rest of your life (or until you figure out a magic cure), but your condition can actually be pretty easy to figure out and treat.
Why are my Lips Dry, Chapped and Peeling?
The skin on your lips is thinner and contains fewer oil glands than the skin on the rest of your body. This makes it more sensitive and more prone to cracking and peeling.
Some of the reasons behind your chapped lips also include the weather — environmental conditions that are too cold, too hot, or too dry can all affect the sensitive skin on your lips in different ways and lead to dryness and, of course, chapping and peeling. Excessive sun exposure can also be especially bad for your skin.
Even frequently licking your lips can lead to chapping and peeling and is among the most common reasons behind this issue.
You could also be allergic to a certain ingredient that your lips are in contact with or have an underlying medical condition that is causing the skin on your lips to become dry and chapped.
Other reasons include bad reaction to medication, nutrient deficiencies (iron, vitamin B, folic acid), yeast overgrowth, certain medical conditions (thyroid disorder, irritable bowel, autoimmune disorders...), or simply—dehydration.
What Makes Chapped Lips Worse?
Using products that result in a tingling, burning, or stinging sensation on your lips can make your chapped lips much worse. These products usually include ingredients such as camphor, eucalyptus, lanolin, menthol, octinoxate (or oxybenzone), phenol (or phenyl), propyl gallate, and salicylic acid.
Certain "flavorings" and fragrances can also further irritate your sensitive lips. If your lips feel uncomfortable after using a certain product, it is best to stop using it immediately.
If you don't want to damage and dry out your lips, you should keep your tongue, teeth, and hands off of your chapped lips; this means no licking, biting, or picking at the skin. It might come naturally to you to moisten your lips with your tongue, but if you ever licked your chapped lips, you probably regretted it the next nanosecond.
This is due to the saliva evaporating from the surface of your lips and taking even more moisture with it. Basically, licking your lips results in them becoming drier with each new lick. Not fun at all. Biting and picking at the skin of your lips is another irritating (literally and figuratively) thing people do. It doesn't bring you any good and just furthers your suffering, so it is best for you to avoid doing it.
Surprisingly, metal can also irritate the chapped and sensitive skin on your lips. Holding metal items such as pens, jewelry, or paperclips pressed against your lips can lead to even more discomfort and irritation.
Why are my Lips so Dry even With Chapstick?
While chapsticks can provide temporary comfort to your dry, chapped lips, they also frequently contain chemicals and fragrances (such as the ones mentioned above) that can further harm your sensitive skin. In severe cases, these balms can even cause contact dermatitis and eczema. (3)
It is probably best to use lip ointments. These should be free of preservatives, and you should reapply them frequently enough so that your lips never get to the dry stage. This will also help you avoid the vicious cycle of constantly having chapped lips, applying chapstick, feeling better for a short time, and then feeling dry again and starting the cycle all over again.
Why Sometimes Chapped Lips Won’t Heal?
If you have chronically dry and chapped lips that just won't heal, even after following the suggestions provided in this article, it might be a sign of an underlying medical issue.
Actinic cheilitis, also known as farmer's/sailor's lip, is a reaction to prolonged or long-term sun exposure to the lips — essentially, it is a chronic lip sunburn that increases the risk of skin cancer.
Patients often complain of persistent chapped lips or lip tightness. Some of the early signs of this condition include atrophy and blurring of the transition zone between the lip skin and the surrounding facial skin (the vermillion border). Lips also become rough and scaly, sometimes with erosions or fissures.
The goal of treatment is to prevent further damage and avoid skin cancer. It is extremely important to avoid sun exposure, especially during peak hours, and use SPF lip balms and hats to add protection to the affected skin.
As always, just to be on the safe side and just like with any other chronic condition, it is best to contact your dermatologist to exclude any serious medical conditions that could be behind the issue you’re struggling with.
Best Treatment for Chapped Lips
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) lists certain ingredients you should look for in your lip products, such as castor seed oil, ceramides, dimethicone, hemp seed oil, mineral oil, petrolatum, shea butter, and white petroleum jelly.
Apply the balm containing some of the ingredients mentioned frequently throughout the day. If chapping and dryness persist, you can apply a thick ointment (for example, white petroleum jelly) that will hold the moisture in your skin for a longer time.
Also, sun protection is very important in preventing further damage, so you should look for products containing titanium oxide or zinc oxide.
The AAD also advises that you keep yourself hydrated, both from the inside and from the outside. You should drink enough water and use a humidifier. A humidifier can also be really helpful if you breathe through your mouth while you sleep.