Chapped lips tend to get worse in winter, but can be a problem any time of year. It's important to match the right remedies for dry lips so you heal as well as treating the symptoms. Remember – good health starts from the inside out. In this post we'll talk about the causes of chapped lips and ways to help you heal.
10 Causes of Chapped Lips and What to Do About Them
The skin of your lips is thin and delicate, so dry winter air and sun exposure can easily damage it. Coat your lips with protective lip balm, and add a scarf or face mask if you'll be outside longer. Inside, add a humidifier to increase humidity levels.
Many of us don't drink enough water. We also don't eat enough fresh vegetables and fruit, which are high in liquid. Drink plenty of liquids, but go easy on the booze and coffee, which can make dehydration worse. Healing soups and broths are great for hydrating (plus the collagen in broth is also good for skin and nails). Make veggies a big part of meals. Keep a reusable water bottle close at hand. If you need more inspiration to stay hydrated, try the bottles with the built in fruit infusers to flavor your water.
3. Lip Licking
Alas, the relief of the lip lick is short lived. The same chemicals in our saliva that kick off digestion will eat away at your lip skin with excessive licking. There's no magic bullet for this step – you just need to stop! Grab the lip balm every time you feel the urge to lick.
4. Mouth Breathing
We're designed to breath through our noses. Sleeping with your mouth wide open will not only lead to drool on your pillow, it'll dry out your lips. You might also notice that when your nose is stuffy and you're forced to breath through your mouth, your lips get chapped. It's not a coincidence. Do your best to keep your mouth closed and breath through your nose if possible. For help with a stuffy nose, see 9 Home Remedies for Congestion to Help You Breathe Easy.
5. Not Enough Healthy Fat in the Diet
Your body produces sebum, our natural lubricant, from fatty acids. Not enough good fat = not enough skin lube. Solution – don't fear the fat! Enjoy high quality coconut oil and olive oil, walnuts, MCT fatty acids, grassfed butter and other nutrient dense fats. Don't use more vegetable oil! Most commercial vegetable oils are blends of soy, corn and canola, which are loaded with omega 6 fatty acids. (Most of us have too many omega 6 fats in our diets.)
6. Nutrient Deficiencies
Low levels of iron, zinc, and B vitamins may lead to cracks at the corners of your mouth and dry lips. Try adjusting your diet. For example, add red meat, dried beans, dark leafy greens for iron and oysters, beef, spinach, pumpkin seeds for zinc. Folate (B9) comes mostly from plant sources like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans. B6 comes from beans, poultry, fish and some fruits and vegetables. B12 is mostly found in animal product like meat, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy.
7. Supplements and Medications
Excessive vitamin A intake (>10,000 units per day) may cause dry skin and lips. Acne treating drugs such as Isotretinoin (Accutane) may cause chapped lips. Some high blood pressure and nausea medications can cause skin and lip dryness, too. If you are on a prescription medication, check the side effects list. Talk to your health care provider about alternative treatment if your chapped lip issue is severe. Note: Never stop taking needed medication without consulting your health care provider.
8. Reactions to Lip Products or Toothpaste
Many lip plumpers “plump” by irritating the lips – not a great idea for sensitive skin. Some toothpaste and lip products may contain ingredients that are irritating to sensitive individuals. Skip the plumpers, and try a natural tooth cleaner such as NOW Xylawhite or a neem based toothpaste. Lip balms that are mentholated, mint or citrus flavored may cause problems. Carmex is a well known brand that is irritating to many users. Chapstick and other lip balms with too much wax sit on the surface of the lips and do little to soften and heal. Choose a balm like Art Naturals instead, or make your own lip balm with soothing natural ingredients.
9. Irritating Foods
Citrus and other acidic foods, salty foods, spicy foods and very rough or dry foods can irritate the lips. Eat carefully, avoiding the lip area, or skip the problem foods while your lips are cracked and peeling.
10. Disease or illness
Although less common, some diseases may cause dryness and cracking of the lips and corners of the mouth. These include, but are not limited to, candida overgrowth, Kawasaki Disease, impetigo or a herpes infection. If your chapped lips are painful, or accompanied by cracking at the corners of the mouth or lip sores, consult a trained health care provider for assistance. You can read about my run in with candida in the post, “The Year My Face Exploded“.
3 Care Tips for Chapped Lips
1. Choose a Healing Lip Balm or Ointment
Look for natural ingredients such as coconut and almond oil. Vitamin E and other antioxidants protect and nourish the skin. Coat your lips nightly, or as needed, to keep them moist and protected.
2. Avoiding Washing Your Lips with Harsh Cleansers
If you use a topical acne wash on your face, take care to avoid the lip area. These washes are often drying and irritating to the delicate skin of the lips.
3. Don't Pick! Use an Exfoliating Lip Scrub Instead
No matter how tempting, don't pick at dry, flaking lips. It won't end well. Instead, choose a gentle exfoliating lip scrub to remove dead skin. The simplest recipe is a spoonful of sugar (white, brown, coconut sugar – whatever you have) and enough olive oil or coconut oil to make it soft and spreadable. You can use other oils such as almond oil or jojoba oil, or add a little cinnamon or vanilla to make it smell extra yummy. (Just don't lick the yummy smelling scrub!) Rub the scrub gently over the lip area and rinse with clean water. You can also buy ready made products, like Maui Sugar Lip Scrub with Kukui Nut Oil.
Remember – skip the mint and citrus, since these may make lips drier for some people.
Prevention is Easier Than Repairing Damaged Lips
If you know that you're prone to chapped lips under certain conditions, take the time to protect your lips before they look as dry and crinkled as an old newspaper. It's much easier and less painful to pick up a tube of good quality lip balm and use it than to suffer through cracked and bleeding lips.
Did I miss a tip that works for you? Please leave a comment and let me know.
You may also enjoy other posts in our Home Remedies series, such as:
- 9 Home Remedies for Canker Sores
- 15 Home Remedies for Seasonal Allergies
- 9 Home Remedies for Dry Skin