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10 Causes of Chapped Lips, Plus How to Get Rid of Chapped Lips

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From too much dry air to medical conditions, we'll discuss what causes chapped lips, plus home remedies that show you how to get rid of chapped lips and heal. 

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.

Close-up picture of chapped lips

10 Thing that Cause Chapped Lips and How to Get Rid of Dry Lips

1. Exposure

Chapped lips tend to get worse in winter, but can be a problem any time of year. The skin of your lips is thin and delicate, so dry air and sun exposure can easily damage it.

Coat your lips with protective lip balm to prevent sun damage, and add a scarf or face mask if you'll be outside longer in winter.

Inside, add a humidifier to increase humidity levels.

2. Dehydration

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.

How do I naturally moisturize my lips?

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 licking your lips is short lived. Saliva evaporates quickly, and 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! Apply a lip balm every time you feel the urge to lick.

chapped lips

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, schmaltz, 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 and Vitamin Deficiencies

Vitamin deficiencies such as 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 lips and skin. 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 cause a mild allergic reaction in sensitive individuals.

Skip the plumpers, and try a natural tooth cleaner such as NOW Xylawhite or a neem based toothpaste.

Why is Carmex bad for your lips?

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, Illness and Hormone Changes

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, thyroid disorderscandida overgrowth, Kawasaki Disease, impetigo or a herpes infection.

Chapped lips are also a common symptom of menopause. As estrogen levels drop, dry skin and lips, wrinkles, joint aches and other fun symptoms may pop up.

If you have severe chapped lips that 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“.

How to Heal Chapped Lips – 3 Basic Care Tips

1. Choose a Healing Lip Balm or Ointment

The best lip balms for chapped lips include natural ingredients such as coconut and almond oil. Vitamin E and other antioxidants protect and nourish the skin.

Coat your lips nightly, when heading outdoors, or as needed, can help treat and prevent dry, chapped lips.

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. In addition to drying up oil glands, 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 cracked lips. It won't end well. Instead, choose a gentle exfoliating lip scrub to remove dead skin.

The simplest lip scrub 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. See also, “5 Uses for Honey Everyone Should Know“.

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.

If you've started a new medication or recently changed your diet and suddenly have dry lips, check for side effects and make sure to avoid vitamin deficiencies associated with chapped lips.

Did I miss a tip that works for you? Please leave a comment and let me know.

More Home Remedies and Natural Health Tips

We have dozens of articles dedicated to natural health and home remedies. You can find the entire series on the Home Remedies index page, including:

Originally published in 2017, last updated in 2020.

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28 Comments

  1. Hello!

    You have a very nice article. Got stuck here because I’m reading word per word since I have a relatively dry lips regardless of the weather. There are days where my lips feels nice and doesn’t have any patchiness while there are some days that they are overtly dry. I usually apply Vaseline before going to sleep and it helps soothe my cracked lips and wake up the next morning with a smooth surface.

    It also prevents the dry patches from peeling off that causes bleeding.

    Thank you for this article! It really helps a lot!

    1. Unfortunately the article doesn’t mention that many lip balms, lipsticks, and lip glosses contain LANOLIN, fragrance, or MICA, which are all common allergens and I’m allergic to all of them. I recently purchased Almay Goddess Gloss and unfortunately didn’t read the ingredients, as they assure the buyer that it’s hypoallergenic. I began having dry skin hanging off of my lips again, so II checked the ingredients and found MICA to be the culprit. The term HYPERALLERGENIC really means nothing. DERMATOLOGIST TESTED means even less. Yes, there are pure cosmetics available but they are so expensive that I can’t afford them. Clinique used to make a wonderful lip gloss and I used it for years. they discontinued it last year.

      1. I do mention that “Some toothpaste and lip products may contain ingredients that cause a mild allergic reaction in sensitive individuals.”, but don’t list specific ingredients, as it would be nearly impossible to cover every possible allergen. Label reading is a must with ingredient sensitivities, that’s for sure.

        I recently purchased some different natural lip balms to try that avoid a number of problem ingredients. All were under $10, some under $5. They all work reasonably well. I think the Dr. Bonners is my favorite.

        They include:

        Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps Organic Naked Unflavored Lip Balm

        Ingredients
        Organic Avocado Oil, Organic Beeswax, Organic Jojoba Oil, Organic Hemp Oil, and Natural Tocopherols


        Eco Lips, Lip Balm Hemp Vanilla Organic
        Ingredients: Organic Jojoba Oil, Organic Beeswax, Organic Hemp Oil, Organic Calendula Natural Vanilla Flavor, Vitamin E, Rosemary Extract.


        Eco Lips, Lip Balm Coconut Organic
        Ingredients: *Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, *Cera Flava (Beeswax), *Coconut Flavor, *Vanilla Flavor, Non-GMO Tocopherol (Vitamin E)
        *= Certified Organic Ingredient GLUTEN FREE

        The Merry Hempsters Vegan Hemp Lip Balm Natural
        Ingredients
        Organic Cannabis sativa (Hemp) Seed Oil, Euphorbia cerifera (Candelilla) Wax, Organic Calendula officinalis Flower Extract (Organic Calendula officinalis Flowers Infused in Organic Helianthus annuus (Sunflower) Oil), Organic Helianthus annuus (Sunflower) Oil, Organic Rosmarinus officinalis (Rosemary) Extract, Non-GMO d-alpha Tocopherol (Vitamin E)


      2. I live in Tulsa, OK. I found a Chap stick that has Manuka Honey & something else. It was at Freeland Brown Pharmacy.
        It has helped my dry lips pretty well.
        I have also used Vaseline at night, to keep the moisture in
        I started using lip balm from Dollar Tree. One Palmer’s Cocoa Butter & Vitamin E, & has SPF 15 to prevent the sun drying out your lips. It’s in a white oval tube.
        The other one has Tropical Coconut, Vit. E & Aloe. Name is RVO. I hope this helps someone.

        It’s a possibility that Avon might have one.

    1. for some reason the coconut oil made it worse, not sure if I am allergic or maybe I was licking the coconut oil off at night! LOL

  2. I believe I am doing everything possible to prevent my lips from drying out, becoming chapped and red. I need to apply 1% hydrocortisone cream around my lips every morning and night to prevent my lips from burning and turning red and chapped. Nothing seems to work. Maybe my next step is to see a dermatologist.

    1. I wonder if you might be dealing with candida overgrowth. One of the first things I noticed when I dealt with it was chronically chapped lips. Then the tip of my nose got chapped, and then it spread over more of the area around my mouth and nose. For the better part of a year my face was a mess, but I eventually got it under control. I started sharing my story here – https://commonsensehome.com/psoriasis-the-year-my-face-exploded/

      There are other possible illnesses that may cause chapped lips, too, as mentioned in #10.

      1. I went to a nutritionist and she told me to remove sugar from my diet for a while to get rid of the yeast overgrowth, I noticed that my lips were chapped after eating lots of sugar. When I removed all yeast causing foods from my diet I lost 15 pounds and was not bloated anymore. My lips were good til I slacked in my diet again.
        Also it was interesting to read that licking your lips can cause the chemicals in saliva to break down your skin as if it were food ! Wow that was so interesting! Again, Laurie thank you for sharing.

        1. Usually some vitamin deficiency then. Licking your lips is natural body’s response to try to lubricate dry lips that is bad idea only with windy conditions. Otherwise it would also brake down the skin inside your mouth. Perhaps vitamin E or one of the B vitamins.
          Happens often when on Keto diet or when on standard sugary western diet.

  3. beeswax (also known as cera alba) was my main culprit for dry lips. I only used shea butter and after about 3 weeks my lips were back to normal.

  4. I get chapped lips every-time I kissed my wife. She has also been found to be pregnant all the time due to excessive “kissy-kissy” going on in the house. I am of West African decent, and my beautiful and sexy wife is What other people calls Caucasian.

    Please help with any advice, as my wife cannot stand not kissing me before we heard out of the house everyday as the children rides with me to their individual stops on my way to work and back home together. While wife works from home, and makes four time more than i make. Very stressful if you are in my shoes. But, we are very very HAPPY FAMILY LIVING IN THE Florida capital CITY.

    Thanks,

    1. Hi George.

      Very glad that you and your lovely wife are very, very happy.

      Human lips should hold up to a fair amount of use, even lots of kissy-kissy, so you may want to look into possible contributing factors like dehydration, not enough healthy fats in the diet or nutrient deficiencies.

      It’s also possible that you may be reacting to your wife’s lip products. Sometimes what doesn’t bother one person bothers another, so she may be okay with her lipstick or lip balm while it irritates your lips. Try different products for her, and invest in some protective lip balm for yourself.

  5. This is a very detailed and helpful article, it is well researched and well written !!! Thank you Laurie Neverman for sharing

  6. I have hyperthyroid.and my lips remains cracked all the time.is it due to thyroid or something else?
    If because of thyroid then please sujjest me how to get rid of.

    1. You can try the different topical treatments, but the best way to help your lips would be to help your thyroid. I don’t know what’s causing your hyperthyroidism, so I can’t offer suggestions, other than to work with a health care provider or holistic practitioner to make diet and lifestyle changes to help your condition and get medical treatment if needed.

  7. My lips have always been dry or chapped since I was a kid. I was always putting Vaseline or chapstick on them constantly. I have been using aquaphor as my go to and can’t live without remedy. I tried to go off it and try Lanolips (medical grade lanolin)…didn’t work. Then I tried shea butter and it didn’t work either. I have also tried vitamin E and that was bad for me. I am allergic to a bunch of stuff (nickel etc) and am really at a loss for what to do. All thoughts welcome:)

    1. Have you spoken with a healthcare provider about your chapped lips? Given that it’s a chronic problem, there’s likely some underlying issue, such as a nutrient deficiency or health condition. I can’t safely or legally offer any specific health advice, but I would encourage you to speak with a medical professional about this and any other symptoms you may be experiencing.

  8. Iam one of those ppl that swears by carmex LOL! I tired an all natural beeswax based balm with bee propolis and essential oils in it, and for a short while, it worked really well. But after several weeks, my lips got super chapped and patchy. Not sure if it was the eo’s or the bee propolis, but obviously my body didn’t like something in it; and I was super bummed, as I am trying to move to using all natural products (slowly but surely). Carmex was the only thing that helped. The other thing I do every day is to GENTLY exfoliate my lips while showering, with just plain water and a washcloth. That seems to help best to avoid patches, rather than picking at them.

    1. I know I tend to react to essential oils on the skin, especially with extended use, so if you wanted to try again, I’d opt for a blend without EOs. I’m with you on gentle, regular exfoliation, especially since I’ve gotten older.

  9. I am 80 years old. about 4 months ago my lips began to get very chapped, and I haven’t had any real, lasting relief yet. Nothing has changed! I don’t breathe out of my mouth. I don’t excessively lick my lips. I did walk 2 miles a day for about 6 weeks. I thought that may have triggered it. But I haven’t walked in 3 weeks, and nothing has changed. It was recommended that I use Aquafor during teh day, and vaseline at night. I have been doing that. In fact I coat my lips often all day long and sometimes wake up in the night and put more vaseline on them. Something is not right. But what?

    1. I am not a doctor, but there might be a few things you can look into to help.

      The first thing that comes to mind is age related digestion issues/nutrient availability. Many times older people have a small appetite, so they have difficulty getting in enough nutrients.

      Acid production in the stomach often reduces with age, making it difficult to get the needed nutrients out of foods.

      Have you tried probiotics or live cultured foods, or an enzyme supplement with meals to improve digestion?

      Given that you’ve eliminated other options on the list, those are the areas I would target for changes – healthy fat consumption and improving digestion.

  10. Using a combination of natural coconut oil with a small amount of frankincense and myrrh mixed in is what helps my lips and I often have used it after eating.

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