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Chapped Lips

Published: May 14, 2012
Dear TeenHealthFX,


Hello, my lips are always dry capped or peeling sometimes it gets so bad I don't even want to kiss my girlfriend I have used Carmex that's the one that seems to help the best but it doesn't help it my lips still peel when I use it I also have tried Burt’s Beeswax and chapstick I am a guy so I am not going to try anything girlish what can I do about my lips?

Signed: Chapped Lips

Dear Chapped Lips,


A person’s lips are one of the most exposed parts of the body and are typically affected by the elements before other parts of the body. The lips are not covered by typical skin.  The lining of the lips is very thin and fragile.  Very often environmental conditions such as prolonged exposure to sun, dry air, heat, cold, and wind can cause the lips to dry and crack.  These conditions cause the lips to become more fragile and loose protective natural moisturizers (oils).  The weakened thin outer layer of the lips then becomes brittle and cracks. As a consequence, our lips become easily chapped. The chapping further reduces the moisture retention capacity and this vicious circle results in the problem becoming chronic and increasingly severe.

Here are some of the most common causes of chapped lips:

·         A habit of frequently licking your lips. When lips become chapped it is very common for people to lick their lips in an attempt to moisten them. Although saliva soothes momentarily, the act perpetuates the cycle of dry irritated lips.

·         Mouth breathing due to obstruction, as in allergic rhinitis, which dehydrates the lips.

·         Contact dermatitis due to irritants or allergens in cosmetics or skin-care products.

·         Certain medications, such as those used to treat acne.

·         Dehydration saps the body’s cells of moisture, including the lips.

·         Vitamin deficiency can be a culprit in chronically chapped lips. Certain nutritional deficiencies can cause insufficient cellular hydration.

Now that you are aware of some of the causes of chapped lips here are some things you can do to aid and prevent chapped lips:

·         Use lip balms with cocoa butter and/or beeswax. Examine lips balm ingredients very carefully as some components of “medicated” lip balms can actually act as irritants. Avoid phenol and camphor which are often found in lip balms. Phenol is a mild anesthetic and camphor adds a cooling, tingling sensation which in the short term may bring temporary relief but could irritate already sensitive lip tissues.

·         Use a multivitamin supplement daily as chapped lips could indicate a nutritional deficiency.

·         Drink more than the recommended 8 glasses of water a day (experts recommend 100 ounces of more per day for chapped lips), preferably heated. Sipping hot water or decaffeinated tea slowly, throughout the day, dilates the circulatory system and will increase moisture to the tissues.

·         Avoid caffeine and alcohol which are major tissue dehydrators.

·         Avoid flavored lip balms which can cause more frequent lip licking, increasing the degree of chapping.

If you have not had any success dealing with your chapped lips on your own then a trip to the doctor may be in order. Your physician may consider prescription treatment for dermatitis. If you develop painful cracks at the corners of the mouth you should also contact your doctor. Cracks in the corner of the mouth indicate an inflammation that may require a prescription.

If you don't have a doctor and live in northern New Jersey, you can call the Adolescent/Young Adult Center for Health in Morristown 973-971-6475 or the Adolescent/Young Adult Center for Health in Summit at 908-522-5757 for an appointment. Outside this area contact your local teen health center




Signed: TeenHealthFX