Dry and chapped lips causes and remedies

Dry and chapped lips (or cheilitis in more severe cases) could be produced due to several causes, but do you know what are the causes and how can you end with this problem once and for all?

What are the possible causes of dry lips?

Lips are one of the most prone to drying parts of our skin, as they do not have sebaceous glands. The hydration of the lips depends on different factors which are:

  • The weather: The skin of our lips is thin and delicate, so the cold wind of winter, the low humidity enviroment and the sun exposure contribute crapping and drying our lips.
  • Nutrition and deficiencies: Low levels of B vitamins (specifically B1, B2, B3 and B6), zinc and iron have been associated with dry lips. Frequently consumption of foods that contribute to dehydration such as coffee, spicy foods and acid food can irritate the lip’s skin. Abusing of alcohol and tobacco does also contribute. Excessive consumption of vitamin A also contributes to dry lips (that’s why people on isotretinoin, or accutane have dry and chapped lips).
  • Dehydration: A lack of hydration contributes to dry lips as water is a source of minerals that help with the maintenance of the skin.
  • Certain drugs: Like isotretinoin, propranolol (not always) or the use of diuretics.
  • Sucking and biting your lips: Although it seems strange, saliva dries the lips even more.
  • The use of anti-acne and aggressive products for the skin: The use of astringent and drying products for skin care contributes to the dryness of the lips. Some treatments such as tretinoin, adapalene, benzoyl peroxide, some types of acids and drying cleansers contribute to dry lips.
  • Toothpaste: If you have sensitive skin, toothpaste could be one of the causes of your dry lips because some types of paste may contain ingredients (sodium lauryl sulfate, guaiazulene or phenyl salicylate…) that make the skin drier or cause an allergic reaction.
  • Breathe through the mouth: Plays a role by reducing the hydration of the skin of the lips and drying them out.

How to get rid of dry lips?

The first thing you should do is avoid certain causes mentioned above and if it is possible, change some eating habits, if you still have dryness:

  • Protect your lips from the sun: Make sure your lipstick contains sun protection factor.
  • Exfoliate your lips: Apply a gentle exfoliant formulated specifically for the lips and after exfoliation use a lip moisturizer, so you will get rid of the dead skin layers of the lip that don’t allow that you lip balm penetrates inside our other skin layers. Make sure don’t exfoliate too often or if your lips are very irritated as this can aggravate the problem.
  • Hydrate your lips: Depending on the dryness of the lips you should use different moisturizing ingredients, if you have very chapped lips you should ideally use a lip moisturizer that contains lanolin and petroleum jelly and avoid those containing essential oils and perfume.

How to choose a good lip balm?

  • Avoid lip balms with fragrance, as they can irritate your skin especially if it is sensitive.
  • Avoid salicylic acid because it is a chemical exfoliator that removes dead skin cells, so it could irritate your skin.
  • Avoid phenol, menthol and camphor as they can be irritating and cause dryness.
  • Make sure that if your lip balm contains humectants (hyaluronic acid, glycerin …) also contain some occlusive (Vaseline, lanolin, beeswax …) as the humectans alone could dehydrate the skin if they’re used alone in non-humid climate.

I’ve created a post where I show what are the best and worst ingredients in a lipbalm for those who want to choose a good one.

Fillers for lips hydration

Sometimes, after having a lip filling treatment such as lips filling with hyaluronic acid, the lips may become dry and chapped, that’s because the stretch experienced by the lips in the intervention since the acid hyaluronic absorbs water from nearby skin tissues, but this side effect should disappear within a couple of weeks after the intervention if you follow a proper hydration skincare and the indications of the professional who has done the procedure.

Sometimes it is said that injections of hyaluronic acid can improve lip hydration and chapped lips, but that’s not true, as the use of fillers will affect the internal hydration of the lip (that is why lip size is increased) and not to the outer layer hydration, so there would be no to little improvement. Sometimes some filler marks could cause hydration but just temporarily. It’s true that lately many cosmetic marks are releasing lips filler claiming that they could improve hydration and elasticity, but this is not fully proven yet.

Most times, it is best to avoid lip fillings with hyaluronic acid if you suffer from cracked lips and wait for them to improve, since the treatment could make it worse, although this is best discussed with the specialist with whom you prefer to do the treatment