10 Tips for Healing Dry, Chapped Lips

Health Writer

Chapped or dry lips are common in the fall and winter months, when humidity is low. Cracking and peeling can be painful. According to Henry Chan, in a publication written for the Midwest Chapter of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists, the skin on our lips is much thinner than the skin on our face; the top layer of the lip is only 3 to 4 layers thick, while the skin on the face is 15 to 16 layers thick. [1] Skin on other parts of our body is protected by sweat and body oil as well as hair follicles. Our lips do not have any of these, leaving it much more open to the environment. Smoking also contributes to dry, chapped lips.

The best way to prevent chapped or dry lips is to use a gel or ointment type of lip balm; preferably one containing moisturizers and sunscreen. Many of the wax-based balms can be used as protection, but these should be used regularly beginning when your lips are healthy - they do not provide much help once your lips are chapped and dried.

The following are tips to help when lips are chapped or dry:

Protect your lips when out in the elements. Cold weather, wind and sunlight can all damage lips. If you do need to be outside, wear a wide-brimmed hat to keep the sun off your lips, cover your face with a scarf to protect from wind and cold.

Use the right lip balm. Look for lip balms that have an SPF of at least 15 and contains a moisturizer. Look for ingredients like petroleum, beeswax, cocoa butter, almond oil, jojoba or shea butter. For really dry lips, use a lip balm that contains synthetic ceramides, fats which will help restore a natural lip barrier.

Breathe through your nose. Breathing through your mouth will reduce the moisture on your lips by the constant flow of air. Instead, keep your mouth closed and breathe through your nose.

Pay attention to how often you lick your lips. When our lips are dry, we tend to lick them, thinking that the saliva will help moisture them, but actually the opposite is try. The moisture from licking your lips evaporates quickly, leaving your lips feeling drier than before. Saliva is also part of our digestive system and works to break up food and can do harm to your lips as well.

Pay attention to ingredients in cosmetics and products for oral health. A study presented to the American Contact Dermatitis Society in 2007 showed that approximately one-fourth of those with skin problems, including allergy reactions, around the mouth were allergic to phenyl salicylate or propyl gallate. Check lip balms, lipsticks and other products you use around your mouth. [2]

Exfoliate your lips. Exfoliating your skin helps remove dry skin and can do the same for your lips. You can use a washcloth or toothbrush to gently remove dead skin from your lips. Place a layer of Vaseline on your lips before using a toothbrush. Sugar or coffee grounds can also be mixed into the Vaseline and then rubbed off with your fingers.

Drink plenty of water. Dry or chapped lips can be caused by dehydration. Make sure you are drinking plenty of water each day to keep your lips hydrated from the inside.

Use a humidifier in your home. If you live in an area with dry air or find your lips very dry during the winter months when your heat is on, consider adding a humidifier to help add moisture to the air.

Use a moisturizing lipstick. If you use lipstick each day, make sure you choose one that contains a moisturizer.

Apply an ointment to your lips before going to bed. If you sleep with your mouth open, as many people do, you can be spending hours each day drying your lips and wake up with dry lips. Apply an ointment, such as Neosporin Lip Health Overnight Renewal Therapy, before going to bed and keep it near your bed and reapply any time you wake up throughout the night.

Dry, chapped lips need time to heal. No matter which methods you try, remember, your lips will not be healed overnight. Be patient and continue taking extra care of your lips until you can feel and see the difference. Once your lips are again healthy, make sure to take preventive measures to keep them that way.


[1] "Give Me Some Lip," 2011, Nov, Henry Chan, Midwest Chapter of the Society of Cosmetic Chemists

[2]"Oral Mucositis: A Case Series and Review of the Literature from the Perspective of a Referral Patch Test Clinic," 2007, Leslie Castelo-Soccio, M.D., Ph.D., 2007 Annual Meeting of the American Contact Dermatitis Society

"The Cure for Chapped Lips," Date Unknown, Audrey Kunin, M.D., The Dr. Oz Show