Chapped lips are much more common in the cold, winter months. So much so that you might be ready to blame the cold for your dry lips; You might reach for a lip balm, to protect your lips from the cold weather. While this might be helpful, it doesn’t target the real reason for your chapped, dry lips.
Common causes of dry, chapped lips
Dry air - During the cold months, the air is drier than it is in the hot, humid months of the summer. The heat in your house and workplace also dries out the air. This causes your skin and lips to lose moisture and become dry.
Dehydration - Your skin and lips hydrate from the inside out - that means if you aren’t drinking enough water, your lips can dry out.
Licking your lips - When your lips are dry, you might lick your lips, thinking you are adding moisture. But saliva quickly evaporates, making your lips feel even drier.
Breathing through your mouth - When you breath through your mouth (such as when you have a cold, are stuffed up because of allergies or sleep with your mouth open), you have a constant flow of air going across your lips. This air dries out your lips by removing natural oils.
Toothpaste - Toothpaste that contains sodium lauryl sulfate may cause your lips to dry and contribute to chapped lips. Look for toothpastes that do not contain this ingredient.
Citrus and other foods - Citrus and tomato based products can be irritating and make chapped lips even more painful. Cinnamates, which are flavorings used in some candy, gum and toothpaste, can also be irritating to your lips.
Allergies - Certain allergies, such as cobalt or nickel, can cause dry or chapped lips. Allergies to ingredients in certain cosmetic products, such as propyl gallate in lipstick or guaiazulene in toothpaste can contribute to dry lips.
Medications - Some medications cause dry mouth and dry lips. If you are on medication, especially for acne or high blood pressure, talk with your pharmacist to find out whether dry lips is a side effect of your medication.
Medical conditions - There are some medical conditions which can cause or contribute to dry, chapped lips. These include some autoimmune disorders, some vitamin deficiencies, thyroid disorders, and chelitis among others. If you have a chronic condition, check with your doctor about whether your condition can be contributing to your chapped lips.
What you can do
One of the best ways to combat chapped lips is to protect your lips from the elements and dry air. Some ways you can protect your lips include:
- Apply a lip balm or lipstick containing sunscreen. Sun exposure, no matter what the season, can dry out your lips.
- Use lip balms and products that lock in moisture. Lip balms like Chapstick are mostly wax. While they work to protect your lips from the wind and cold, they don’t do much to help lock in moisture. Look for a product containing petrolatum or dimethicone. Products with beeswax help seal in moisture more than products containing other types of wax.
- Apply lip products throughout the day. You should apply sunscreen and moisturizing products on your lips before applying lipstick or going out of the house in the morning but it is good to reapply every few hours throughout the day.
- Apply olive oil to your lips. Apply a thin coat of olive oil on your lips each day to help keep them moist. This might be good to apply before going to bed each night.
Lifestyle Tips to Prevent Chapped Lips
1. Be sure to keep hydrated. You should be drinking plenty of water even if it is cold outside. Staying hydrated is good for your health, keeps your skin moisturized and helps relieve dry lips.
2. Use an indoor humidifier. You can minimize the effects of dry air in your house by running a humidifier to add moisture to the air.
3. Check the ingredients in your toothpaste and beauty products. Look for ingredients that may contribute to dry lips and replace if necessary.
4. Avoid licking your lips. Keep lip balm with you so anytime you are tempted to lick your lips you can apply the lip balm instead.
_If no matter what you do, your lips continue to be dry, chapped or painful, talk to your doctor or dermatologist. There may be an underlying health condition or medication that is causing your dry lips. _
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Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.