Why Are My Lips So Dry?  6 Reasons and How to Treat Them

Why Are My Lips So Dry? 6 Reasons and How to Treat Them

  • Your lips may be dry if you spent the day in the sun, as the lips will burn quickly.
  • Dehydration and wind damage can also dry out your lips and cause cracking.
  • Avoid lip balms with ingredients like camphor, menthol, lanolin, and fragrance.

Almost everyone has experienced dry, chapped or tight lips.

In fact, “the lips are prone to dryness compared to skin on other parts of the body,” says Dr. Brian Toy, dermatologist at Providence Mission Hospital and clinical professor at the University of Southern California School of Medicine.

This is because the skin on your lips:

  • It is thin, so it is more sensitive.
  • Are always exposed to the elements, compared to body parts like feet that are usually protected by shoes or socks.
  • It has no sweat glands, which secrete oils that keep the skin moisturized and protected.

Anyone can experience dry lips, but certain environmental factors, behaviors and vitamin deficiencies can make you more prone to dry lips, says Dr. Nkem Ugonabo, dermatologist with Unionderm .

Here’s what could be contributing to your dry lips, and how to get rid of dry, chapped, and uncomfortable lips for good.

1. Dehydration

Since the skin on your lips is thinner than the skin in other areas of your body, it can show signs of dehydration first. So if you’re experiencing dryness and cracking, a good first step is to make sure you’re drinking enough water.

What to do about it: Make sure you’re drinking enough water: Men should aim for 125 fluid ounces each day, and women should aim for 91 fluid ounces. While water is an important part of that, you can include fluids like coffee and tea as well as the fluid found in foods like fruit and vegetables.

2. Sunburn

If you notice that your lips are dry or sore after a day in the sun, it could be a sunburn. Your lips are more likely to burn than other parts of your body because the skin on your lips has no melanin, a pigment that protects the skin from harmful UV rays.

If you have sunburned lips, you will notice symptoms including:

  • Drought
  • Peeling
  • Sensitivity, numbness, or burning

What to do about it: Use a lip balm with at least SPF 15. “Lip balm will protect the skin’s barrier and reduce moisture loss, keeping the lips supple,” says Toy.

If you don’t have a lip balm with SPF handy, that’s okay—you can apply regular sunscreen directly to your lips.

Reapply lip balm or sunscreen every two hours, as it can come off when you eat or drink.

3. Wind damage

Because lips are exposed to the elements, wind and weather can take their toll. Wind can weaken and dry the outermost layer of skin and strip moisture from the skin, making it more prone to drying out. This results in a condition known as windburn, which is particularly common on the lips.

So if you’re boating, skiing or doing other outdoor activities that leave you exposed to the elements, you’ll need to make lip health a priority.

What to do about it: When out in the sun, use a lip balm with SPF. After your activities and you are inside, use a lip balm with Vaseline or Aquaphor to restore moisture. These thick balms protect the skin, but can leave you prone to sunburn, so don’t use them when you’re out in the sun.

4. Irritation from cosmetics

If you experience dry lips after changing your personal care products, the cosmetics may be to blame, says Ugonabo.

“Sometimes people are sensitive to certain ingredients in these products so their lips are getting more irritated with use,” she says.

When you feel the need to apply lip balm frequently – more than every two hours – it can be a sign that your lip products are actually drying out your lips rather than moisturizing them, which says Toy.

What to do about it: If your lips are weeping or tingling after application, stop using immediately and wash off the product with soap and water. Choose balms with healthy ingredients, and avoid harsh ingredients.

5. Yeast infection

A yeast infection around the mouth, also known as thrush, can cause dry lips and cracking at the corners of the mouth, says Toy.

If you have thrush, you will see symptoms including:

  • Painful cracks in the corners of your mouth
  • Redness or soreness at the corners of your mouth
  • White patches inside your mouth and gyms

Eventually, this can lead to a condition called angular cheilitis, where people develop painful cracks at the corners of their mouths. It is most common in people to drool when they sleep, says Toy, as the moisture allows yeast to flourish.

What to do about it: See your doctor. You will need to treat with an antifungal cream. Additionally, you’ll want to stop drooling, since moisture helps bacteria thrive. If you cry in your sleep, talk to your doctor about ways to stop the drooling, such as treating seasonal allergies and acid reflux that may be causing you to drool.

6. Vitamin deficiencies

If you are not getting enough vitamin B12, you may experience dry lips and chapping at the corners of the lips. That’s because vitamin B12 helps your body repair cells, so if you don’t have enough it will be harder for your body to repair normal lip damage.

Vitamin B12 deficiency is extremely rare, affecting about 6% of adults under 60 in the US. However, about 20% of people over 60 are deficient. Vegetarians are also at higher risk, since vitamin B12 does not naturally occur in plant-based products, says Toy. However, there are ways to reach your B12 goal if you are a vegetarian including eating nutritional yeast and shiitake mushrooms.

What to do about it: Make sure you are getting enough vitamin B12. Most adults need to consume 2.4 micrograms (mcg) of vitamin B12. To get that, eat more foods such as fish, eggs and other animal products that naturally contain vitamin B12; or vitamin B-fortified breakfast cereals.

Talk to your doctor about whether a vitamin or supplement is right for you. If you have a severe deficiency or other underlying conditions, you may also qualify for B12 shots, so ask your doctor if they are right for you.

When to see a doctor

If your dry lips don’t go away in a week, it’s time to see a doctor. You should also see a doctor if you have persistent or severe peeling or cracking, which can leave you at risk of infection.

In rare cases, dry lips can be a sign of an underlying health condition including:

best lip balms

Insider’s Gambling

Dry lips are common because the skin on the lips is thin and exposed to stressors including the sun and wind. However, “the lips generally heal very quickly because of the abundant blood supply,” says Toy.

So, if you have persistent dry lips you should talk to a doctor. They will help rule out any underlying conditions and help you manage your dry lips.

“Please consider seeing a board-certified dermatologist for further evaluation to make sure there isn’t something else going on,” says Ugonabo.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.