Why do I have chapped lips?

Dry or cracked skin is very common in cold climates or due to lack of hydration. Chapped lips are quite uncomfortable, but it can occur at any time of the year and on anyone. When the lips are too dry, painful chapping and peeling begins.

Chapped lips are a common condition, although some people may develop a more serious form of chapped lips called cheilitis. Cheilitis can be caused by an infection, characterized by cracked skin at the corners of the lips.

Dry lips can usually be treated with simple treatment and preventive measures. If the lips are still very dry and chapped, we should consider going to a dermatologist.


The lips do not contain oil glands like other parts of the skin. This means that the lips are more susceptible to drying out and chapping. The low humidity in the air during the winter months is known to cause chapped lips. However, frequent sun exposure in the summer can also make your condition worse.

Meteorological conditions

Cold weather cracking is caused by environmental conditions that lead to dehydration. In other words, the dry winter air can sap the moisture from your lips and leave them dry. The same goes for windy conditions.

Too much sun can also be a culprit factor. Sun damage can dry out the lips and lead to cracking and peeling (especially if we don’t apply SPF cream to the lips).


The characteristic dryness of chapped lips can also occur if we don’t stay well hydrated. One of the effects of dehydration is dry skin, which spreads to the skin of the lips.

Other signs of dehydration may be thirst, dark yellow urine, headache, feeling tired or sluggish, or constipation.

Product allergies

It may be counterintuitive, but a lipstick may be the culprit, as the propyl gallate in lipstick can cause a contact allergy. If we have started using a new lipstick and notice that the lips are drier than usual, we may want to stop using that product.

On the other hand, it could be toothpaste . Some pastes contain the ingredients guaiazulene or sodium lauryl sulfate, which can cause contact allergies or skin irritation. It is recommended to check the ingredient label, especially if we start using a new toothpaste.

Irritants in food

The red dye or cinnamon flavoring used in candy, lozenges, gum, and mouthwash can also cause chapped lips. Another common culprit can be orange juice.

Citrus juice can irritate the lips and cause a reaction that looks like chapped lips. It is recommended to drink a lot of water to avoid this side effect.

Reactions to certain vitamins

Some people think that dry lips are caused by a vitamin deficiency, but you are more likely to ingest too much of a certain nutrient. For example, too much vitamin A can cause flaking of the lips, especially if we are taking more than 25,000 IU a day.

There are also some people who can develop a cobalt allergy from taking vitamin B12 supplements. It usually manifests as unexplained episodes of recurrent swelling and crusting of the lips, made worse by exposure to the wind and sun.

Medical conditions

Actinic cheilitis is a reaction to long-term sun exposure to the lips that occurs most often in people who live at high altitudes or near the equator and work outdoors.

Candida (yeast) is an infection that usually shows up as a chapped outer lip and is particularly common among people with diabetes. Another condition is hypothyroidism, which occurs when not enough thyroid hormone is created (more common in people assigned female at birth who are older than 60).


Continual contact with saliva, which is chemically built to help break down and digest food, can dehydrate and irritate the lips. Many people are completely unaware of this habit.

We can ask friends and family if we have a tendency to lick or bite our lips when we are nervous. So we can try to be more aware of the behavior in order to avoid it. We can also try to find healthier ways to manage stress, such as deep breathing or meditation.

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Remedies for chapped lips

Chapped lips can usually be treated at home. The first step is to make sure that the lips have enough moisture. This can be achieved with a few tips.

Address the underlying cause

If chapped lips are caused by something that is under our control, such as a certain product or food that we are eating, we can solve the problem by avoiding the irritant.

Similarly, if the symptoms are due to the vitamin A or B12 supplements that we are taking, we will talk to a doctor about how to adjust the dose or if we can switch to a different method of administration (such as injections, for example).

And if we think you may have a medical condition, we will talk with your doctor about the appropriate treatment steps and the best way to manage symptoms.

Apply petroleum jelly

The best for chapped lips are emollients like petroleum jelly. Lip balms with beeswax may also help. However, consistency is key here.

For them to work, you need to apply them obsessively. The more frequent the application of the emollient, the faster the results. However, this is a short-term and quick fix. But if the cause is medical, we will continue to have chapped lips.

Sun exposure can also cause chapped lips, especially as we age. Apply a lip balm that contains a minimum SPF of 15 before going outside. The balm helps hydrate the lips and the sunscreen minimizes the effects of dryness.

Drink more water

If dehydration is behind dry lips, we will try to get more water during the day (especially if we exercise). Most adults need to drink between 9 and 12.5 cups of water a day.

We can also try turning on a humidifier, as it restores moisture in the air and helps prevent and heal chapped lips.

Hydrocortisone ointment

If the lips resist treatment, doctors may prescribe a 2.5 percent hydrocortisone ointment, which can be applied up to four times a day.

It’s amazing how adding a low potency steroid ointment can make such a big difference to a lip healing routine. However, these types of drugs are not available over the counter and the situation needs to be analyzed by a doctor. It may not be necessary in all cases.