Are you experiencing itchy, dry, and chapped lips?
The skin on your lips is thinner and much more delicate than other areas of the body. It is more prone to dryness and incredibly vulnerable in the cold seasons. The skin on your lips lacks oil glands and cannot produce its moisture; natural moisturizer comes in handy.
Let’s dig deeper into what causes dry lips and what steps to take to fix them.
What Are the Causes for Dry Lips?
Dry, chapped lips are a common condition experienced by most people. However, some people experience a more severe form of dry lips known as Cheilitis. Cheilitis is caused by several factors such as infections or as a side effect to specific treatments. It is characterized by cracked skin around the corners of the lips.
As mentioned earlier, the skin on the lips is quite different from the rest of the body. All the underlying structures are the same; however, the skin on the lips is thinner and much more delicate. Another difference is that the lips do not contain the same sebaceous glands concentration as the rest of your body; therefore, your lips are less naturally lubricated. They are also highly susceptible to drying and peeling. The stratum corneum (protective layer of the skin) is also significantly thinner on the lips, which leaves them exposed to environmental stressors that cause them to dry out. This also lowers their ability to lock in moisture. According to Dr. Tsippora Shain, MD, “Water loss through the lips is 3 to 10 times greater than through the skin on the face or other parts of the body.”
Aside from these anatomical factors, environmental factors play a role in causing your lips to dry and chap. Here are some of them:
A differentiating factor between the skin on your lips and the rest of your body is melanin deficiency. Melanin is a protective pigment that gives the skin, hair, and eyes their color while absorbing UV rays and redirecting them away from the healthy cells. This lack of melanin puts your lips at a higher risk of experiencing sunburn. Sunburns are not only uncomfortable and unpleasant; long-term exposure can cause your lips to dry out and become stiff, which can lead to cracking and splitting. Long-term exposure under the sun can contribute to premature aging and will show in the form of wrinkles and lines around the mouth. Just like you protect the rest of your body from sunburn, it’s vital to protect your lips using SPF balms.
In the fall and humidity, humidity levels tend to decline as the temperatures gradually drop. Dry air tends to draw moisture from the skin, and for your lips, the loss of water makes them dry and dehydrated. Because the lips lack a fortified moisture barrier, they are exposed to drying environmental elements, blusterous winds, and ice in the air.
Licking your lips may look like a quick moisturizing solution, but it does more harm than good. Surprisingly, saliva is a culprit at drying your lips. Licking your lips may temporarily moisturize them, but it also evaporates just as quickly, drying them out even more. Saliva also contains enzymes that cause the thin skin layer’s break down that covers the lips, which can aggravate the environmental damage caused further.
Ever experienced a situation where you feel as though your chapstick is aggravating the chapping of your lips? Look at the ingredients of your chapstick. Research shows that most lip balms contain petroleum, which does not provide additional nourishment or moisture to the lips; instead, it seals in and prevents loss of existing moisture. It might sound like a good thing; its disadvantage is that it does not allow any more moisture to enter.
Certain medication types can cause dehydration as a side effect that can result in dryness of the lips. Examples of such medication are; diuretics, chemotherapies, and antihistamine. Acne medications may contain ingredients that could dry out lips such as salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide.
Signs of Dry Lips.
Here are some signs that tell you are probably dealing with dry lips:
Peeling, Cracking, and Flacking.
Your skin heavily relies on oil from the sebaceous glands to stay moisturized. Because the lips lack these glands, they cannot remain moisturized and are therefore prone to peeling and flaking. Dry lips appear rough and scaly, and in more severe cases, they may crack and split open, leaving very painful cracks. This splitting results from exposure to too harsh conditions such as cold, wind, and extreme heat.
Your lips tend to wither and tighten when they lose moisture and hydration. Dr. Bruce Bart, a Dermatologist, says lips are like a sponge. “When exposed to moisture, they absorb water and become plump. When dehydrated, they dry out and shrink.
Dry lips also make the visible signs of aging more pronounced. Moisturized and hydrated skin appear smooth in texture, while dry and dehydrated skin has a different texture like wrinkles and fine vertical lines around the mouth.
How to Treat Dry, Chapping Lips.
Use a good lip balm
To identify a good lip balm, you may have to pay close attention to the ingredients section. Some balms are better than others because of what they contain. Many lip balms contain mint or menthol as a flavoring. It may provide a cooling sensation; however, it also leaves your lips drier than before application. Choose a non-irritant lip balm or lipstick; do not mistake the tingling and stinging to sign that the active ingredients in the product are working. The discomfort might be an irritation to your lips. Look out for ingredients that can help heal the lips such as ceramides, castor oil, shea butter, and sun-protective ingredients like titanium oxide or zinc oxide.
It also helps to use fragrance-free products.
Try Natural Remedies.
Some of the ingredients needed to treat dry, chapping lips naturally could be available in your kitchen. A couple of natural remedies that can soothe and moisturize are:
- Aloe Vera- The gel in aloe vera leaves contains vitamins, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatories that soothe and rehydrate damaged skin.
- Coconut oil- coconut oil combats inflammation. It is also an emollient and therefore soothe and soften the skin.
- Cucumber- it is a gentle moisturizer for the lips.
- Honey- honey is a rich moisturizer making it the right treatment for dry lips. It also contains antioxidants and antibacterial properties, which can help prevent infection development in parched lips.
Exfoliate the Lips.
Exfoliation should be the first step in treating dry lips. When lips are chapped, they are covered in a layer of dry skin that can be a barrier to the healing ingredients in the excellent lip balms. Exfoliating regularly promotes proper skin cell renewal and turnover by removing the dead cells on the surface while allowing for better absorption of the moisturizing ingredients.
Dehydration is a major cause for dry skin and an even larger culprit when it comes to dry and chapped lips. Dehydration is a condition where the body loses more fluid than what is taken in. When dehydrated, the body pulls water from other areas to endure cell-hydration. This is what causes your skin to dry and part of why your lips could be dried up. Daily intake of water has many benefits; check out our comprehensive article on that.
Utilize a Humidifier.
During the cold months, the air is quite dry, using a humidifier will add some much-needed moisture in the air. Exposing your skin to dry air for prolonged hours can contribute to moisture loss.
Supplementing oral hydration with a humidifier will help heal your dry lips. When spending time outside during winter, a pro tip to protecting your lips is covering your mouth with a scarf. This will reduce exposure to dry air.
Smoke from tobacco is an irritant to sensitive skin, especially around the lips. It causes the lips to dry and makes them susceptible to cracking. It has been noted that shortly after stopping smoking, people have observed chapped lips clearing.
Preventing Chapped and Dry Lips.
We engage in little habits that affect our lips that go unnoticed like licking, chewing, and pulling. It’s often irresistible to peel dry, flaky skin from your lips; however, this poses a risk of removing healthy skin and prolonging healing time.
To prevent chapped lips, apply the following:
- Stay hydrated.
- Exfoliate regularly.
- Quit smoking.
- Avoid holding metal items with your lips, like paper clips and jewelry.
- Use lip products that contain sunscreen.
- Avoid lip products that contain allergens.
- Avoid scented lip products.
Having chapped lips is common, especially during the winter. Some people experience it during the cold months while others deal with it all year round. If you are experiencing chronically chapped lips, you might need to see a doctor for a more professional examination and recommendation.