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Chapped Lips: Causes, Treatment and Prevention

Chapped Lips: Causes, Treatment and Prevention

by Azka Munir · May 8, 2021

If your lips get severely dry then it is possible you have chapped lips.

Also known as cracked lips, these are usually caused by weather, products or your habits.

You will have cracks, dryness and fissures in your lips.

If you need to know more about treating and preventing your dry lips, keep reading below.


Signs and Symptoms

Dry lips usually cause cracks and fissures to appear in the lips.However, the symptoms may differ if you have an extreme form known as cheilitis.

This has different forms that make for different signs and symptoms.

chapped lips symptoms

The usual symptoms will appear on or around lips.

These include:

  • Dryness
  • Peeling
  • Bleeding
  • Cracks
  • Fissures
  • Redness of lips
  • Flakes
  • Sores
  • Swelling
  • Scaling

However, if you have a severe form of cheilitis then they would differ according to the type.

You can get cracks on lower lips in cheilitis simplex.

If you get redness and have inflammation, especially around the corners of the mouth, you may have angular cheilitis.

Dry lips due to drug use will cause lesions and sores.

While any dryness or scaling is due to contact cheilitis.

If you have any puffiness, bumps, and red patches and scaly plaques on your lips, you probably got them from sun exposure and this is a form of actinic cheilitis.

Therefore, there are several signs and symptoms of cracked lips that depend on different causes.

More on that below.


Chapped Lips Causes

The lips are the thinnest part of the skin in your body.

Moreover, they do not contain any oil glands which adds the risk of dryness.

Hence, external stressors like weather and lack of self-care as moisture can easily cause your lips to crack, flake and dry out.

woman with a sore near mouth

Dry weather and humidity are some of the reasons for dry lips.During winters, the skin and lips especially get dry because of some humidity in the winds and air.

Your lips get a lack of moisture so if you do not use any skincare then it may get worse.

Furthermore, excessive sun damage and exposure can also cracks and fissures as well as bumps, puffiness and red patches.

People with dry lips are usually guilty of bad habits.

One of these is constantly licking your lips.

You think that licking helps to moisten your lips but it is actually the other way around.

Licking strips away any remaining moisture in your lips and causes them to crack further.

Saliva in the tongue does not moisten but removes any moisture furthering dryness.

This is usually the reason behind cheilitis simplex.

Licking removes the oily film that covers any moisture and the digestive enzymes in saliva cause irritation.

You may also get chapped lips by coming into contact with any dyes as well as preservatives in anything that you use near the lips.

Examples include lipsticks and toothpaste.

Also, if you get frequent sun exposure but do not wear a lip balm with sunscreen then you can get actinic cheilitis.

Lifeguards and farmers are at risk of developing solar keratosis aka actinic cheilitis.

Moreover, conditions like celiac disease and diabetes can cause you to lick the corners of your lips frequently.

This develops wrinkles in that area and leads to dryness and cracks in the corner.


While anyone may get cracked and dry lips, some people are more susceptible.

If you take any drugs, medicines or treatments that contain Vitamin A and retinoids then your lips may become dry.

Also if you take any form of lithium for bipolar disorder and chemotherapy therapy drugs then your lips are bound to become dry.

Dehydration and malnutrition also contribute to cracked lips.

However, these conditions are serious and need prompt treatment.

They are accompanied by other symptoms such as lightheadedness, dry mouth, constipation, muscle weakness, and bloated stomach.

Hence, if you have any dehydration and malnutrition then that is a bigger concern than cracked lips and needs medical treatment.

You will also need to consult the doctor if you have any form of cheilitis.

You will notice this in the form of bumps, lumpy texture, redness and pinkness white plaque as well as ulcers and sores.

Extra saliva production and constant licking your lips and transferring that saliva can cause simple cracked lips to turn into cheilitis.

Therefore if you wear braces or dentures then you at a greater risk.

If you have medical conditions like celiac disease, Crohn’s disease or diabetes then that too contributes to more saliva production.



You can treat cracked lips easily at home with remedies.However, if you have a severe case of swelling and dryness then visit your doctor.

They may take your history, a patch test of your lips and sometimes even a biopsy.

This will help them identify any underlying conditions or infections that are causing the lips to crack and dry.

woman applying lip balm for chapped lips

Chapped Lips Remedy

By taking a few steps at home you can effectively treat any cracks, flakes or scales in your lips.

Exfoliate The Lips

If your lips are dry and cracked then they will begin to peel off.

However, peeling off the lips can actually worsen their condition and will cause bleeding as well as swelling.

Hence, you should apply a sugar scrub or some other gentle exfoliators to scrub off any dead skin or assist in the peeling of the skin.

Apply a Lip Balm

Next, you should moisturize your lips with a lip balm and top it up with a lip mask.

Look for ingredients such as beeswax and petroleum which are common in petroleum jelly.

Also, lip products containing coconut oil either creams or lotions can hold your moisture.

For further protection use a lip balm with an SPF 30 value.

The balm will moisten your lips while the sunscreen will protect them from sun exposure and the harm it causes to the lips.

After you apply your lip balm regularly daily, choose an overnight mask to apply at the end of the day.

The lip mask will moisten your lips by the night and you can gently exfoliate them in the morning to give you soft lips.

You can also choose to layer a thick ointment before bed to lock moisture.

Try a Humidifier

Dry air is one of the reasons behind your cracked lips.

The atmospheric air especially gets dry around winters.

This can strip away the moisture from your lips.

Therefore consider adding a humidifier to your room.

It will add moisture to the dry cold air in the room in winters.

Also, during cold winters you can choose to cover your mouth with a scarf to not expose it to the cold, dry winds.

Drink Plenty of Water 

One of the causes of dry lips is dehydration.

If you lose more water than you drink or consume that’s when you get dehydrated.

Your body may pull water from some other parts of the body to provide water to cells.

Usually, these parts are the skin and lips.

Hence, you need to drink more water, 8 glasses a day being the standard.

Quit Smoking

Smoking has many detrimental effects but one of them is causing irritation in the lips leading to dryness.

This dryness in return cracks lips.

Hence, if you quit smoking you will see an immediate effect on your lips and their softness.

Use Natural Products

Use aloe vera gel to rehydrate any damaged skin on the lips.

It is full of vitamins and minerals that can replenish the damage on your skin.

Furthermore, it is antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory so it prevents infections.

Honey is another natural ingredient to look out for.

It is softening and moisturizing while being antibacterial to prevent any infections in the dry lips.

You can also use green tea as a natural exfoliator.

Soak a bag of green tea in lukewarm water and then rub it across your lips.

It has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. Plus it also has antioxidants.

You can also use coconut oil which softens skin and reduces inflammation.

A lesser-known natural remedy is using cucumbers.

Cucumbers are rich in minerals and vitamins.

Due to which they improve the look of the lips and moisturize them.


Medical Treatment

You may not require any extensive treatment for cracked lips.

However, your doctor may recommend some ointments rather than simply trying out some home remedies.

Especially for cheilitis, which is already a severe case of chapped lips.

For cheilitis simplex, actinic cheilitis and contact cheilitis, your doctor will prescribe topical corticosteroids, petroleum jelly as well as emollients such as Vaseline and ointments.

However, if you have angular cheilitis then only lip balms and moisturizers may not be enough.

You will require topical antifungal ointments and medication.

Alongside you may need antiseptics and antibiotics.

They may also suggest topical corticosteroids.

If any medicine is causing you cracked lips, then your doctors will recommend you to quit it if you can do so.

If you cannot then they will advise you to apply emollients such as Vaseline regularly and wait till you can heal and quit your medicines.

Depending on the severity of your condition, it takes about two to three weeks to heal your lips.

If your chapped lips won’t heal by that time then refer to your doctor as it could be a severe case.

However, it is much easier to prevent dry lips than treating them.

Keep reading to find out!


Prevention for Chapped Lips

You can easily prevent causing damage to your lips by adopting a few lifestyle changes.

If your lips crack then you already lick and bite them a lot.

Stop doing that!

Also, follow these other precautions such as keeping hydrated and avoiding allergens.

lip biting

Stop Licking and Biting

Licking and biting will only worsen your lips rather than moisturizing them.

Saliva dries down and evaporates to leave them more chapped.

Hence, immediately stop your tongue from touching your lips constantly.

Use a Lip Balm with Sunscreen

If you usually go out you would want to wear sunscreen.

The same applies to your lips. Keep them moisturized with a good lip balm that also has SPF 30.

Protect Your Lips from Allergens

If you have sensitive skin and lips then you may want to steer clear of perfumes, fragrances, foods, personal care products, or dyes that cause you irritation.

Use products such as lipsticks that do not contain any fragrances or dyes.

Don’t Apply Flavored Lip Balms

Flavored lip balm may entice you to lick your lips more often.

This will only cause more dryness and will render the purpose of applying a lip balm useless.

Hence, do not go for a flavored lip balm but a plain one.

Hydration Should Be Your Priority 

It goes without saying that drinking water and staying hydrated have innumerable benefits.

You should always drink 8+glasses of water in a day.

This will naturally not dry out your lips.

Furthermore, humidify the air in your room regularly.

Take Care of Your Lips

Cover your lips when you feel dry air.

Moreover, use thick emollients like vaseline and lip masks regularly other than just applying lip balms.

Also practicing breathing through the nose helps as well.

woman applying lip balm in cold weather


Chapped lips are bothersome but you can heal them.

However, that takes time. You cannot get immediate results.

Therefore, take your time and take care of your lips regularly to see changes within two to three weeks.

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