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How to Care for Dry, Cracked, Chapped Lips

I have suffered from this condition myself for the past year or so and I can tell you it is rather unpleasant. Let’s look at some of the causes of this condition.

Signs and symptoms

When one has chapped lips, one will notice a flakiness to the lips and around the mouth, like they're peeling. They feel somewhat hard - it's an uncomfortable feeling. If the condition worsens, you will notice cracks or splits in the lips. The lips can also become quite tender and sensitive, with redness (erythema) around the lips and swelling if the condition worsens.

The medical term for chapped lips is cheilitis. If you start to notice cracks in the corners of the mouth, then this is referred to as angular cheilitis.

What are some of the causes of chapped lips?

  • Constant lip-licking.
  • Inhaling through the mouth instead of the nose.
  • Cold weather or exposure to the elements.
  • Medication – whether topical or ingested.
  • Allergies.
  • Disease or a medical condition, such as diabetes.
  • Dehydration.
  • Vitamin deficiency.

Recommended solutions

If you’re one to constantly lick your lips, be aware that it is a bad habit, and can very easily lead to chapped lips. If you feel your lips are dry, then use a little water to wet them instead, or carry around a chap stick. Coating your lips with saliva will make things worse.

Also try your best to breathe through the nose instead of the mouth. Walking around with your mouth open will not only make you look a little weird, but can easily dry out your mouth, lips and throat, and cause your nose to become blocked – which is ironically one of the main reasons why people breathe through their mouth.

If you’re in a place where it happens to be cold or you’re exposed to the elements – if it’s very windy, then this can make it essential to perhaps cover your lips and maybe your face if possible when you venture outside.

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Some medications or solutions may cause dry, itchy lips as a side effect. Consider coming off of the offending medication if the issue persists. Often this can be a topical solution, that one will put on their skin, or face. Some common ones are ironically lip balms or chap sticks. You need to make sure that the solution is a natural oil-based one and not petroleum-based.

Some foodstuffs can cause further irritation to dry, cracked, or chapped lips. Try to avoid food that’s too salty or burny, for a while. This goes for drinks as well. Consider drinking with a straw for a while if possible.

For dehydration the answer is obvious - you must drink several glasses of water a day. Some say that coffee and tea count, but try to limit your sugar intake. And avoid fruit juice, as some say this isn't good for chapped lips.

For vitamin deficiency, try to eat a balanced diet including meat, leafy green vegetables, and also take a multivitamin by a recognised company.

You might want to take an allergy test to determine if you are allergic to any substances. Then you can single out the things you eat or drink as possibly causing an allergic reaction, of which the inflamed lips is a symptom.


  • Wrap some ice cubes in a paper towel and apply this gently to and around the lips. This will reduce some of the dryness, and will also reduce the swelling, if there is any. Repeat this 3 or 4 times a day.
  • Use cotton pads or a soft tissue to dab your lips if they get a little itchy due to dryness. Be gentle, though. Don't scratch or rub with your fingers.
  • Use a tissue or cotton pad and wet it under the hot tap, waiting for the water to get lukewarm or so. Then apply to the lips by biting it with your lips, not your teeth. This will hydrate the lips and is a welcome source of relief when they are feeling very dry and cracked. Repeat this 3 or 4 times a day.
  • Don’t use flannels or towels to wet your lips as these will more than likely have germs that will then get on your lips, and in the case of open wounds, can cause an infection.
  • Also wash your face separately from your body. Go to the sink, and while washing your face, avoid your lips. They can get irritated and inflamed, perhaps due to the soaps and other chemicals that might be in the bathwater.
  • Don’t use saliva to coat the lips with. They’ll dry out, and chap even more. Saliva just irritates the lips.
  • Don’t use tissues, serviettes, paper towels to rub your lips. You may think tissues are soft, but they’ll just make things worse.
  • Carry around a chap stick or natural balm solution with you and apply it as necessary, preferably between or after meals, and not before eating or excessive consumption of fluids. When applying, just dab it on gently. Don't rub it in too vigorously as this can cause the all ready delicate lips to split.
  • A lot of it is down to self-control. Don't lick your lips, rub or pick at them, or irritate them all the time. Just leave them be and they will eventually get better on their own as long as you take care of them.

If the condition persists for more than a couple of weeks or gets worse over time you probably should consider seeing a general practitioner and maybe even a dermatologist.

© 2012 Anti-Valentine

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