Chapped Lips: Prevention and treatment tips from a dermatologist

For many people, winter skin probably conjures up images of dry, cracked hands, flaky skin, and windburn. However, the lips can be affected too. And while it may seem that dry, cracked lips are something you have to live with until spring, dermatologists from the American Academy of Dermatology say it’s possible to have soft, supple lips year-round by following a few simple steps.

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“Cold, dry weather; sun damage; and frequently licking your lips are just some of the reasons your lips might feel dry and chapped this winter,” says board-certified dermatologist Noëlle Sherber, MD, FAAD. “Understanding these causes and anything else that might trigger your chapped lips goes a long way in preventing and treating them.”

To prevent and treat dry, chapped lips at home, Dr. Sherber recommends the following tips:

  • Choose non-irritating lip products. Look for lip balms, lipsticks and other lip products that contain ingredients like castor seed oil, ceramides, dimethicone or mineral oil. Make sure your lip product is also labeled “fragrance free” and “hypoallergenic.” Avoid ingredients such as camphor, menthol or eucalyptus, as these can irritate your lips. If your lips burn, sting or tingle after using a lip product, stop using that product.
  • Apply lip balm throughout the day and before you go to bed. If your lips are very dry and cracked, try a thick ointment, such as petroleum jelly. Ointment seals in moisture longer than waxes or oils.
  • Protect your lips outdoors. Apply a lip balm with an SPF of 30 or higher before going outdoors, even in the winter. Look for a lip balm with titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide and reapply it every two hours while outdoors.
  • Keep your skin hydrated. Drink plenty of water and use a humidifier at home — especially in your bedroom while you sleep.
  • Stop licking, biting or picking at your lips. When your lips feel dry, it may feel natural to wet them by licking them, but this can worsen the problem. When you catch yourself licking your lips, apply a non-irritating lip balm instead.
  • Avoid holding metal items with your lips. Everyday items like paperclips, jewelry and reusable metal straws can irritate your lips.

“Chapped lips are usually harmless, however sometimes they can be a sign of a medical condition,” says Dr. Sherber. “If your dry, chapped lips do not heal after following these tips for two to three weeks, talk to a board-certified dermatologist.”

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