Chapped, cracked, and dry lips can be a huge nuisance – and the winter weather is probably making it worse! Also known as cheilitis in the medical community, chapped lips are essentially an inflammation of the extremely thin and delicate skin on the lips. When added to normal wear and tear of talking, breathing, eating, and drinking, wind, snow, and a general lack of humidity can all threaten your skin’s natural barrier and suck moisture out of this super-sensitive skin.

Best Treatments for Chapped Lips

  • Vaseline or Aquaphor: these products lock in moisture and help to soothe irritated lips. Go for unscented and unflavored options at first while your lips are still healing;
  • 1% Hydrocortisone lip balm: for especially stubborn dry lips, an added dose of hydrocortisone in your lip balm can jumpstart the healing process. This type of lip balm can be especially helpful for people on certain medications often prescribed for acne (Accutane or isotretinoin) that can cause extremely dry, chapped lips.

Something Else to Consider

  • Could you be allergic to your lip balm? Ingredients such as propolis (beeswax), fragrance, and essential oils are very popular in lip balms today, but they are also very common triggers for allergic contact dermatitis. If you are using a lip balm regularly and the irritation doesn’t seem to let up, you may want to try a more plain or simple lip balm instead.
  • Are you making a habit out of licking your lips? Lip licker’s dermatitis is a rash consisting of dry, chapped lips due to chronic lip licking. Though it can be tempting, wetting your lips actually ends up drying them out more as the saliva evaporates. In addition, enzymes in the saliva can cause a chemical irritation as it dries onto the lips. This only makes them more dry and irritated, leading to more compulsive lip licking. This can be a hard habit to break but can be a huge help.

If That Doesn’t Work…

…schedule an appointment with your dermatologist! There are some medical conditions that can disguise themselves as chronically dry and chapped lips.

Things like angular cheilitis (dry lips that are superinfected with yeast or bacteria) and actinic cheilitis (severely sun damaged lips) can appear to be a simple case of chapped lips, but will need professional attention.

Skin allergy testing, known as patch testing, may also be needed to identify if dry lips are a result of allergic contact dermatitis.