From having to deal with constant discomfort in your lips to feeling pain every time you eat something, dry, chapped lips can drive anyone mad, especially if they start peeling or cracking.
And what’s worse: sometimes it is completely out of your control, since one of the most common reasons for dry lips is cold or dry weather. And sadly, we can’t just change the weather at the snap of our fingers.
But not all hope is lost.
There are certain products and habits that can help you deal with dry lips, both reducing the likelihood of it happening, as well as dealing with lips that are already dry and peeling.
But before we get into how you can deal with chapped lips, we must first explore why it happens. As always, if you have severe symptoms or are experiencing severely cracked skin, we recommend you seek advice from a board-certified dermatologist.
WHY DO LIPS GET DRY AND PEEL?
Lips don’t have sebaceous glands, also known as oil glands, like other skin parts. Because of this, they can dry, peel, or crack, much easier than other parts of your body (but at least they don’t get pimples since they don’t have oil glands).
But that’s not all. There’s a part of the lips that don’t have what is called a “stratum corneum”, which is the top layer of skin.
These factors result in lips being particularly susceptible to dryness and eventually peeling.
In fact, most people experience chapped lips, so don’t freak out thinking you may have an illness.
But these aren’t the only reasons that lips get dry. This post will not only cover how to treat chapped lips but also help you learn how to prevent chapped lips as well.
Here’s a list of 11 reasons why your lips may be dry and peeling:
1. BODY DEHYDRATION
As mentioned previously, lips don’t have oil glands. This means that they lose moisture much easier, and are much more vulnerable to getting dry.
The solution is easy: drink more water.
If you’re feeling thirsty until you drink water, you’re making a mistake. The feeling of thirst comes after dehydration, not before it. It is a late symptom.
The recommended amount for an adult woman is a minimum of 2.2 liters or 74 fluid ounces, which equals about 9 cups.
2. THE WEATHER
HOT WEATHER will increase your chance of dehydration. And since hot weathers are generally sunny, the increased exposure to sunlight will also make it even harder on your lips.
And remember, your lips don’t have the outermost layer present in most skin, making it particularly vulnerable to the sun and sun damage, and sunburns can cause inflammations that complicate the issue even further. Chronic sun exposure will also contribute to chronic chapped lips. If your job requires you to spend significant amounts of time outdoors, applying lip balm or a water-based lip moisturizer on a regular basis will prevent cracked lips.
COLD WEATHER, on the other hand, is harsher on your lips because the air becomes drier during cold weather than in hot weather, and is a bigger risk for dry lips than being in hot weather.
This means that you should be extra careful of dry lips during cold weather and winter.
On top of that, dry air, in general, is a problem. If you live in an area with low humidity, or you’re undergoing a season with low humidity, you’re a lot more likely to have dry lips since the lack of moisture in the air will make things difficult for your lips.
And although you cannot control the air, you can get a humidifier and put it in the room you stay in the most. Humidifiers are created to increase the moisture in the air around them. During winter months, when the air tends to be the driest, a humidifier could be your best friend.
3. LICKING YOUR LIPS
You feel that stingy feeling on your lips when they’re dry, and immediately you respond in the most natural way possible: you lick your lips.
Makes sense right? Lip licking feels satisfying on your dry lips when you do it, and since the lips are dry, saliva should help moisturize them, right?
Saliva isn’t just water. It is made to help break down macronutrients (sugars, protein, and fat).
Guess what your lips are made out of? Yep, those same things. So, by frequently licking your lips, you only cause further irritation and damage them further.
4. TOOTHPASTE INGREDIENTS THAT CAUSE DRY LIPS
Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) is an ingredient that can remove oils from the surface of your skin, making it even dryer. Sodium lauryl sulfate is usually found in some types of toothpaste, and if yours also contains it, you might want to get a toothpaste that doesn’t. SLS is also a skin irritant that’ll make your peeling lips hurt even more.
Some kinds of toothpaste also have guaiazulene, which can cause allergy or irritation.
5. BREATHING THROUGH YOUR MOUTH
Opening your mouth to breathe means that your lips will interact more with the air, resulting in more dryness.
The hard part comes when you have a disease or condition that forces you to breathe through your mouth. Make sure to consult your doctor as to what solutions to mouth-breathing are feasible for your case.
Another useful preventive method is to get a scarf! By putting one around your neck and shoulders, you can prevent the incoming dry wind into your mouth, while simultaneously warming yourself up on cold days.
Certain allergic reactions, like allergies to cobalt or nickel, will cause dry lips on top of any other complications they may generate.
And sometimes, you might be getting an allergic reaction from your skincare products or even food.
Cinnamic acid and cinnamate ingredients are often used for perfumes, and cinnamic acid is sometimes used as a flavoring ingredient in sweets, like gum.
Certain medications will cause dry lips as a side effect.
They’re particularly common for medicine related to acne since they typically deal with acne by reducing oil production from your glands. And although your lips do not produce oil, areas around them still do and can help keep your lips moisturized.
But acne medication is only one of the many types of meds that can dry your lips. Chemotherapy medication, antidepressants, antibiotics, allergy meds, and pain meds are just a few of the many ones that can cause dry lips.
If you think that your medication is a cause of dry lips, consult your doctor for confirmation on which med(s) could be causing it, and if there are any alternatives that don’t cause dry lips.
8. YEAST OVERGROWTH IN YOUR MOUTH
A weak immune system, salivary gland dysfunction, and dentures are just a few of the many risks that lead to yeast infection in your mouth.
And a yeast infection can lead to dry skin around the mouth, increasing the likelihood of dry lips.
If you have a yeast infection, make sure to contact a licensed doctor for the safest course of action.
9. ACTINIC CHEILITIS (SOLAR CHEILITIS)
Cheilitis is lip inflammation. Actinic cheilitis is lip inflammation caused by heavy sunlight exposure. It’s basically a lip burn.
This is a much worse version of dry lips, and yet they can often feel the same – with dry lips, cracking, or peeling lips.
It is usually only present in the lower lip, however, since the lower lip undergoes much more sun exposure than the upper lip.
10. VITAMIN DEFICIENCY
B vitamins have a significant role in the upkeep of your body, and their deficiency may be causing you dry lips.
The vitamin deficiency most likely to cause dry lips and peeling is vitamin B12, which impacts cell metabolism, including healing and growth. They can even cause mouth ulcers.
Deficiency in vitamin C can technically also cause dry lips, but its deficiency is very rare.
An easy solution is taking supplements, or eating foods that contain the necessary nutrients. Foods rich in vitamin C include oranges, broccoli, and strawberries.
Foods rich in B12 include most meats, such as chicken breasts, beef, salmon, and others.
11. PUTTING METAL ITEMS ON YOUR LIPS OR MOUTH
Putting metal items on your lips can irritate them. Jewelry, paperclips, and other accessories shouldn’t be put on your lips if possible.
Not only that, but the cause of your dry or peeling lips may be because you have dental implants or bracers that cause friction with your lips, scratch them, or even get stuck on your lips.
SO, WHAT CAN YOU DO TO DIMINISH DRY LIPS AND PEELING?
Besides the already mentioned tips, like drinking water to prevent dehydration and getting a humidifier for dry air, there are a couple of other proactive choices you can take to prevent this annoying issue.
Starting with the most important one…
1. APPLY A LIP SCRUB
When used regularly, a lip scrub will buff away dead skin on your lips as well as gently exfoliate the flaky skin barrier, introducing soft, healthy skin on your lips.
You’ll want to use a natural, exfoliating lip scrub such as sugar, aloe vera, and coconut which will help heal chapped lips. Be sure to use lip products that are cruelty-free, contain safe ingredients, and will contribute to more moisture overall especially if you have delicate skin.
2 FOLLOW UP WITH A GOOD LIP BALM
Simple, but incredibly important.
A good lip balm will help moisturize your lips and keep them from peeling.
But make sure to use it enough!
It can be easy as we go through our day-to-day to forget certain small simple habits we must do, but don’t let it stop you from applying lip balms throughout the day. Both day and night.
Make sure to use it as needed during the day. And when you go to sleep, make sure to always apply some of it on your lips.
Applying it before sleep is extra important because it’s very common for people to have their mouths open during their sleep. And as we’ve mentioned previously, opening your mouth allows the passage of air, drying it even more.
And a common habit that can severely damage your lips, making them peel and dry out, is biting your own lips. This is particularly common if you’re feeling particularly stressed or anxious.
If you have this habit, a good solution is to remind yourself to apply your lip balm whenever you feel the urge to bite your lips and make sure you’re carrying one at all times to deal with the problem whenever it arises.
And if you’re ever in doubt about using TOO much lip balm or TOO little, it’s always better to apply too much.
Not all lip balms are made the same, however, and some will be much more effective and healthy than others based on their ingredients.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), some of the following ingredients are particularly good for lip balms:
- CASTOR SEED OIL: this is an oil derived from castor beans and has been applied in medicine and medical products for many decades.
- PETROLEUM JELLY OR PETROLATUM: used for centuries for skin-care products, petroleum jelly helps entrap moisture, keeping your lips moist for longer.
- SHEA & COCOA BUTTER: shea butter comes from the African shea tree, while cocoa comes from cocoa beans, as their names imply, and are 100% natural and healthy fat sources to use on lip balms.
- TITANIUM OXIDE AND ZINC OXIDE: as we’ve noted before, too much sunlight will damage your lips and dry them out. Titanium oxide and zinc oxide help with just that, by blocking UV rays, they provide similar protection to sunscreens. They’ll also help diminish the chance of actinic cheilitis and skin cancer in your mouth. You should have a product with titanium/zinc oxide in them particularly before going outdoors.
- OTHER BENEFICIAL MOISTURIZING INGREDIENTS include hemp seed oil, mineral oil, coconut oil, and ceramides.
Some ingredients to avoid include…
- LANOLIN: although lanolin is effective at keeping your lips moisturized, lanolin allergy is fairly common, affecting somewhere between 1.2% and 6.9% of the population, and their usage may cause inflammation and allergic reactions, only worsening the problem.
- FLAVORINGS: certain flavorings, like cinnamon and citrus, can irritate lips that are already dry and peeling. Opt for natural flavorings or better yet, go fragrance-free.
- SALICYLIC ACID: this ingredient is a peeling agent that results in the outer layer of the skin being shed. If you apply it on an already dry, peeling, or damaged lip, it will only worsen the problem.
3. STAY AWAY FROM CERTAIN FOODS
Very acidic, salty, or spicy foods should be avoided to prevent pain when your lips are already dry and peeling.
You might also want to avoid very salty foods since salt drains the moisture out of your mouth. You can replace salt with different condiments and spices that do not hurt your lips and mouth.
And the same is true for dry foods, like crackers and toast, since they will suck out the moisture out of your mouth, making it even drier.
Dry and salty foods will also increase your thirst, resulting in you licking your lips even more than usual. And as we’ve mentioned previously, that’s a no-no.
There you go!
A complete guide on why your lips are always dry and peeling.
From now on, when your lips feel dry, gently exfoliate with a natural scrub and immediately follow up with one of your favorite, natural lip ointments. Now you know that lips are an incredibly sensitive part of our bodies, how the weather and sun can impact them, the different conditions that can cause dry lips, and how to prevent it.
And most important of all, how to pick the right lip balm for dry lips!
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