Chapped lips are the result of dry, cracked skin on your lips due to cold or dry weather, sun exposure, frequently licking your lips or dehydration. You can treat chapped lips at home with the use of lip balm or ointment to ease any discomfort.
The skin on your lips is thinner and more sensitive than the skin on the rest of your body because your lips don’t contain any oil glands. As a result, they are at risk of becoming dry and chapped. Your lips are exposed to the elements more than the rest of your body and can become chapped from sun exposure, dry or cold weather conditions. Chapped lips, known medically as cheilitis, can occur from contact with an allergen or a medical condition.
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Chapped lips can occur in anyone at any age. Children and adolescents who lick their lips often are susceptible to chapped lips. They can develop a condition called lip licker's dermatitis which results in a rash around the mouth as well as chapped lips.
People who live in an area where the weather is dry and hot or in a climate where the temperature is cold experience chapped lips frequently. Seasonally chapped lips occur in the winter and can be common in people who experience dry skin.
Chapped lips are dry and tight and can be very uncomfortable. Severely chapped lips may cause painful stinging reactions when eating, especially with citrus fruit, spicy and salty foods.
Symptoms of chapped lips include:
Causes of chapped lips include:
A visual examination of your lips and the skin surrounding your mouth can help diagnose chapped lips. No tests are needed to diagnose chapped lips.
Chapped lips can be treated at home by:
To treat your chapped lips, choose a lip balm with ingredients that are:
Don’t use lip balm that includes the following ingredients, as they can irritate chapped lips:
If your lip balm causes a stinging, burning or tingling sensation, stop using that product.
Lip balm seals cracks in your lips and ointment keeps your lips hydrated for a longer duration based on the ingredients and thickness of the ointment. Lip balms and lip ointments can be applied as needed throughout the day when you notice your lips are dry. Using lip ointment at night will keep your lips hydrated throughout the night. Always reapply lip balm or ointment after eating and drinking. While outdoors, apply lip balm or ointment with SPF 30 or higher about every two hours.
Bleeding occurs when the cracks (fissures) in your lips break and turn into cuts and sores (split lip). The skin on your lips is prone to cracking and untreated chapped lips may bleed and cause pain and stinging. You can treat your bleeding lips at home with an ointment designed for lips specifically. If the bleeding is frequent and at-home treatment does not help, visit your healthcare provider who could prescribe more advanced treatment.
Applying lip balm regularly should ease discomfort until your lips have time to heal. Severely chapped lips may take longer to heal, but the average time is two to three weeks to recover completely. If you treat chapped lips as soon as you notice a problem, your lips will heal much faster and you can avoid potential complications like infection.
You can prevent chapped lips by adding lip care to your daily routine:
Chapped lips are harmless and could cause temporary irritation until treated. Persistent and severe chapped lips could be a sign of an underlying medical condition.
If your chapped lips get worse or don’t heal after treating them, talk with your healthcare provider to find a more advanced treatment. They might also perform tests if they suspect your chapped lips are a symptom of a medical condition.
If you treat your chapped lips and they get worse or do not improve for more than a few weeks, visit your healthcare provider for advanced treatment options.
There are several types of cheilitis to identify the source of lip inflammation:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
While chapped lips may be irritating, they are temporary and can be easily treated at home. Awareness of your environment and the weather helps reduce the likelihood that you will experience long-term chapped lips, especially if you keep lip balm or ointment in a convenient location to use at the first sign of chapping.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 09/09/2021.
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