Not only do chapped lips make you feel unattractive and unconfident, but they also are the gates for infection, which may penetrate your body through the tiny cracks.
The causes of chapped lips may be as obvious as low humidity and dehydration or as tricky and quite often hard to figure out as allergies to toothpaste or dyes in lipstick. If you have ruled out the possibility of common causes of chapped lips and the problem persists or recurs, especially in case of severe chapped lips, you have all the reasons to look closer into the possibility of developing an allergy. Here again, you may try to figure out the allergy trigger by trial and error, that is by excluding the possible triggers one at a time and recording the changes. Sometimes this method is the most effective, since laboratory tests have an extensive but still rather limited list of allergy triggers. Undoubtedly, it would be wise to consult your doctor if you suspect an allergy cause.
Common factors for Chapped Lips
A common factor which can be blamed for causing cracks is our habit of licking lips. In the process of evaporation, saliva dehydrates skin even further. Besides, saliva contains acids responsible for breaking down food, and those acids can cause irritation when they get onto the dehydrated lip skin. Medics also advise to give up a bad habit of scrubbing, peeling or biting off skin flakes, as this can lead to bleeding, can welcome infection and slows the healing process.
Natural environment factor like dry winter air and cold wind as well as low humidity indoors dehydrate our lips. Lips actually consist of thin layers of skin, which are more likely to dry out in comparison with the rest of the face. Moisture is lost up to 10 times faster through the lips than from any other part of the body. You have to be aware of the low humidity indoors, especially in winter, when heating makes the air inside extra dry. Running a humidifier both in your office and in your bedroom is a simple way to eliminate this possible cause of cracked lips and dry skin.
If dry air is an exterior factor, which not always can be changed by us at will (you cannot make air more humid outdoors), there is one internal factor, which is very easy to control – the amount of water you drink. Dehydration is first noticed by our lips, and only then by eyes and skin. If your body lacks hydration severely, your lips get chapped. It I always a good idea to keep track of how much liquid you drink during the day. The amount you should strive for is 10 glasses a day (1 glass is about 237 ml). Caffeinated beverages are a bad option in this case, since not only do you need to drink more if compared to water to reach the same level of hydration, but also caffeine by itself exhausts your body, which may aggravate your state when you’re already dehydrated.
Chapped lips in the elderly can be a sign of severe dehydration too. Since a body of an elderly person has about seven liters less water than a younger person, it can become dehydrated more quickly, and this can be a far more serious problem than just chapped lips – a life threatening condition.
Dehydration in newborns and babies is also diagnosed by chapped lips along with the other symptoms like sunken fontanelles, lack of tears, sleepiness, rapid heartbeat, reduced urine output. This condition can be life-threatening, so you should call your pediatrician immediately in case you notice these changes. If dehydration and other medical conditions are not linked with your baby’s chapped lips, the best way to cure them would be to apply some breast milk. This will provide a natural moisturizing and a shield against bacteria. Chapped lips in newborns may on the one hand be a symptom of dehydration, and on the other hand, to cause it, because of possible pain and discomfort due to which feeding is rare and insufficient. So again, parents should be alert and take all the precautions to prevent baby’s lips from chapping. General rule for dry air and lip moisturizing (with milk or organic natural lip balm) apply.
Severely chapped lips in toddlers are most often caused by dehydration due to vomiting and fever. In such a case you should call your pediatrician. All of the above listed factors can cause chapped lips in toddlers too.
Apart from dehydration, chapped lips in children can be caused by Kawasaki disease, which affects children under 14, with 80 per cent of cases, children under the age of 4.
Teenagers and adults can get chapped lips from kissing in the street, when it is cold and windy. This is a pleasant cause, but it is important to remember that kissing with chapped lips heightens the risk of herpes, gum disease or HIV infection, which is already a serious medical condition.
There are quite a few serious health conditions, which cause chapped lips, like diabetes, macrocytosis, Sjogren’s Syndrome, sexually transmitted diseases and HIV. Here the disease itself should be cured, not the chapped lips, which are only a symptom.
Lip balm – cure and protection
To protect your lips from these unfavorable factors, it is recommended to apply any moisturizer for lips which you find comfortable with. If you are prone to allergic reactions, lip balms based on natural components would be preferable. Keep in mind that natural ingredients can be irritating too for hypersensitive persons. Again, trial and error is the best method of getting the best product based on personal needs.
In case you already suffer from severe chapping of lips, a dermatologist will suggest over the counter balms and ointments which are guaranteed to be more effective. These ointments may contain hydrocortisone so an allergy test would be a good idea before starting to use it.
There are some household items that can be used as a first option if nothing else is handy. These include margarine, butter and vaseline.
Chapped lips due to Eczema
Eczema is a persistent skin condition whose symptoms include dry patches, redness and inflammation of the skin, and sometimes, even oozing. It can attack any part of the body like neck, cheeks, arms, and others including lips. Eczema of lips is a condition in which the lips become too dry resulting in peeling, flaking, and bleeding of the lips. The situation can cause pain while smiling, talking and is uncomfortable because of the constant tendency to lick the dryness from the lips.
Although the reasons for Eczema are not known, the most common trigger for the lip eczema is considered as the combination dehydration and allergic reaction to the products. Even minor thing like the toothpaste can be responsible for the chapping of lips. The dermatologist can help in identifying these allergens and help in prescribing the cream to help with the problem.
However, the eczema can be controlled to the huge extent by the following simple treatments:
- Avoid licking or chewing on the lips – The first thing that one needs to take care of is to avoid constant licking of the lips as it can increase the dryness instead of reducing it, making the problem of eczema worse. Even though the temptation to do so is strong, licking and chewing on the lips shall be avoided.
- Use of Petroleum Jelly or Vaseline – Application of petroleum jelly on the affected area can help in reducing the dryness and healing of the cracks on the lips. This also helps to control the need for licking the dry area.
- Hydrocortisone – Steroid cream is the most common and easy treatment for the eczema. The cream should be applied to the infected area once or twice a day daily to control the inflammation and redness. These creams are easily available at the local pharmacists.
- Drinking lots of water – Dehydration is one of the major causes of the eczema associated with lips. Simple change in the lifestyle like increasing the intake of water can help in controlling the spread of the problem.
- Discontinuation of Toothpaste, lipstick etc. – More often than not, the reason for the lips eczema is the allergy caused due to the chemicals in the lip products. The lipsticks, the chap sticks, the toothpastes, soaps, shampoos—any of these can be culprit for the condition. Discontinuation of these products can help in isolating the cause of allergy. In place of chemically loaded products, the milder natural products can be adopted to combat the problem.
- Eating Habits – Sometimes, the reason for the persistent cracked lips lies in the food we eat which can trigger the allergic reaction in our body. This is especially true in case of heavily salted or heavily acidic foods. A bland diet can heal the lips suffering from eczema.
- Avoid excessive bathing – Long showers and baths and use of very hot water steals the moisture from the lips, causing further inflammation and cracking. Short showers and baths and use of warm water instead of hot water should be preferred to heal the chapped lips.