Red, cracked lips are not only unsightly -- they can turn eating, drinking or even talking into a real pain. Lips become chapped and sore when they're dried out. Wintry weather is often to blame, but certain products and medical conditions can cause chapping, too. Lip balm or a hydrating natural remedy can make lips feel soft and smooth again.
Causes of Cracked Lips
Cold, dry air isn't the only cause for sore, cracked lips. Long-lasting or matte lipsticks contain ingredients, such as phenyl salicylate and propyl gallate, that dry out lips. Your toothpaste can cause chapping if it contains the ingredients sodium lauryl sulfate or guaiazulene. An allergy to nickel, red dyes or cobalt might be to blame. Citrus fruits are acidic, and the juice may irritate lips. Cinnamon-flavored gum, mouthwash, toothpaste and candy also cause irritation for some people.
Certain medical problems can cause lip irritation. You may have a condition called angular cheilitis if the corners of your mouth are sore and red. A prescription antibiotic, anti-fungal cream or topical steroid can help fix the problem. People with psoriasis, lichen planus, autoimmune diseases or Down syndrome are predisposed to chapped lips. The medication propranolol causes chapping in some people. Excess vitamin A also spurs peeling and lip irritation. Sleep apnea, adenoids or enlarged tonsils can cause you to snore at night, which may dehydrate your lips. If you have any of these issues or conditions, ask a doctor about possible treatments.
Apply lip balm regularly to keep your lips moisturized and soft. Opt for a balm that's viscous, not waxy, and look for ingredients such as shea butter, petroleum jelly, dimethicone and hyaluronic acid to help ward off redness and chapping. Balms that contain sunscreen protect lips from UV damage. Skip products that contain potential irritants, such as peppermint, citrus, camphor or menthol. Artificial fragrances may cause irritation, too. If your lips are flaky, gently buff them with a damp washcloth or mild lip scrub before applying lip balm. This wipes away dead skin and allows the balm to glide on smoothly.
If you don't have any lip balm on hand, a drop of coconut or olive oil is an effective substitute. The tannins in black tea may also soothe irritated lips. Moisten a black tea bag in warm water, then press it against your lips for five to 10 minutes. Follow up with a dab of vitamin E oil. Milk and honey help, too. Dip a cotton ball in 2 to 3 tablespoons of warm milk, then blot it on your lips. Let the milk set for five minutes, then pat your lips dry. Gently smear a dab of raw honey and vitamin E oil on lips. Leave the honey and oil on your lips overnight.