Dry skin around the mouth can be a painful and highly noticeable occurrence. This condition is caused by a number of triggers, although most do not tend to indicate a more serious condition. Knowing why patches of dry skin occur and how to treat them can help you to prevent future outbreaks of patchy, dry skin.
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The skin consists of many layers that act as a barrier to protect your skin against moisture loss and to retain temperature. When the skin becomes damaged or your surroundings become cold and dry, patchy areas of skin can form. Because the mouth is an area of moisture, the outside areas of skin can be more susceptible to dryness due to frequent licking of the lips, drinking fluids and exposing the skin to the elements. When the dryness progresses, patches can crust and form around the mouth.
Certain factors can exacerbate the patches of dry skin that develop around your mouth. This includes frequently licking your lips, according to NetDoctor. If you live in a cold climate, cold weather can dry the skin, causing patches to develop on the lips. Other causes can range from the toothpaste you use, irritation from consuming citrus fruits, medications taken or allergies to nickel, cobalt or red dyes, according to Dr. Audrey Kunin, a dermatologist writing on DERMA Doctor, a skincare resource website.
Bacteria or Fungal Infection
In some instances, patches of dry skin occur due to a chronic condition known as angular stomatitis, according to the Health Journal Online. This condition causes swelling, crusting and bleeding from the dry skin around the mouth. If you frequently lick your lips, this can introduce bacteria or fungus into the open skin patches. Allergies or irritation also can cause angular stomatitis. If your patchy areas of skin do not respond to over-the-counter treatments, a physician may take a cotton swab to test for the presence of bacteria or fungus, including Candida albicans and Staphylococcus aureus.
If you are prone to developing patches of dry skin around the mouth, prevent the occurrence by wearing a lip balm that contains wax, according to Dr. Kunin. While this may not provide moisture to the lips, the wax creates a protective seal against moisture and wind. If you frequently consume citrus fruits or are exposed to metals associated with causing allergic reactions, avoidance of these allergens can prevent dry, patchy areas of the skin from developing.
In the early stages of your dry skin patches, you can apply a lip balm to moisturize the lips, which can reduce the dryness. However, if the patches begin to bleed or swell, this can indicate the presence of bacteria or infection. Your physician can prescribe a topical antibiotic treatment to reduce the bacteria in the skin, according to NetDoctor. Drinking plenty of water and using a humidifier in order to restore moisture to the skin also can help to reduce skin dryness.