Chapped lips are unsightly and painful, particularly if the skin peels and cracks. Peeling skin on the lips can make them so tender that eating and drinking become uncomfortable. If chapped lips become badly enough inflamed, they can bleed and are likely to become infected. This condition is most commonly cause by dry air, and may be easily treated.
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The skin on the lips is thin and constantly exposed to the elements. Unlike the rest of the skin on your face, your lips contain no oil glands, and therefore cannot moisturize on their own. Winter weather is a common culprit of chapped lips. Cold weather, wind and a lack of humidity all rob the skin and lips of moisture. Although we don’t usually associate summer with chapped lips, the sun can also dry the lips and lead to sunburn, chapping and peeling.
Although chapped lips usually result from environmental factors, more rarely they can be the result of poor dental or medical health. Those people for whom chapped, peeling lips are a chronic problem should consult a physician to rule out certain medical conditions. Poorly fitting dentures, Crohn’s disease, hypothyroidism and Sjogren’s syndrome are among the health concerns that can cause dryness or inflammation of the lips.
The use of an oil-based lubricating cream, or a lip product that contains petrolatum or beeswax may be beneficial in treating chapped, peeling lips. If lip peeling is not too severe, your doctor may recommend that you try exfoliating the dead skin by gently rubbing the lips with a washcloth. If your lips have developed cracks or have begun bleeding, you should consult your doctor, because an antibiotic may be necessary to prevent or fight infection.
You may want to avoid licking your lips, because as soon as your saliva evaporates, your lips will be even drier than before. Picking dead skin from the lips can cause tearing and bleeding of the skin -- your doctor may suggest you use a gentle exfoliating method instead. Breathing through your mouth may increase lip dryness. Staying adequately hydrated may decrease risk of dry lips. Your doctor may suggest that you keep your lips protected with a lubricating cream or lip balm. Humidifiers are designed to increase moisture inside, which may decrease risk of chapped lips.
Although lip balms can serve to protect the lips from moisture loss, in some cases they can worsen chapped lips, leading to a persistent lip inflammation called cheilitis. Some lip balm users compulsively lick the flavored product on their lips, leading to a vicious circle that may require antibiotic treatment.