Everyone gets them at some point — dry, rough lips that feel tight and sometimes even crack and result in a split lip. It's not only unsightly, but also sometimes very uncomfortable. There are many causes of chapped lips, including cold weather and dehydration, and solutions may be as simple as applying a protective layer of moisturizing lip balm and drinking more fluids. Getting enough of certain nutrients, including the B vitamins, may help heal your chapped lips.
Vitamins for Lips
Chronic cracked or chapped lips could be a sign of a deficiency in one of the B vitamins, says nutritionist and doctor of occupational therapy, Lauryn Lax. This group of eight vitamins plays important roles in skin health. For example, vitamin B2, or riboflavin, aids cell turnover and the maintenance of collagen, which is responsible for the structural integrity of your skin. Niacin, or vitamin B3, helps condition the skin, and pantothenic acid, or vitamin B5, acts as a humectant, holding onto moisture in the skin. A deficiency in any of these vitamins could show up in your skin, particularly in your lips.
These are the recommended daily amounts for adults along with good dietary sources:
B2: Men need 1.3 mg per day, women need 1.1 mg and pregnant women need 1.4 mg daily, according to the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine. Good food sources include milk, meat, eggs, nuts, enriched flour and green vegetables.
B3: Men require 16 mg and women 14 mg per day. During pregnancy, women need 18 mg. Food sources include yeast, meat, fish, milk, eggs, green vegetables and cereal grains.
Other Nutrients Involved in Skin Health
Many other nutrients are involved in skin health, and deficiencies in any of them could be contributing to your chronic chapped lips.
Vitamins C and E help protect the skin from the sun and repair sun damage, according to WebMD. For men, women and women during pregnancy, the daily requirement for vitamin E is 15 mg. Canola oil, olive oil, margarine, almonds and peanuts are rich sources of vitamin E, and you can also get it from eating dairy products, meats, leafy green vegetables and fortified cereals. Men should get 90 mg of vitamin C daily. Women require 75 mg, and pregnant women need 85 mg. Fruits and vegetables are the best sources of this nutrient.
Selenium also helps protect the skin from sun damage. The recommendation for men and women is 55 mg daily and increases to 60 mg for women during pregnancy. You can find selenium in whole grains, seafood, garlic and eggs.
Other Cracked Lips Causes and Remedies
If your chapped lips aren't the result of a nutrient deficiency, you need to find the root of your problem before you can find the solution. If you frequently lick your lips, practicing mindfulness to break the habit can help you heal. If the problem is an environment that's too dry, get a humidifier for your home or office.
Protect your mouth and lips when you go out into the cold, and regularly apply an all-natural lip balm to protect and moisturize your lips throughout the day. According to board certified dermatologist and author, Dr. Audrey Kunin, some ingredients in lip products, including phenyl salicylate, can actually dry out your skin more.
Finding a Lasting Solution
Only your doctor can tell you if you're deficient in a nutrient that may be causing your chapped lips. If you are deficient, then eating more foods containing the nutrient is the best way to get your levels of the nutrient up to normal, which should help heal your chapped lips. Your doctor may also recommend a specific supplement or multivitamin.
If you have chronic chapped lips that don't seem to heal no matter what you try, it's best to pay a visit to your doctor. Chapped lips can sometimes signify an underlying medical condition.
- Tri-City Medical Center: B Vitamins: Your Secret to Good Skin Health
- Lauryn Lax: 8 Weird But Common Nutrient Deficiencies
- MedlinePlus: Riboflavin
- WebMD: Nutrients for Healthy Skin: Inside and Out
- OZ: The Many Hidden Causes of Chapped Lips
- MedlinePlus: B Vitamins
- Food and Nutrition Board: Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs): Recommended Dietary Allowances and Adequate Intakes, Elements
- Food and Nutrition Board: Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs): Recommended Dietary Allowances and Adequate Intakes, Vitamins
- MedlinePlus: Pantothenic Acid
- Medline Plus: Niacin