The result of being too dry, everyone experiences chapped lips at one time or another. Unfortunately, some people have a severe and chronic problem due to the lips’ skin losing its moisture retention capacity. As a consequence, the lips become chapped, further reducing their moisture retention capacity and continuing the cycle of chronic and increasingly severe chapped lips. Dry, cracked or sore lips can interfere with many daily activities, such as smiling, kissing, eating and talking.

Lips may become chapped for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Exposure to wind, sun, and cold, dry air. Since a person’s lips are one of the most exposed parts of the body, they are typically affected by the elements before other parts of the body.
  • Mouth breathing due to obstruction, as in allergic rhinitis, which dehydrates the lips.
  • Contact dermatitis due to irritants or allergens in cosmetics or skin-care products.
  • Certain medications, such as those used to treat acne.
  • A habit of frequently licking your lips. When lips become chapped it is very common for people to lick their lips in an attempt to moisten them. Although saliva soothes momentarily, the act perpetuates the cycle of dry and irritated lips.
  • Dehydration saps the body’s cells of moisture, including the lips.
  • Vitamin deficiency is a surprising culprit in perpetually chapped lips. Certain nutritional deficiencies cause insufficient cellular hydration.

Whether you are trying to heal your own chapped lips, or have clients asking for suggestions on healing theirs, our experts have assembled a list of the most popular remedies for common wintertime lip woes:

  1. Lip cream or balm – Apply lip balm frequently, especially before going out in cold, dry weather. Avoid flavored lip balms that can tempt you into lip licking.
  2. Sunscreen – Because sun exposure can dry and burn the skin, use a lip cream or balm containing sunscreen to protect the lips from harmful rays.
  3. Lip licking – Avoid licking your lips. Saliva evaporates quickly and digests the thin membrane protecting lips, leaving lips drier than before you licked them.
  4. Hydrate – Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. Dehydration typically results in chapped lips.
  5. Humidify – Use a humidifier or place a pot of water on a radiator to add moisture to the surrounding air.
  6. Don’t smoke – Smoking will constantly evaporate any natural oils on the lips.

For severe cases where the preceding six tips are nothelpful consider:

  1. Consultation – If chapping is severe and self-care measures don’t seem to help, consult a doctor. Occasionally, persistent chapped lips may indicate an underlying problem, such as a vitamin deficiency, fungal infection or allergic reaction.

Check with your physician before experimenting with tips eight and nine.

  1. Hydrocortisone – Applying a small amount of an over-the-counter strength hydrocortisone cream may decrease lip inflammation enough so that lip cream or balm can be effective.
  2. Rosen’s ointment – A pharmacist can prepare a severe chapped lip treatment called 1-2-3 ointment or Rosen’s ointment. It consists of 10 cc of Burrow’s solution (aluminum acetate) mixed with 20 grams of Aquaphor and enough plain zinc oxide paste (about 30 cc) to make a two-ounce container. While this mixture is extremely protective and healing, it is typically undesired due to its white color.

More about Lip Balm

Lip balm or cream is the number one choice to maintain lip moisture and protect lips from a number of dehydrating factors. With all of the lip products on the market, choosing one can be dizzying. For effective lip relief without side effects, our experts suggest opting for all-natural ingredients with healing essential oils. In addition to purchasing lip balms or creams with these ingredients, you can also make your own.

All-natural emollients to enhance the lip’s moisture-retention capabilities include:

  • Beeswax
  • Shea or Cocoa Butter
  • Olive, Avocado and Almond oil
  • Vitamin E
  • Lecithin

Essential oils often used for their skin healing properties include:

  • Tea tree
  • Grapefruit
  • Lavender
  • Rose
  • Chamomile
  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Peppermint

While there is some support for the use of petroleum-based lip products, many healthcare enthusiasts find that this ingredient exhibits a negative rebound effect. Initially, a petroleum-based lip balm hydrates the lip’s cells, but repeated use will make the user dependant upon it for moisture. Petroleum prohibits the skin from breathing, perpetuating cell dehydration and in turn, increased lip chapping between product applications.

Whether you choose to make your own lip balm or need guidance for healing a painful set of lips, learning these basics of lip health can keep your and your client’s lips perfectly moist throughout the winter season.

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References:, Chapped Lip, Greene Ink Inc., 2006., Cosmetics Recipe, Aromantic, 2004., Chapped Lips, Esoteric Oils CC and Sallamander Concepts (Pty) Ltd., 2006., Chapped Lips Just Won’t Quit, The Trustees of Columbia University in the City of New York, 2006., Severe, Chronic, Dry Chapped Lips, KariteGold, 2003., Chapped Lips: What is the Best Remedy?, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 2006.