Dry and chapped lips are a nuisance and an annoying condition for many individuals. This is particular so in the cold winter months. The lips start to dry out, the skin breaks down and the lips start to appear unattractive. The condition can be an embarrassment. In the majority of cases, lip dryness is only a cosmetic problem.
Thankfully in most individuals lip dryness is transient and can be relatively easily treated.
However, the chronic cases of lip dryness can cause difficulty in smiling, speaking, eating and pain.
Unlike skin on other parts of the body, the skin on the lips is very thin and fragile. The lip skin does not have many oil secreting glands and the lips easily dry out
There are many causes of dry lips; the most common which are:
- Smoking. smoker tend to have very dry lips plus bad breath
- Not drinking enough liquids is another very common cause of lip dryness
- Biting and licking the lips is a common cause of dry lips especially in the adolescents
- Contact dermatitis is a common cause and most likely related to allergic reactions to ingredients present in the vast number of lip products
- Topical retinoids. Among the drugs, retinoids are well known to cause skin dryness and peeling of the skin
- Weather: A common reason for lips to feel dry is when they're being exposed to extremes of temperature, whether this is hot or cold. The lips may crack and feel very uncomfortable.
- Drinking too much caffeine or alcohol can also cause lip dryness
- Emotional and physical stress are associated with lip dryness
Sun Damage: the major cause of lip damage is exposure to sun for prolonged periods. It is the lower lip which is usually affected by sun exposure. The lips become dry, hard and scaly. Over time, the skin on the lips can even develop precancerous lesions. Cancers of the lips are not uncommon in North America. This sun induced damage to the lips can be overcome by the frequent use of lip balms and sun screens.
Herpes: Herpes simplex I virus is a common ailment of the lips. The herpes is always acquired from another individual. The herpes virus causes painful sores which may be recurrent. The vesicles are extremely tender and highly contagious. During the acute episode one may not be able to eat or swallow. Acyclovir is the drug of choice
Lip balms containing waxes can help protect the lips from both the weather and sun. The wax may not sound too glamorous, but it does work well and lasts the entire day
There are now available several types of lip gloss and balms which contain sunscreens. These new products are attractive on the lips and also protect the lips from both the sun and dehydration. The only downside to these products is that they have to be applied frequently in a day.
The more frequently you apply the lip protectants, the faster the lip will heal and the better you will feel.