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How to get rid of dry lips

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23 December 2021|3 min read

Key Points

  • Dry lips may be caused by many different things including weather, medication and licking your lips too much.
  • Using emollient lips balms, sunscreen and moisturising products like olive oil could help very dry lips.
  • Brushing your teeth and drinking plenty of water could help the issues that cause dry lips.

Why, oh, why are my lips always dry? Sounds like the beginning of a cheesy song full of heartbreak. Dry lips don't necessarily create broken hearts, but they could mean broken skin, painful sores and possibly indicate other issues. 

Dermatologist, Dr Liz Dawes-Higgs talks us through what some of the causes could be and how you could get rid of dry lips. 

What causes dry lips?

Cheilitis, or Lip Licker’s Dermatitis, is caused when the enzymes in your saliva start to break down the delicate skin on your lips, creating cracks and soreness. The problem increases because you keep licking your lips because they’re sore, which makes things worse, so you lick more. 

What makes you lick your lips more frequently in the first place is where the real cause lies. Dr Liz says these causes may include: 

  • extreme weather conditions
  • vitamin and mineral deficiencies
  • mouth dryness
  • dehydration

Let’s take a look at some of these common causes and what dry lip treatments could potentially help you tackle dry lips.

Extreme weather 

Dry lips are common in extreme weather conditions, such as the biting wind of winter or the sun damaging rays of summer. When you lick your lips to relieve the initial discomfort, the extreme conditions make your lips dry out even quicker, speeding up the damage caused by the saliva. 

Before you head out to brave whatever the weather is throwing at you, add some protection to your lips. 

Dry lips may come from a vitamin b deficiency and also be an iron deficiency.

- Dr Elizabeth Dawes-Higgs

If it’s really windy, consider putting up a barrier. Products made with papaya are good for lips as they help hold the moisture in. 

If the sun is baking, ensure you’re using a sunscreen that contains a moisturiser with SPF designed for lips and reapply frequently.  

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What makes you lick your lips more frequently in the first place?

Vitamin deficiency

“Dry lips may come from a vitamin b deficiency and also be an iron deficiency,” Dr Liz tells us. 

Angular cheilitis is when the corners of your mouth develop cracks and sores. This may indicate a lack of the vitamin B complex as it’s responsible for keeping all skin types healthy. Or it could be an iron deficiency as iron is a major player in wound healing. A lack of these important nutrients means your skin could struggle to heal properly or quick enough for the damage to happen again, like chronic licking of lips.  

To check whether you’re dealing with a vitamin deficiency, a good step would be to speak with your health professional. They may need blood tests to diagnose any potential issues and can then advise what next steps are best for you.

Since honey has lots of benefits for the skin, including healing compounds, it may be perfect to use for very dry lips. And a varied diet with foods that are good for your skin may help increase your nutrient intake. It could also have the benefit of helping out with any dry skin on your hands and maintaining healthy hair.

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Your favourite boozy tipple could also cause dehydration, which can lead to dry lips.

Mouth dryness

Also known as xerostomia, this is when your mouth doesn't produce enough saliva.  

Mouth dryness is commonly caused by infections, such as thrush, because the infection messes with your salivary production. 

It could also be a side effect from certain medications, such as analgesics, antihistamines and decongestants. 

In these circumstances, make an appointment with your health professional. They can help diagnose any infections or side effects and prescribe any necessary treatments. You may just need a change in your current prescription if that’s what’s giving you grief.  

There are also certain mouthwashes designed to help with dry mouth. And remember – make sure you’re drinking plenty of water. 

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Dry lips during pregnancy is common.

Dehydration

Sometimes, having dry lips is a simple symptom of dehydration. Dry lips during pregnancy is common as your body can produce on average about 45% more blood than usual, so it needs more water than usual.  

Increasing your water intake isn't just about body skin hydration, it may help you to take care of your face skin, including your lips. 

Your favourite boozy tipple could also cause dehydration. It might sound weird because you’re drinking fluid, but alcohol is a diuretic which means it makes you urinate more. If you don't top up with water, you’ll probably get a bit parched. Alcohol may also increase the bad bacteria in your mouth, which decreases the flow of saliva produced hence why you may get dry lips after alcohol.

Don’t let dry lips spoil a good cocktail. Try alternating alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic ones (preferably water). And when you get home, make sure your bedtime routine includes face washing, to help stop issues like adult acne, and teeth cleaning. You probably don’t want to find out what happens when you don't brush your teeth.

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Papapaya lip balm helps nourish, soothe & restore dry, irritated lips.

What about kissing?

The last thing you’ll want to do when you have dry lips is kiss someone, which is probably for the best. Unfortunately, you could also get dry lips from kissing. Bacteria and viruses from your mouth might be transferred during kissing, potentially causing issues such as dry mouth, which may lead to dry lips.

Kissing also transmits a certain amount of saliva, which may increase the damage to delicate lip skin the same way lip licking could.

So, try our suggestions to help get rid of dry lips so you may get back to kissing with healthy lips in no time. 

Keeping those lips kissable

As well as the suggestions we’ve mentioned above, Dr Liz has some extra recommendations.

“Try using emollient lips balms and reapply sunscreen over makeup. Also, try not to lick your lips too much. Things like olive oil may even be good for dry lips as it's a type of moisturiser,” she says. 

So, when you think “what can I do to make myself feel better”, don't leave your lips to last.

Related:

Dr Elizabeth Dawes-Higgs is an award winning dermatologist with extensive experience in the world of medicine, business leadership and education. She is passionate about a range of topics including laser dermatology, the treatment of scarring and skin cancer management.

Reviewed by the healthylife Advisory Board December 2021.

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This article is for informational purposes only and does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any information published on this website or by this brand is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. If you have any concerns or questions about your health you should consult with a health professional.