Chapped Lips

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Chapped lips are a result of very dryskin on the lips. Dry skin occurs when the moisture, or water,content of the skin is decreased for any reason.

What is going on in the body?

The surface of the skin holds a certain amount of water. When the water contentdecreases, the skin becomes dry, itchy, and uncomfortable. Some people have extremelysensitive skin that is easily irritated. Since a person’s lips are oftenexposed to elements such as cold and moisture, the lips may become irritated beforeother parts of the body do.

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

Some individuals have a genetic predisposition to dry skin. Aspeople age, their skintends to become drier. Dry air, resulting from winter’s low humidity and the useof indoor heat, can cause skin to dry out. Long, hot baths and showers can alsomake skin dry.

Following are factors that increase a person’s risk of chapped lips:

  • prolonged exposure to cold, dry weather
  • sunburn or windburn
  • smoking
  • a history of a skin disorder, such as eczema
  • a habit of licking the lips frequently
  • certain medications, such as those used to treat acne
  • allergic reactions tocosmetics or skin care products
  • dehydration
  • Symptoms & Signs

    What are the signs and symptoms of the condition?

    Lips that are chapped usually have the following qualities:

  • roughness
  • dryness
  • redness
  • peeling
  • cracking
  • sensitivity
  • tenderness
  • Prevention & Expectations

    What can be done to prevent the condition?

    Some cases of chapped lips can be avoided by eliminating the cause of thecondition. For example, chapping from an allergic reaction to a skin careproduct will go away when the individual stops using the product. Othermeasures to prevent chapped lips include the following:

  • avoiding frequent licking of the lips
  • avoiding unnecessary exposure to cold weather, sun, or wind
  • applying lip balm frequently
  • eliminating any skin care products that may be triggering an allergicreaction
  • avoiding smoking
  • drinking plenty of water
  • Treatment & Monitoring

    What are the treatments for the condition?

    Chapped lips are treated the same way they are prevented, following theguidelines for avoiding exposure to the elements.

    What are the side effects of the treatments?

    There are no side effects to treatment, unless an individual isallergic to lip balm. Those individuals should choose unscented orhypoallergenic products.

    What happens after treatment for the condition?

    After chapped lips heal, no further treatment is needed.

    How is the condition monitored?

    Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcareprovider.

    Article type: xmedgeneral