Treating Dry, Chapped Lips

For many people, the phrase “dry skin” probably conjures up images of dry, cracked hands, flaky skin, and windburn. However, the lips can be affected,too. And while it may seem that dry, cracked lips are something you have to live only in cold weather, dermatologists from the American Academy of Dermatology say it’s possible to have soft, supple lips year-round by following a few simple steps.

“Cold, dry weather, sun damage, and frequently licking your lips are just some of the reasons your lips might feel dry and chapped,” says board-certified dermatologist Noëlle Sherber, MD, FAAD. “Understanding these causes and anything else that might trigger your chapped lips goes a long way in preventing and treating them.”

To prevent and treat dry, chapped lips at home, Sherber offers the following tips:

Choose non-irritating lip products. Look for lip balms, lipsticks, and other lip products that contain ingredients like castor seed oil, ceramides, dimethicone, or mineral oil. Make sure your lip product is also labeled “fragrance free” and “hypoallergenic.” Avoid ingredients such as camphor, menthol, or eucalyptus, because these can irritate your lips. If your lips burn, sting, or tingle after using a lip product, stop using that product.

Apply lip balm throughout the day and before you go to bed. If your lips are very dry and cracked, try a thick ointment, such as petroleum jelly. Ointment seals in moisture longer than waxes or oils.


Protect your lips outdoors. Apply a lip balm with an SPF of 30 or higher before going outdoors, no matter the weather. Look for a lip balm with titanium dioxide and/or zinc oxide and reapply it every two hours while outdoors.

Keep your skin hydrated. Drink plenty of water and use a humidifier at home — especially in your bedroom while you sleep.

Stop licking, biting, or picking at your lips. When your lips arel dry, it may feel natural to wet them by licking them, but this can worsen the problem. When you catch yourself licking your lips, apply a non-irritating lip balm instead.

Avoid holding metal items with your lips. Everyday items like paperclips, jewelry and reusable metal straws can irritate your lips.

“Chapped lips are usually harmless, however sometimes they can be a sign of a medical condition,” says Sherber. “If your dry, chapped lips do not heal after following these tips for two to three weeks, talk to a board-certified dermatologist.”

To find a board-certified dermatologist in your area, click here.

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