Don’t Let Dry Lips Make An Appearance This Summer. Here’s How You Can Be Proactive!
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, J.D., Founder
I recently read that one of the less talked about possible symptoms of COVID-19 is dry, cracked lips. Usually, having a virus leads to dehydration. And dehydration is one of the biggest reasons why so many even perfectly healthy people regularly deal with chronically dry, chapped lips.
Lips are a sexy but vulnerable organ.
Lips are considered to be a tactile sensory organ, meaning that they are related to touch. There are millions of nerve endings in the lips which explains why we may find kissing very pleasurable. But, of course, having dry lips is a sure way to make kissing less sexy and fun (both for you and your partner). Lips are extremely sensitive and very prone to dehydration, because unlike the skin on the rest of our bodies, lips do not contain oil glands. They also do not contain sweat or saliva glands.
“This unique structure means they're particularly prone to dryness as they have a much lower ability to hold water than the rest of the face's skin,” according to this recent Medical Xpress report that discusses possible causes of dry lips.
And, of course, water is the source of hydration.
Lips are already sensitive, but we cannot help but constantly expose them to harsh, drying elements such as sun, cold weather and wind.
“They have to withstand our daily lifestyle, including contact with food, cosmetics, biting, picking, rubbing against clothes, kissing and more,” states the report mentioned earlier.
Other causes of dry lips may include:
- Cheilitis (inflammation of the lips).
“Cheilitis is an inflammation of the lips, which could be acute or chronic. The inflammation primarily arises in the vermilion zone [the “lipstick area] but may extend to surrounding skin and less commonly, to the oral mucosa. It may be caused by a multitude of factors, including contact irritants or allergens, chronic sun exposure, and nutritional deficiencies, as well as by various cutaneous and systemic illnesses,” reports the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
- Nutritional deficiencies.
“Various vitamin B deficiencies can result in dry, cracked, angry, red lips,” said one doctor, in this report.
- Taking certain medications.
Medications that cause dry mouth may certainly lead to dry, chapped lips.
- Oral trauma.
This may include injuries to the tongue or having teeth that may rub up against your lips.
- Poor oral hygiene.
Although probably not likely for most, having chronically dry lips may be a sign of skin cancer.
Yes, your lips can get sunburned. And try not to drink super hot beverages, as these can burn your lips as well.
How we can be proactive.
Dry, chapped lips happen to us all. It’s really just a part of being human! If it seems like no matter what you do you always have dry lips, seek the advice of a competent healthcare practitioner. You want to definitively rule out skin cancer or any other serious conditions that may cause dry lips.
Do not accept dry mouth and lips as “part of the aging process.”
“Dry mouth is not a normal part of aging. Causes include some medicines, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and nerve damage. Salivary gland diseases, Sjogren's syndrome, HIV/AIDS, and diabetes can also cause dry mouth. Treatment depends on the cause. Things you can do include sipping water, avoiding drinks with caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol, and chewing sugarless gum or sucking on sugarless hard candy,” according to the National Institutes of Health(NIH).
Here are some other key tips:
- Protect your lips from the sun.
It’s summer, so most of us will be spending more time in the sun. It is just as important to protect your lips as it is your face and body. Fortunately, there are so many great lip balms out there with SPF protection. Also consider wearing a wide-brimmed hat or visor when spending extended periods of time in the sun.
- Know which lip balms to use.
Avoid ones with synthetic fragrances and flavors (which can be irritating and drying). Some additional ingredients to steer clear of include camphor, lanolin, octinoxate, oxybenzone or propyl gallate and salicylic acid. Go for a lip balm that contains just plain old petroleum jelly or beeswax.
The American Academy of Dermatology Association recommends looking for ingredients such as castor seed oil, hemp seed oil, mineral oil, shea butter and ceramides.
- Leave your lips alone.
Stop licking your lips, biting them and picking at them. This may seem like an instant solution to dry, cracked lips, but these are sure ways to make them even worse.
- Consider using a lip exfoliant.
Just like we slough off the dead skin cells on our face and bodies by exfoliating, we can do the same on our lips. Be gentle, and you may want to talk to your dermatologist before doing this.
- Take advantage of the night.
Sleep is a great time to let our skin rest and really absorb the products we put on them. Just as you may apply moisturizer to your face before bed, do the same for your lips by applying a good, hydrating lip balm. This is also a way to combat dehydration that can occur in sleep from not drinking water (while sleeping, of course), snoring and sleeping with our mouths open.
- Get your B vitamins.
As mentioned, vitamin B deficiencies may cause dry, cracked lips. Check out this pH Labs blog on how you can make sure you are getting all your B vitamins. It is also extremely important to take routine nutrient tests in order to determine if you have any nutritional deficiencies or imbalances. If you do, a competent healthcare professional can work with you on making the necessary dietary changes and recommend quality supplements if necessary.
- Address any existing health issues.
- Avoid smoking at all costs and drink alcohol in moderation (if at all).
It is always worth repeating that smoking is awful for your skin and, of course, overall health. If the risk of cancer doesn’t motivate you to quit smoking, think about your sexy lips! Is it really worth sacrificing your kissable lips? I don’t think so! Alcohol is also dehydrating and may lead to nutritional deficiencies that can cause and exacerbate dry lips. Smoking and excessive alcohol consumption are just not sexy to put it bluntly!
So there you have it. My lips aren’t sealed (pun intended) when it comes to addressing dry lips, a common issue. The good news is that there is plenty we can do to be proactive and protect this precious sensory organ.
Enjoy your summer and those lips!
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice. Please consult with your doctor or another competent healthcare practitioner to get specific medical advice for your situation.
The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.