Are there natural alternatives for chapped lips? Why do lips become dry, cracked, and chapped and what can we do to prevent it?
WHAT ARE CHAPPED LIPS?
Chapped lips can be bleeding, cracked, sore, peeling, dry, flaky, split, or infected and oozing with visible sores. Chapped lips can be uncomfortable, painful, and embarrassing because it can interfere with one’s ability to eat, to talk, and to kiss. If your chapped lips are bleeding and look infected, it is strongly recommended that you consult with a doctor or trusted health professional.
Healthy lips have a protective lip barrier that keeps out irritants and bacteria. The living cell layer of healthy lips maintains intercellular hydration necessary to support lip tissue. Unhealthy lips have an unstable protective lip barrier leaving the lips vulnerable to inflammation and infection. Chapped lips caused by dehydration, trauma (chewing the lips) or sun or wind damage, can lead to more serious infections if not hydrated and allowed to heal.
WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF CHAPPED LIPS? – Chapped lips can be the result of a number of different factors, including dry weather, sunburn, overexposure to extreme temperatures, dentures that do not fit properly, dehydration, tooth or gum infections, lip biting, a vitamin deficiency riboflavin (vitamin B2), allergies, bacterial infection, virus, drug reactions, influenza, and other medical problems. Most often people experience minor chapped lips from external conditions that can easily be modified or controlled. If you are experiencing chronic chapped or peeling lips, it’s best to take a look at your personal situation to determine the best course of action and treatment to help your lips heal.
STRESS AND NERVOUSNESS – Are you stressed? Many people experience chapped lips because of nervous habits of biting the lips, peeling or picking at the lips or continuously licking the lips. Observe yourself and your habits and if you are expressing your stress or anxiety with your lips, try another way to relieve stress such as engaging in sports activities, crafts, hobbies, chewing gum, playing a musical instrument, practicing meditation, receiving a relaxing massage, sharing your frustrations with a trusted friend, counselor or psychiatrist. Take time out to listen discover if you have a nervous habit that is damaging to your lips. If so, check out our “20 Alternative Approaches to Stress” for suggestions, or seek professional help to handle stress from a counselor or your trusted health practitioner.
ALLERGIES AND SENSITIVITIES – It is a common belief that Chap Stick or Vaseline or other commercial lip balms, lip gloss, or lipstick products are the best course of action for chapped lips. However, many people experience chronic chapped lips as an allergic reaction to fragrances or other chemical products and food coloring or chemical dies found in Chap sticks, lipsticks or lip balms. Vaseline is petroleum jelly. Many people have adverse reactions to petroleum products and find that this product only covers up and prolongs the chapped, dry lips and does not cure it. When the product is removed and alternative, natural products are substituted, the chapped, peeling lips often heal very quickly. Another problem with commercial products is the packaging. If a lip balm, lipstick, gloss or similar product is applied to infected lips and repeatedly applied from the same container, the lips are infected again and cannot heal. There is less chance of contamination if fresh, natural products are applied and then discarded. Be sure to thoroughly wash hands before touching the lips and applying products and to throw out used applicators and containers.
DEHYDRATION, WIND AND SUN – Probably the two most common causes of chapped lips is dehydration and sunburn. We often have busy lives and forget to hydrate ourselves. Lack of water causes the lips to dry up quickly. You may feel that you have had plenty of water to drink, but try measuring the amount of water you drink daily. As we age we lose the ability to feel thirsty and often forget to hydrate ourselves. Also take care to avoid wind and sun exposure. Lips can be burned just as easily as our skin and we often forget to protect the lips when we are outside in the sun and wind.
ANGULAR CHEILITIS – If your chapped lips are infected or inflamed at the corners, you may have angular cheilitis. Angular cheilitis is a chronic inflammation of the mouth. It is characterized by the presence of cracked corners of lips and sores on the mouth area. People of all ages can have angular cheilitis, even toddlers and youth of all ages. Angular cheilitis should not be mistaken for herpes. Angular cheilitis can be painful and if treatment is not given right away, the person suffering from it would experience bleeding and oozing of pus coming from the lips.
Symptoms of angular cheilitis are cracks, splits and fissures on the corners of the mouth, pain, swelling, itchiness and bleeding in the affected areas and blisters, erosions and crusting. Angular cheilitis can be associated with an intraoral candidal infection, or oral candidiasis. Other organisms causing the infection can be staphylococci and streptococci.
To diagnose angular cheilitis, a doctor will perform a laboratory culture from a swab of the inflamed areas. This will determine if there is an existence of microorganisms like Candida albicans and Staphylococcus aureus. Some believe that cheilitis can result from too little vitamin B12 or iron in the diet. Picking or scratching at these sores can trigger a bacterial infection that can spread. Angular cheilitis can disappear on its own without treatment, however, it is important to have a laboratory test taken to rule out underlying bacterial or viral infections and to keep the area clean, use clean hands when applying balms or moisturizers, and clean products as described in our tips above. Other treatment methods that you can discuss with your doctor include:
- Moisturizing lip balms (see our list of natural remedies below)
- Antibacterial medications
- Anti-fungal topical ointments
- Nutritional supplements
COLD SORES – Cold sores are caused by a common herpes virus, and they can cause pus in the lips in some cases. This type of blister can be uncomfortable and usually appears on the upper or lip. People with cold sores might be tempted to pop or lance a cold sore, however, doing might cause harmful bacteria to infect the sore and make the cold sore more inflamed and enlarged. If a cold sore has dry or oozing pus, this is an indication that a more serious bacterial infection might be present and if not treated carefully it might leave a scar. As with cheilitis, medical professionals advise that a cold sore is kept clean and left alone as much as possible to facilitate the healing process.
TWENTY NATURAL APPROACHES TO HEALING CHAPPED LIPS – Whether or not you have an infection such as a cold sore or angular cheilitis, or you just have common chapped lips caused from windburn or dehydration, cleanliness and natural products are key to healing. Here is a handy list of 20 natural remedies for healthy lips. Observe your lifestyle and see which solutions seem to fit your situation.
- Drink plenty of water
- Take fish oil supplements
- Avoid licking lips
- Avoid petroleum products
- Avoid fragrance or dyes
- Throw out all lip products
- Eat a healthy diet
- Apply olive oil
- Apply 100% pure lanolin
- Apply cucumber slices
- Apply aloe vera gel
- Apply cocoa butter
- Apply shea butter
- Apply organic beeswax
- Apply kawa gel
- Apply vitamin E oil
- Take vitamins B2, C, E
- Use a humidifier
- Avoid sun
- Avoid wind
These tips are great suggestions for minor chapped lip problems, and you should see a remarkable improvement. These remedies will not be effective you are continuing to infect yourself with contaminated products or if you have underlying infections, allergies or anxieties which must be addressed. Always consult with your trusted health professional if you suspect a bacterial or viral infection. You will need prompt medical care and treatment for more serious conditions.
Devani A, and Barankin B, Answer: Can you identify this condition?- Angular Cheilitis, Can Fam Physician. Jun 2007; 53(6): 1022–1023.
Kahana M, Yahalom R, Schewach-Millet M. Recurrent angular cheilitis caused by dental flossing. J Am Acad Dermatol. 1986;15(1):113–4.
Yesudian PD, Memon A. Nickel-induced angular cheilitis due to orthodontic braces. Contact Dermatitis. 2003;48(5):287–8
A Akpan, R Morgan, Oral candidiasis, Postgrad Med J 2002;78:455–459
This article is written by Jean Voice Dart, M.S. Special Education from Illinois State University. Jean is a published author and has written hundreds of health articles as well as hosting a local television program, “Making Miracles Happen.” She is a Registered Music Therapist, Sound Therapist, and Master Level Energetic Teacher, and is the Executive Director, founder and Health and Wellness Educator of the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance. The Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance is a registered 501 (c) 3 nonprofit health and wellness education organization. For more information about the Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance contact us or visit our website at www.montereybayholistic.com.
Disclaimer: The Monterey Bay Holistic Alliance is a charitable, independent registered nonprofit 501(c)3 organization and does not endorse any particular products or practices. We exist as an educational organization dedicated to providing free access to health education resources, products and services. Claims and statements herein are for informational purposes only and have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The statements about organizations, practitioners, methods of treatment, and products listed on this website are not meant to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. This information is intended for educational purposes only. The MBHA strongly recommends that you seek out your trusted medical doctor or practitioner for diagnosis and treatment of any existing health condition.