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What Causes Chapped Lips?

By J. Beam
Updated May 21, 2024
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Chapped lips are the result of diminished moisture in the skin on and around the lips. In most cases, they are caused by the elements, although other factors, such as frequent licking of the lips or an allergic reaction, may be the cause. Chapped lips is a common condition and can be treated fairly simply.

Dry, cracked, painful chapped lips may result in a red ring around the mouth. In the summer, the sun can be responsible, but the routine use of a lip balm containing sunscreen can help prevent it. In the winter, chapped lips are a more common problem, because the air is dry and the cold wind further dries the lips out. Many people unconsciously lick their lips to relieve the dryness, making the problem worse. Just as in the summertime, a moisturizing lip balm containing sunscreen and help the lips heal.

Petroleum jelly or beeswax based lip balm is effective in preventing chapped lips. In the event that chapping become a severe problem, such as with habitual licking, and the redness, cracking, and dryness become so painful that talking or chewing is difficult, individuals should use a medicated lip balm. People should avoid using flavored lip balm, as it can encourage more frequent licking of the lips, especially in children.

Frequent and regular application of lip balm often relieves chapped lips without further incident. Other ways to prevent this problem include increasing the humidity in the home and covering the lips with a ski mask or scarf in the winter. Frequent washing of the mouth followed by application of lip balm also helps alleviate the discomfort of dry lips. In some cases, a prescription lip balm may be required if the symptoms are not alleviated with regular treatment or if the condition becomes so severe that the skin begins to bleed.

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Discussion Comments
By anon344911 — On Aug 14, 2013

Chelitis is the name for the cracks in the corners of your mouth. Toothpaste can be partly to blame and certain ingredients. As an Esthetician, I can tell you from experience to avoid petroleum based products when possible (it just forms a shield to keep moisture in, but it does not add moisture). Your best bet is a nut butter based balm, like shea butter. Use something with shea, avocado, coconut.

Despite my distaste for petroleum based products, there is the one and only wonderful (and much more than petroleum) product by Elizabeth Arden called '8 hour cream' which is actually an orange looking ointment. I keep it by the bed, put it on my lips in the mid of the night, and under my eyes as well, to keep the area 'plumped'. It is a product used by every pro makeup artist I've ever known. Damn that was wordy. But I hope it helps.

By anon336385 — On May 28, 2013

Could well be a medical problem or an allergy causing dry lips. I read somewhere of allergies causing dry lips.

By anon327813 — On Mar 30, 2013

Petroleum jelly is horrible for lips. I have used chap stick for years that had it as the main ingredient. Now my lips are constantly dry, cracking in the corners, and dry all around. It get super embarrassing. There are two things that have really helped me out: (1) Burt's Bees Chap Stick Mango Butter, (2) Aquaphor. The Aquaphor really helps with super cracked lips. It is extremely bare/pure, and has the same texture as vaseline/petroleum jelly, however without the horrible side effects. Burts Bees is amazing in the Mango flavor - it is the only flavor that is soft and smooth.

By anon231911 — On Nov 28, 2011

When I was younger, I would get chapped lips a few times a year, and I remember constantly picking at them when it happened because I didn't know what to do about them. But now that I'm older, it has gotten to the point where if I skip one night of putting petroleum jelly on them before bed they get all cracked up.

I'm a teenager now and I tell my mom what's going on but she doesn't listen to try anything else that will help me not have to put stuff on my lips every day. Petroleum jelly may work for me but I'm tired of putting it on every day!

By anon211180 — On Sep 01, 2011

To all of you who think that some sort of ointment is the cure -- it's not.

Double your average daily intake of water for two weeks and see what happens. Nine times out of 10, it's due to a lack of hydration. Otherwise you're usually looking at wind-burn or sunburn (sunburn least common). Chap-stick is a bane to all our lips. Lanolin is a deception, relieving the pain without curing the problem.

By anon194361 — On Jul 07, 2011

I'm reading all your comments and I identify with you all. I live in South America, and tried all existing lip balms here and none of them work. I've seen lots of dermatologists and they were useless. Last year I had a surgery on my lip, because i had a huge mole i wanted to remove. And the situation in my lips got worse.

I really hate my lips. My upper lip is fine but not the other. The only thing that seems to work is Ceralip by La Roche-Posay or Enydrial by Roc. It is a curse, really.

By anon182019 — On May 31, 2011

Four nights ago i came home and noticed two spots on my top lip were on fire, kind of where a glass would touch your lips when you drink. I put on chapstick and went to bed.

As the days went on, it got worse. It spread all over my lips. Chapstick makes it burn. I've seen all the pictures of herpes and it is definitely not that. They are swollen and chapped worse than I've ever had them. They feel like sand paper.

My daughter loves to give kisses and it's hard to tell her no but now she's telling me her lips burn too. The corners of my mouth are split so i can't open them too much. What can this be? Please help.

I tried blistex today and it burned for just a second but seemed to provide temporary relief. It just doesn't make sense why my daughter's lips are now hurting.

By anon170057 — On Apr 24, 2011

i play the flute and my dry lips always annoy me when I'm playing. I'm constantly picking at my lips, licking them and smothering them with lip balm. Every day when i wake up, they are dry! I think it may be because I'm not much of a meat eater, and apparently dry lips can be due to lack of iron.

I also get cold sores often, but for some reason they usually occur when i put lip balm on at night. i thought cold sores occur when your lips are dry! So now I'm going to try coconut oil and drink lots of water and iron and b vitamins. My hair is usually dry as well, even though I've stopped straightening it. could dry hair somehow be related to dry lips? just curious.

By anon168552 — On Apr 17, 2011

Honey works. I have read that B-12 and iron deficiencies can cause chapped lips.

By anon157998 — On Mar 05, 2011

Aquaphor is the only thing that works for me. I think it's essentially Vaseline plus lanolin. There are small travel sized tubes that I keep everywhere. I actually think lip balms make it worse for me and sometimes lead to cold sores because of lip irritation.

By anon157114 — On Mar 01, 2011

I took several of the recommendations above in this string, and it so helped my chapped lips! I cannot thank you kind posters enough.

I had inflamed, chapped/cracking lips for two months straight (it's winter) and I couldn't take it anymore, I'd tried everything. It was torture to eat and I had to drink through a straw. I bought the Neosporin Lip Treatment and the A+D Ointment and used the Neosporin at night and the A+D during the day. In three days my lips were almost healed!

By anon153374 — On Feb 17, 2011

I've had burning, tingling, extremely chapped/peeling and increasingly darkening of the lips for the past three weeks. My lips are dark enough now that I've been trying to cover them with lip stain (which may do more harm than good). I have experienced a numb tongue in the past from the use of whitening toothpastes so...? I have been using a different brand of toothpaste for about a month and stopped yesterday after I realized that it could be the problem. The burning has stopped and I hope that I'm on the right track. In the meantime, I've been using lots of lip balm.

By anon147399 — On Jan 29, 2011

The body is lacking (being deprived of) B vitamins and/or iron and/or essential fatty acids and/or is stressed and/or is entertaining chronic negative thoughts.

Covering the symptoms (dry lips) with oils and/or "homemade poultices" and/or water only brings temporary relief.

By anon146136 — On Jan 25, 2011

I recently stumbled into this horrible world of chapped and chafed lips and it's awful!

My friends and family thought I developed a fetish for chap-stick, since I had them planted everywhere, which still wasn't helping.

After trying five different suggestions off the internet (I'm cheap- no doctor or Dermatologist), I found my relief in good old "A+D Ointment". Found it at Walmart or any reputable drug store. Even though it's petroleum based, it's the whooping 15.5 percent Lanolin that soothes your lips and soul instantly.

Chapstick, beeswax, medicated chapstick have a pin drop of lanolin in them, which is why they don't work, and of course vaseline has no lanolin. Cortisone based creams and anti-itch cream didn't help me either, or neosporin. After nearly five months of suffering, things are back to normal. I hope this helps; it did for me!

By anon143025 — On Jan 14, 2011

i too have chapped lips. I saw an allergist and dermatologist and my lips are still dry, itchy, and swollen. got some samples to try, but thought i would throw it out there for other people interested. dr. dan's cortibalm that contains 1 percent hydrocortisone and petroleum jelly. you have to have it ordered in or checkout his website. so far it seems okay, I'll see tomorrow. I've tried all steroids, different types of lotions/creams and none work. i am hopeful of the cortibalm as it is an anti-inflammatory.

By anon138816 — On Jan 02, 2011

My son's lips are always sore, they say from his allergies. We were told only 100 percent petroleum jelly could be used for his lips. His lips are still very sore.

The only time he ever had relief was when he took Prednisone {Cortisone pills)for itching. His lips cleared up immediately it was amazing to see them so clear. When he stopped the prescription they became sore again immediately. And you can't take those meds. long term.

So now I don't know what to do. He is on allergy meds. but it doesn't help his lips.

By anon134137 — On Dec 13, 2010

As a fair blonde, every winter I end up with red, raw chapped lips at least twice. Dry heat and cold winds are the main culprits, but I also react to certain beauty products more during the winter. I have to be careful to avoid lip area when washing my face or getting a facial.

Really, the only thing that works well is Neosporin. It's petroleum jelly based but has an analgesic to help with the stinging and burning. Plus it helps to moisturize.

By anon125520 — On Nov 09, 2010

I have a bad habit of putting my lips into my mouth, which I guess is the same as licking my lips. I've been doing this ever since maybe preschool or so.

I am now a high school student and I still do it. One of friends who is a girl notices my chapped lips frequently and tells me to get carmex, but I am too lazy, so I try not to put my lips into my mouth and it has gotten way better.

I currently use vaseline and drink lots of water, which helps a lot, but now seeing this article has made me watch my mouth 24/7. Can't figure out what's wrong with me.

By anon121360 — On Oct 24, 2010

For dry lips I would suggest excessive intake of water and eating rich in iron like curry leaves and green leafy vegetables can avoid these problems. Regards, vish

By anon115727 — On Oct 04, 2010

I use Lucas Papaw Ointment for my lips. It's very effective and spreads thickly on the lips unlike chap stick which spreads thinly and sometimes makes the dryness worse. I have thick lips which always chap quite severely in winter. This Papaw ointment never fails, and I highly recommend it. Look it up. it is also cheap. I paid $7.00.

By anon114680 — On Sep 29, 2010

Nothing will ever beat prescription medicine for severely chapped lips. OTC lip balms and Vaseline are good to use as preventative measures, as is eating healthy, drinking lots of water, not smoking, etc.

My dermatologist recommended Triamcinolone Acetonide ointment two to three times per day and my lips went back to normal after six applications. With insurance, the ointment cost me $6!

Go see a dermatologist. Hope this helps.

By anon114212 — On Sep 27, 2010

everyone needs to stop saying vaseline/petroleum jelly is the answer, it's not. its only helpful for minor lip hydration, it's not a long term solution. it dries out my lips, making them more cracked and peel even more, leaving me in more pain than before the jelly was applied.

By anon114160 — On Sep 27, 2010

i used vaseline but it never worked. my lips stayed red. please help. i can't find anything to help me

By anon109957 — On Sep 09, 2010

what I've found out is, that it's caused by wheat/gluten intolerance, but this may not be for everyone.

By anon102102 — On Aug 06, 2010

petroleum jelly, i.e., vaseline is addictive! I drink loads of water and i heard to use coconut oil, which I'll try soon.

I'm suffering from withdrawal symptoms of not using vaseline for two days now, but I'm determined to make it. It's ridiculous to be addicted to that little tin.

People did survive when such chemical products didn't exist, as well.

By anon99620 — On Jul 27, 2010

I would say at night, i would mix some olive oil and petroleum jelly and put it on and maybe set an alarm every three to four hours depending how badly your lips need it. This will help to soothe and soften up your lips. Remember to coat it heavily so your lips don't soak it right in. Then during the day when you are in the sun, use some spf carmex.

By anon92056 — On Jun 25, 2010

My son too is suffering from chapped lips. can someone help, please? Worried mom.

By anon80461 — On Apr 27, 2010

My son had cracked bleeding lips and vaseline and other lip balms weren't working. They got so bad they were swollen and there were little spots of blood all over his pillow. I felt so bad! We took him to the doctor and he said neosporin. In two days it was totally gone.

By anon75631 — On Apr 07, 2010

My chapped/cracked lips respond only to anti-bacterial treatment or a good sweat in the sauna.

When my lips start to crack, usually after I have gone to bed without properly brushing my teeth, the only remedy that works (fast, and consistently) is to brush with crest complete (contains triclosan ) and polysporin ointment for the lips themselves.

I use the ointment two or three times a day along with some olive oil to allow penetration, and keep my lips soft with sweet almond oil in between.

I hate using toxic antibiotics and anti-bacterial products, but nothing else has worked.

Also, tea tree oil was helpful when added to sweet almond oil. Don't use it full strength as it caused peeling/rawness when I did that. Dilute it at about three drops into 5 ML of the sweet almond oil. You could also use olive, avocado or jojoba. I now use a mix of them as I have it on hand as a shaving oil.

By anon75143 — On Apr 05, 2010

I read in a medical book to use zinc oxide for my burning dry lips; they were driving me crazy. So last night I used penatan cream which is zinc oxide. Now I feel much better.

I will see my doctor this month and see what she has to say. This is a very stressful thing as forever you are aware of the burning and dry lips.

Have not used a lipstick for ages as my lips hurt and burn so much. Hope this oxide works, it seems to be so far.

Good luck with this and give it a try.

By anon73865 — On Mar 29, 2010

Vaseline contains petroleum. Don't use it, you're poisoning yourself.

Burt's Bees takes away the sting of chapped lips in an instant and it's natural. Basically any natural lip balm works wonders.

By anon73718 — On Mar 29, 2010

My 10 year old son has had dry lips for over a year now and we went to the doctor and he was not much help at all. I think he just thought that i needed to buy some lip balm. Hello!

I have used every brand of lip balm and he is not getting better. He is very sad that nothing helps. At the moment he just uses vaseline.

I am going to take him to another doctor and hopefully he knows better than the last one.

My son can`t go out without checking if his vaseline is in his pocket, poor child. This has really been a ongoing struggle for more than a year. Day in and day out he has to put on the lip balm. If not, his lips get bright red and he is in pain.

By anon71112 — On Mar 17, 2010

I have had chapped lips for about three weeks now. They started out being chapped and then started to get real sore and really red. They really hurt and they even started to swell a little bit, the doctor says i could have had an allergic reaction to something. they gave me benadryl for it and some lip cream but I'm still not really feeling better yet.

By anon70016 — On Mar 11, 2010

vaseline is best material for lips.

By anon68834 — On Mar 04, 2010

Dry, cracked lips are also a symptom of iron deficiency.

By anon65774 — On Feb 15, 2010

L-Lysine is best when taken to shorten and stop outbreak of a sore! Believe me! I've dealt with this for over 40 years and I stand by it!

By anon65098 — On Feb 11, 2010

Has anyone tried Labbri lip treatment? It's been getting a lot of talk on a message board and people were saying they've tried everything and it's the only one that worked for them. My lips are really bad and I'm thinking of giving it a try.

By anon60921 — On Jan 17, 2010

One word: Vaseline

By anon60285 — On Jan 13, 2010

@olittlewood: You do know that cold sores in fact is oral herpes, right?


^ replace the @@ in the address link above with tt.

By anon60119 — On Jan 12, 2010

I have always suffered from dry cracked lips, and my father before me. He explained to me in his old age that this dry lips were linked to other stomach disorders (which I dismissed as poppycock). However while traveling to Asia and changing my diet from processed food to fresh cooked food - my dry lips vanished within days!

By anon58798 — On Jan 04, 2010

Can be also due to stress related issues.

By anon54488 — On Nov 30, 2009

Burt's creates a cycle of addiction without actually helping your lips. Petroleum jelly is much better.

By anon49218 — On Oct 18, 2009

If the problem is lack of moisture, would hydrating internally help?

By anon47776 — On Oct 07, 2009

I have only had this probably recently, my lips are sore and they hurt. I avoid salty foods and spicy foods. Finally I found a site that said this can be caused by an allergic reaction to some toothpaste. I recently switched brands. I'm definitely going to switch back and see if that helps. (I was using a dollar store brand).

By anon41964 — On Aug 18, 2009

To get rid of cold sores take L-Lysine. I have found that to be the most effective. I also have lip problems, chapstick started to react. I loved to use Burt's Bees, and it got much worse. Now all I use on my lips is Neosporin Lips. Special non-medicated formula and now my lips are almost normal.

By anon40496 — On Aug 09, 2009

littlewood: I used to use chapstick all the time as a kid because my lips were always dry.

One day I stopped using chapstick and started using Burt's Bees lip balm and realized that it was the chapstick that was *causing*my lips to get dry.

Chapstick greased my lips so it felt like it was helping my lips but whenever there was no chapstick, my lips were so dry.

I will never buy another chapstick product, ever.

You should try Burt's bees or something similar. It feels less greasy, so it might feel like it's less effective, but trust me, when something like that wears off, it doesn't leave your lips super dry like chapstick does.

I've heard local, natural lip balms are even better than Burt's so I can't wait to try those when I get to a bigger city!

By anon40491 — On Aug 08, 2009

my chapped lips started few years back. i think the contributing factor to it is because of the weather. i've tried everything (i think) and it seems to be the same. it really annoys me.

By anon24154 — On Jan 08, 2009

best thing for dried lips is petroleum jelly, no matter the condition.

By anon9484 — On Mar 07, 2008


I got chapped lips all the time of the year, and had tried all medication but no further changes. I had already consulted an attending physician but the problem still there. I would appreciate if you can give time to answer my problem. thank you !

By anon6935 — On Jan 13, 2008

I have chapped lips all the year

i've used all kinds of medicines but it doesn't work

i have this problem many years ago

how you can help me

By olittlewood — On Jan 04, 2008

they say that you can't get addicted to chapsticks containing menthol, but i HAVE to have one to keep my lips hydrated. i can't sleep unless i have one next to my bed, and have to have one in my pocket, on my desk, in my car or i get a little freaked. i hate the feeling of dry lips, and i'm afraid i'm only making it worse by my lip balm obsession. i'm also prone to getting cold sores, and i've found that if i let my lips get really dry, i can get them. are dry lips more susceptible to cold sores?

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