Beauty Health

The 6 Best Ways To Prevent and Treat Dry, Chapped Lips

Burning, stinging, dry, cracked lips — it’s tempting to lick, chew, or pick at them for any kind of relief, but you may just end up making things worse. The skin on your lips is sensitive and may need some extra TLC. Keep reading to learn more about the best ways to treat your chapped lips.  

Why Do I Have Chapped Lips?

The skin covering your lips is much thinner than the skin on the rest of your body. This means it tends to dry out and crack more easily. In fact, your lips dry out around 10 times faster than the rest of your skin. This is because your lips don’t have sebaceous glands, which make a protective layer of sebum (oil) on most of your skin.

Your face is also constantly exposed to the elements — whether it’s a dry and cold winter or sweltering sun in the summer. If you’re not properly moisturizing the skin or putting on lip balm with a sun protection factor (SPF), you’re at risk of getting chapped lips.

Dehydration leads to dry skin, including on your lips. If you’re not getting enough water, you may notice your skin becomes dry and starts peeling.

6 Ways To Prevent and Treat Chapped Lips

Tired of dry, burning, and irritated lips? Here are 6 tips to help.

1. Keep a Non-Irritating Lip Balm on Hand

These days, lip balms come in every color and flavor imaginable. While you may be tempted to reach for a tube of your favorite flavor and scent, it can actually do more harm than good.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) Association notes that lip balms with flavors and fragrances can irritate chapped lips and make them worse. Stop using a product if you’re experiencing any stinging, burning, or tingling. This isn’t a sign that the balm is working — it usually means you’re irritating your skin.

Instead, choose a lip balm with more soothing products. Read the labels and look for active ingredients like:

  • Ceramides
  • Petrolatum
  • Hemp seed oil
  • White petroleum jelly
  • Shea butter

2. Choose a Lip Balm With SPF

You’ve always been told to put on your sunscreen before going outside on a sunny day. But do you remember to protect your lips as well? This thin skin is especially sensitive and can burn easily. Look for a lip balm with an SPF of at least 30 and apply it before leaving your house. The AAD Association recommends balms with zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. Remember to reapply every few hours — along with your regular sunscreen.   

3. Apply Lip Balm Throughout the Day and Before Going to Bed

If you feel your lips getting dry, you can apply lip balm several times a day. Keep some at work, and in your car, pocket, or purse. Apply a layer of balm before heading outside — especially if it’s a dry, cold, or windy day. This protects your sensitive skin from the elements.

It’s also a good idea to apply a thicker ointment before going to bed. Try petroleum jelly or petrolatum to seal moisture into your lips longer than a balm or oil.

4. Drink Plenty of Water

The key to keeping your skin hydrated is to drink water throughout the day. According to Harvard Health Publishing, most people need to drink 4 to 6 cups (32 to 48 ounces) of plain water every day. You also get water from drinking tea and coffee or eating fruits and vegetables. Everyone has an individual fluid need that depends on:

  • Your overall health
  • Your activity levels
  • What (if any) medications you take
  • Your age  
  • The weather (you’ll likely need more water on hotter days)

The AAD Association also recommends using a humidifier in your bedroom at night, especially if you normally breathe through your mouth. It’s also useful if you live in a drier climate with low humidity. 

5. Avoid Licking and Touching Your Lips

It’s a hard urge to resist, but many experts recommend against licking your dry, chapped lips. Putting saliva on your lips can actually cause them to dry out more when it evaporates. Your saliva is also full of enzymes (chemicals) designed to break down the food you eat. While they’re great for digesting your latest meal, these enzymes can irritate your lips’ sensitive skin.

The same goes for touching, rubbing, or biting your lips. If you have dry skin flakes, it’s best to leave them alone. Picking off or biting dry skin can create painful sores or cracks that bleed. Instead, it’s best to apply a lip balm or ointment and leave them be.

6. Don’t Hold Metal Objects With Your Lips

Some metal objects can be irritating to your lips. Try to avoid holding paperclips, metal straws, and jewelry in your mouth. For an eco-conscious alternative, consider choosing a reusable silicone or bamboo straw.

Prevent and Treat Dry, Chapped Lips Infographic

By Emily Wagner

Emily earned a Bachelor of Science in biotechnology from Rochester Institute of Technology in 2018 and a Master of Science in biomedical sciences with a focus in pharmacology from University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in 2020. During her thesis work, she studied non-small cell lung cancer and how the immune system plays a role in response to different treatments. Emily feels privileged to use her research acumen and scientific mind to write about topics that advance the health and wellbeing of others. She currently lives in Colorado where she enjoys the mountains, spending time with her dog, baking, and reading a good book.