As the temperatures cool down later this fall and winter, chapped lips may become a concern for many. However, chapped lips aren’t just a problem for people in cold temperatures. Dry, cracked lips can be problematic for anyone at any time during the year.
As a family dentist in Uptown Charlotte near Plaza Midwood, we are providing tips on how to prevent dry, cracked lips now and through the cooler months.
Why do lips get dry?
Dry lips are often caused by environmental factors that irritate the lips. This may include licking the lips, eating spicy foods, and having a cold. Sun exposure and dry, cold weather are common culprits as well. Since the lips do not have oil glands, they are more susceptible to becoming chapped.
Symptoms of dry lips
As they are called dry lips, dryness is an obvious symptom. However, additional symptoms may include:
- Flaking skin
- Sores on or around the lips
- Cracked skin
Chapped lips can also become painful, especially if they have sores or are bleeding.
Are dry, cracked lips a problem?
Having chapped lips is a common problem that strikes most of us at some point in our lives. Generally speaking, it is not a cause for concern. However, a more severe form of dry lips is called cheilitis which is caused by an infection. More advanced treatment may be needed to treat the infection and the dry, cracked skin around the mouth.
Causes of dry lips
While chapped lips are often caused by environmental factors, sometimes they signify a deeper, individual problem. Let’s delve into some of the more common causes.
If you are dehydrated, your body does not have enough water to keep the skin properly hydrated. As it dries out, the skin can become rough, scaly, or cracked.
Environmental exposures can cause dry lips. The wind, sun, and cool, dry air are often the most common culprits of chapped lips. The lack of moisture dries out the skin. Since the skin on the lips is so thin, they dry out faster than the rest of the body leading to chapped lips.
Many vitamins and nutrients contribute to healthy skin, including healthy, hydrated lips. Certain nutrient deficiencies can contribute to chapped lips, including:
- Iron aids in skin healing and inflammation regulation. A deficiency can lead to cheilitis.
- Zinc is important for skin health. A deficiency leads to dry, cracked lips, as well as inflammation around the mouth.
- Vitamin B deficiencies, especially low folate levels, can lead to dermatitis and skin conditions.
How dry lips affect your oral health
Dry, peeling lips are not a problem to ignore. If your lips and mouth are dry, you may not be producing enough saliva. This can lead to increased plaque on the teeth, tooth decay, and gum disease. You may also develop mouth sores or an infection in your mouth.
Solutions for dry, cracked lips
If you have chapped lips, consider the following tips to restore soft, smooth skin.
As mentioned above, dehydration can cause the lips to become dry and chapped. To avoid this, drink plenty of water, usually 8-10 glasses per day. Caffeinated drinks are not a substitute. Also, using a humidifier in your home can add moisture back into the air and thus hydrate your skin.
Applying a moisturizer, such as lip balm or petroleum jelly, is a simple way to keep your lips soft. Use the lip balm several times throughout the day and again before bed. Additionally, you can provide your lips with added protection by using a lip balm with SPF prior to going outdoors.
When your skin or lips are dry, exfoliation is a way to remove the dry, dead skin cells. The process helps to restore your soft, smooth lips. Do not scrub too hard or exfoliate more than twice per week as it could irritate your lips. You may create your own gentle exfoliating paste at home or find a store-bought option.
While your diet cannot affect the weather or dry air around you, certain foods may strengthen your skin and improve its moisture levels. Vitamin B helps protect your skin against skin disorders, including cracking; while vitamin A promotes overall skin health. Eating foods high in omega-3 fatty acids prevents dryness due to their anti-inflammatory properties.
Don’t lick your lips
Many of us are guilty of licking our lips, especially when they are dry. While it may seem like the best solution in using saliva to moisturize your lips, the opposite holds true. Repeatedly licking your lips can lead to lip licker’s dermatitis, a chronic lip and skin condition characterized by red, dry skin along the outer part of the lips and mouth.
Remember that the skin of the lips is thin. Constant licking dries the lips out, especially when exposed to cooler temperatures of the fall and winter.
Ask your dentist for tips to prevent dry, cracked lips!
Your dentist seeks to protect the health and integrity of your entire oral cavity, including your mouth. Since a dry mouth can affect your overall oral health, it is important to keep your lips properly hydrated all year. If you suffer from chapped lips, speak with your dentist for additional tips to keep your lips moisturized and healthy.
Contact us today to learn more about our dental services in Uptown Charlotte near Plaza Midwood.