The skin on your lips is thin and delicate. While the rest of your skin contains oil glands that help to keep it protected and moisturized, your lips lack these glands, making them prone to dryness and chapping.
This also makes your lips are highly susceptible to environmental effects, such as wind, sun, smoking, and temperature extremes.
Preventing Chapped Lips
Chapped lips are one of the first obvious signs of under-hydration. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day will help keep your lips and skin hydrated from the inside out.
Using a bland lip balm or cream can help to seal in moisture and restore the protective barrier. Avoid lip balms and cosmetics containing irritating ingredients, such as fragrances, flavors, beeswax, preservatives, and dyes, as these can further dry your lips and worsen the chapping.
Anytime you are outside during the day, apply sunscreen to your lips to protect them from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. It can also be helpful to wear a scarf or mask to protect against cold weather, wind, low humidity, and allergens.
If the air in your home is dry, install a humidifier to add moisture to the air. This is especially common during the winter months.
Treating Chapped Lips
If your lips are already chapped, there are several things you can do to ease the discomfort and speed up the healing process.
While it may be tempting to lick your lips more frequently to try to keep them moist, this will only aggravate the problem and make them even drier. Saliva contains enzymes that break down the skin’s protective barrier, reducing moisture and increasing your vulnerability to irritants.
Apply a lip balm as soon as possible. Be aware that flavored lip balms may make the problem worse, as they can contain irritating ingredients, or they might lead you to lick your lips more often.
If your lips are peeling or flaking, avoid the temptation to pick, rub, or chew them off. This can lead to bleeding, cracks, and sores and increase your susceptibility to infection.
Many people do not even realize how regularly they lick their lips or pick at them. Increasing your self-awareness of this nervous habit, and ultimately reversing it, is a key step in the prevention and healing process.
Consult your doctor if your chapped lips do not heal despite your best efforts. There might be an underlying medical condition or infection causing or contributing to the dryness.