What Your Chapped Lips Could Really Mean


Winter is a hard time for every skin type, whether you're dry or oily. The outdoor air combined with the indoor heat can dehydrate our skin and cause lips to crack, bleed, and peel. Many of us shrug off chapped lips as par for the course, but really, they can be a sign of more significant health issues. Here are seven ways chapped lips could be a sign of something else more serious than a dehydrated pout.

Your peeling and cracked dry lips can be a sign of a number of things, including dehydration, an allergy, or a vitamin deficiency Sure, the typical culprit of chapped lips is licking our lips (using saliva to hydrate our lip’s skin), but that's not always the reason for your rough skin. A good indication that your dry lips are signaling something else about your health is if it seems like they're impossible to hydrate, and they even cause you pain. Those are both signs that may give you reason to seek some medical attention.

If you suspect that your dry pucker is being caused by something more serious than winter's dry and cold weather, take a look at these seven common, but more alarming causes of chapped lips.

1. A Yeast Infection


Did you know that your cracked lips may be a sign of a yeast infection? This is especially true if you have cracks around the corner of our mouth. "When you lick your lips excessively, the warm, moist saliva encourages yeast to grow, especially when the saliva builds up in the corners of the mouth," Dr. Michele Green, a New York-based dermatologist, tells Bustle over email. The best remedy is to hydrate — drink lots of water and avoid licking your lips. It can also help to use a moisturizing barrier like beeswax balm or Vaseline to stop the buildup of saliva, Green says.

2. An Allergic Reaction


If your lips look like you just came back from a filler appointment, this may be an allergic reaction. Lip-plumping products are a common reason for allergic reactions, Dr. Debra Jaliman, a New York-based dermatologist, tells Bustle over email. "Cinnamon and cayenne powder are commonly found in lip plumpers and can cause a reaction," she says. You could also be allergic to certain foods. Take note of what you're eating and using and adjust until you find the right product for you.

3. Dehydration


Dry lips, mouth, and eyes are all signs of dehydrated skin that lacks a proper amount of water. To avoid dehydration, "drink at least eight cups of water a day," Jaliman says. You should also use lips balms with hydrating ingredients such as jojoba oil or shea butter, she adds.

4. Sun Damage


"Long-term sun exposure can cause the lips to become dry and stiff, resulting in cracking or splitting," Green says. If you don't protect your lips from the sun's UV rays, that can also lead to inflammation, she adds. Even on the coldest winter days, make sure to use a lip product with SPF in it.

5. A Vitamin Deficiency


Vitamin B plays an important role in the regular functioning of your body. It provides energy, helps your immune system fight off diseases, and contributes to healthy skin, Green says. Without enough Vitamin B in your system, you may experience a variety of skin issues, such as dry lips, she adds. To make sure you're not deficient, eat plenty of Vitamin B-rich foods like eggs and lean meat.

6. Too Much Vitamin A


On the flip side, dry lips can mean you're intaking too much Vitamin A. Vitamin A toxicity can occur if you're taking too many supplements — you should be careful in taking Vitamin A supplements because most of it should come from your diet. "The excess amount of Vitamin A is stored in the liver, and it accumulates over time, causing a variety of symptoms, such as excessive cracking on the corners of the mouth, dryness, and peeling of the skin," Green says.

7. Medication


Certain medications can also lead to dry, cracked lips. "High blood pressure meds, anti-depressants, and chemotherapy drugs are among some that are known to cause dry lips," Jaliman says. These drugs decrease the production of saliva, which can dry out your lips and mouth. Consult your doctor if you think a medication is the reason behind your dry lips.

Studies referenced:

Sheetal, A. (2013) “Malnutrition and Its Oral Outcome – A Review.” Journal Of Clinical And Diagnostic Research,


Dr. Michele Green, New York-based dermatologist

Dr. Debra Jaliman, New York-based dermatologist

Additional reporting by Eden Lichterman.

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