The skin of the lips is very sensitive and much thinner than the skin on other parts of the body. At the same time, thin skin is what makes lips prone to peeling, dryness, and cracking. Toothpaste, spicy food, alcohol, sunlight, and matte lipsticks can affect lips and make them very dry. Sometimes, lips lack oil glands and cannot produce enough moisture that even chapstick can be helpless. Chapped lips can also be provoked by psychological or physical problems. Let’s figure out why lips can become dry and what to do about it.
Why lips become dry and flaky?
Lips are large folds of muscles, subcutaneous tissue, skin and mucous membranes. Lips have many blood vessels (that’s why they are pink) and nerve endings (a hundred times more than in the fingertips) but they don’t have sweat glands. Therefore, lips easily lose moisture and are prone to dryness.
Lip licking seems a natural thing to do when they are dry but in fact, this is harmful. Water from saliva evaporates quickly and lips become dry again, but saliva components (such as enzymes) remain on your lips and can damage the skin causing lip licker’s dermatitis. Lip licking often becomes a bad habit. Teeth whitening paste can also be harmful to your lips since its components (sodium lauryl sulfate, pyrophosphate, and some fragrances) can irritate delicate lip skin or cause dermatitis.
What to do about it?
If your lips are dry, you can simply apply lip balm and protective products which you use for the face skin. The British National Health Service recommends covering the lower part of the face with a scarf or collar in cold and windy weather and the Mayo Clinic advises to drink plenty of water, use a humidifier, exfoliate regularly, use sunscreen, and avoid lip products that contain known allergens. By the way, smoking irritates the skin and drys out lips making them more likely to crack.
Keep in mind that many balms act the same way as lip licking. If the balm has a cooling or tingling effect, most likely it contains components like camphor, menthol or eucalyptus which negatively affect lip skin. Other harmful ingredients include flavors (especially cinnamon, citrus, and peppermint), lanolin, hydroxybenzene, phenol, and salicylic acid. It’s better to choose an odorless lip balm, paying attention to such components as petroleum jelly (it can be called petrolatum, petroleum jelly, paraffin oil or white petrolatum), ceramides, dimethicones, mineral oil, different oils, and beeswax. You can also try natural lip remedies such as coconut oil, honey, aloe vera, green tea, and cucumber. These products have anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties and can moisturize and soothe your lips.
Constant lip-biting requires treatment which depends on the cause. This problem may be provoked by either physical or psychological issues. Anxiety, stress or fear can lead to body-focused repetitive behavior (BFRB), that is, compulsively damaging skin, nails or hair. According to the TLC Foundation, cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most effective treatments for BFRB, including lip biting.
Constant lip biting or licking can be a problem associated with dental problems. People with malocclusion and temporomandibular disorder often bite their lips, therefore, dental consultation may be helpful. If you experience dermatitis around the mouth, contact your dermatologist to get appropriate treatment.
If you don’t have any lip or skin problems but you still can’t moisturize them, you can choose the long-term option such as biorevitalization. This is a procedure that increases natural collagen production and provides healthy skin color and elasticity.