Help for Chapped Lips

Yvette C. Terrie, BSPharm, RPh
Published Online: Friday, December 1, 2006

This article is brought to you by Carma Laboratories, makers of Carmex.

Chapped lips can occur in any season of the year, although they are particularly common during the winter months. Chapped lips can be painful, embarrassing, and uncomfortable. They may sometimes cause difficulty in talking, eating, and drinking. Understanding the causes, treatments, and prevention can help you reduce or avoid the occurrence of chapped lips.

What Causes Chapped Lips?

The outer layer of the lips is thin. The lip area is more sensitive to chapping because the lips do not produce oils as the skin does to protect it from drying out. Thus it is easy for moisture to evaporate from the lips, and the lips can dry out quickly and easily.

Chapped lips are most often caused by being in overly windy, sunny, or dry conditions. Chapped lips, however, also can be caused by any of the following:

  • Smoking
  • Dehydration
  • Repeatedly licking the lips
  • Skin disorders such as eczema
  • Allergic reactions to certain skin care products or cosmetics
  • Use of certain medications such as anti-acne products

Signs and Symptoms of Chapped Lips

If you have chapped lips, you may experience the following symptoms:

  • Dryness
  • Redness
  • Tenderness and sensitivity
  • Cracking, splitting, or peeling
  • Pain

Treating Chapped Lips

A variety of topical nonprescription products are available for treating or preventing chapped lips. These products typically contain ingredients that assist in healing, such as skin protectants, moisturizers, pain relievers, and sunscreens.

An example of these products is the lip moisturizer Carmex, which is manufactured by Carma Laboratories. Carmex is highly recommended by many pharmacists for providing relief from the symptoms that are often associated with chapped lips.

The active ingredients in Carmex are as follows:

  • Menthol—gives Carmex a cooling effect and helps relieve itching
  • Camphor—helps relieve pain
  • Phenol—has a numbing effect on the lips
  • A fragrance

Other ingredients make up the ointment base:

  • Cocoa butter
  • Beeswax
  • Petrolatum
  • Lanolin

These ingredients provide Carmex with the added benefit of sealing in moisture when it is applied to the affected lip area—especially the petrolatum and lanolin, because they are excellent skin protectants.

Carmex is available in a compact jar, a squeeze tube, and a click-stick lip balm device. The click-stick formulation contains sunscreen with sun protection factor (SPF) 15. If you want extra sun protection, a mint-flavored clickstick has SPF 30.

According to the manufacturer's recommendations, you may apply Carmex to the affected lip area as needed. In general, lip balm treatments have no adverse effects unless you have an allergy to any of the ingredients. If you do, you should see your doctor before using any lip-moisturizing products.

Preventing Chapped Lips

Some cases of chapped lips can be resolved if the cause is removed—for example, if chapped lips are caused by the use of skin care products that may cause dry skin or allergic reactions. The best defense for chapped lips is to prevent them from occurring.

You can reduce or even prevent chapped lips by taking the following simple steps:

  • Avoid licking or biting the lips, because the saliva will evaporate and cause more drying of the lip area
  • Use a lip balm to protect your lips before going out in dry, cold, or windy weather
  • Apply lip balm prior to using lipstick for added protection, especially during the winter months
  • Wear a scarf to cover your lip area in cold or windy weather
  • Use a lip moisturizer that has a sunscreen protectant when you are outside in sunny weather
  • Avoid excessive sun exposure

Other ways to prevent chapped lips are as follows:

  • Avoid improper fitting dentures (see your dentist to ensure a proper fit)
  • Avoid smoking
  • Use a humidifier in your home to keep the air from becoming too dry
  • Drink enough water to stay hydrated

Final Words

When chapped lips occur, it is important for you to treat them in order to prevent complications. If your lips show signs of swelling or bleeding, consult your physician immediately for further treatment.

While chapped lips can sometimes be annoying, they are a very common condition and can occur at any time of the year. Chapped lips are seldom associated with serious complications, especially if treated correctly. In fact, prevention and treatment options for chapped lips are often very similar. For instance, protective lip balm products, such as Carmex, if used as part of a daily preventive treatment plan, are very effective in the prevention of chapped lips, as well as in treating chapped lips by providing relief and promoting healing.

Ms. Terrie is a clinical pharmacy writer based in Haymarket,Va.




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