Does this scenario sound familiar? You reach into your purse (or pocket) and realize you forgot the very product you never leave home without: your lip balm! How will you survive the day — or even the hour — without it?!
For those of us with dry lips, we’d love to not need our lip balm. But without it, we’re dealing with a case of cracked, dry, itching lips. Is there any solution?
Yes! There are easy solutions to dry lips — but they rely on figuring out the cause.
Two factors affect our lips — things outside our bodies and things inside our bodies. Here’s how our lips get so dry (and what we can do to fix it).
The External Causes of Dry Lips
Things that come from the outside affect our lips more than we realize. Cinnamon is one of the main culprits. A strong cinnamon gum can make a big difference in the dryness of your lips.
However, one of the most unsuspecting causes of dry lips is our toothpaste. Many options have a combination of really strong flavors, teeth whiteners, and fresh breath ingredients. Have you ever tried one and thought, “Wow! This is strong. My mouth feels like it’s on fire!”
That’s not a good thing for your lips. See, when we brush our teeth or chew gum, the residue from the cinnamon, mint, or spices spreads to our lips — which are more sensitive than the lining of our mouths.
Even using the same brand of toothpaste consistently isn’t a safe bet. Sometimes a company will change their ingredients slightly, and you’ll end up with a tube that’s a little stronger than what you’re used to.
My recommendation is to use a bland toothpaste. Go for the bottom-shelf, cheap stuff. I like plain Crest. Even the toothpaste for sensitive teeth can have strong flavors. The best way to avoid the drying effect of toothpaste is to stay with the basic kind. It’s not the most exciting option, but it works great and won’t dry out your lips.
Is Toothpaste Really Causing Your Dry Lips?
So, how do you know if your toothpaste is causing the problem? Your lips might feel chapped, irritated, cracked, or especially sticky after you brush your teeth. Sometimes your lips are just uncomfortable after your daily brushings.
Some patients, particularly African-Americans, experience hyper-pigmentation when their lips turn lighter or darker in reaction to the product. These pigmentary changes come from sensitivity to the product.
Toothpaste isn’t always the culprit, but it’s the product we use multiple times a day that often makes the biggest impact.
However, if you notice these changes after chewing gum or using lozenges, that’s another potential source of the problem. For people who regularly chew gums, use lozenges, or eat hot peppers, pay attention to your lips afterward. That’s a likely reason for your dry lips.
You may also feel a change in your lips when you take certain medications. Oral antibiotics like Isotretinoin will quickly zap your lips of any moisture.
And as the weather changes to a cold and drier season, expect to see a change in your skin moisture levels too. Once the temperature drops, you’ll need to up your moisturizers.
Internal Causes of Dry Lips
Dry lips causes aren’t limited to the external factors. One of our instinctual habits can make it significantly worse — lip licking. Some people (particularly kids) lick their lips and don’t even realize they’re doing it. It doesn’t seem like a big deal until it causes skin irritation.
Why? The enzymes in our mouths help us digest food and break down proteins — but they’ll do the same to our skin. The more we lick those enzymes onto our lips, the more the skin on our lips breaks down.
Do You Have Chronic Dry Lips?
If you’ve been dealing with dry lips for a long time, that doesn’t mean you have a more serious problem. It just means you haven’t found what’s causing it yet. There is a cure for your dry lips.
Dry lips won’t cause any serious damage, but they will be uncomfortable. Lips can crack, bleed, or peel, which feels awful and looks terrible.
How to Get Rid of Dry Lips
If you’re wondering how to fix your dry lips, take a look at the causes. Ask yourself these questions to see if you can figure out the source of the problem:
- What kind of toothpaste do I use?
- Do I regularly chew gum?
- Do I use lozenges?
- Am I on a medication with a dry-skin side effect?
- Am I licking my lips without realizing it?
- Did the weather just change?
Then make some changes. If you’re not sure where to start, switch your toothpaste. It’s the #1 cause of lip dryness — and we don’t even think about it.
Is Lip Balm Bad for My Lips?
Finally, dry lips or not, some of us can’t live without our lip balm. Lip balm isn’t bad, but do you feel addicted? You shouldn’t.
If you’re a lip balm lover, take a look at your habits. Your lips are likely irritated from something like brushing your teeth. Now you feel like you can’t leave home without your lip stuff.
For severe cases, the best lip balm for dry lips is Dr. Dan’s Cortibalm. It’s a great over-the-counter option with hydrocortisone to quickly heal your lips.
Dry lips aren’t a condition you have to live with. There are solutions. If you’ve tried to find the cause and make some changes, but your condition doesn’t seem to improve, your dermatologist can help. They’ll be able to help you find the reason for your dryness and the solution that will get your lips back to new, healthy, and normal.
Dr. R. Todd Plott is a board-certified dermatologist in Coppell, Keller, and Saginaw, TX. His specialization and professional interests include treating patients suffering with acne, identifying and solving complex skin conditions such as psoriasis, rosacea, atopic dermatitis, and identifying and treating all types of skin cancers. In his spare time, Dr. Plott enjoys cycling, traveling with his wife, and spending time with his children and new grandson.
Learn more about Dr. Plott.