Chapped Lips Dry Air, Sun, Cold Dries Out Lips And Causes Cracks Or Splits

February 21, 2012 by staff 

Chapped Lips Dry Air, Sun, Cold Dries Out Lips And Causes Cracks Or Splits, When it comes to battling the elements, your skin serves as your front line of defense. But it’s your lips that really bear the brunt of the attack from sun, wind, cold, and dry air. It’s a wonder our mouths don’t suffer more in the line of duty-we bundle up in extra layers during the winter months, leaving our lips exposed.

“Lips are mucous membranes, so they have very thin surface layers of skin,” says Los Angeles dermatologist Jessica Wu, MD, a clinical instructor of dermatology at the University of Southern California (USC) Medical Center. When compared to the skin on the rest of your face, Wu says, lips are the most vulnerable to drying out. In fact, research shows you lose up to 10 times more moisture through your lips than you do elsewhere on the face or body.

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Arid winter air, arctic blasts of wind, and the low humidity indoors all lead to a crisis for your lips in the form of dehydration. Once moisture is sapped from skin cells, they become fragile so your lips develop tiny splits and c3acks. These tiny tears are what make chapped lips so painful — heat, acidic food, even toothpaste can aggravate raw skin, Wu says.
Licking Your Lips: The Problem
We can be our own worst enemy, says Scottsdale, Ariz., dermatologist Jennifer Linder, MD, clinical instructor at the University of California San Francisco. The instinct to lick your lips makes the chapping worse, Linder says.

“As saliva evaporates, it dehydrates skin further,” Linder tells WebMD. Saliva also contains acids that help break down food. Those acids only cause irritation when sitting on compromised lip skin, Linder says.

Another mistake people make in the effort to treat chapped lips: scrubbing, peeling or biting off skin flakes. “Picking at the already thin skin of the lips can lead to bleeding and severe discomfort,” Linder says. “This slows the healing process and irritates the skin further.”

Worst case: You can develop an infection from dirt and bacteria entering the c3acks and splits on your mouth. A common complication is cheilitis, Wu says, which can be related to a yeast infection in the corners of the mouth. It’s treatable with topical antifungal cream.

In addition, stressing or irritating the skin around the mouth can awaken a dormant herpes virus, and potentially trigger a cold sore, Wu says. Chapped lips also expose nerve endings, where the herpes virus lives. This exposure can stimulate the virus as well.

Keep Balm and Carry On
Your lips need a shield to stay in shape. A balm acts like a winterizing layer — like a hat or scarf — to provide a buffer between delicate skin and brutal weather, Linder says. Not to mention you have hot, dry indoor air to contend with, so never let your lips go n*de.

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