If Your Lips Are Always Chapped, It May Have Something to Do With These 4 Things

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Dry, chapped lips can really be a pain — and I'm saying that as a person with a lip balm stashed in every bag and room in my house. Still, annoying as the condition may seem, chapped lips are also extremely common. That's because, according to dermatologist Marie Hayag, M.D., "lips don't have oil glands to produce natural moisturizing factors that protect and hydrate our outermost layer of skin." Lips can also be naturally dry because they lack the layer of skin that acts as a shield from harmful UV rays.

If you find yourself with dry lips often, however, there are plenty of other sneaky reasons why, and we had Dr. Hayag walk us through them. Read ahead to see some common reasons why your lips may often be dry, chapped, or peeling.

An Allergic Reaction
Getty | Plume Creative

An Allergic Reaction

If you notice itchiness, redness, or peeling on your lips, one explanation could be contact dermatitis, which, as Dr. Hayag explained, is an allergic reaction that can occur from having contact with certain foods, lip products, jewelry, and even toothpaste. "Allergic triggers can be not only lip products but other makeup, skincare, and toothpaste," she told POPSUGAR. "Cinnamic acid or cinnamon derivatives are common allergens in toothpaste."

According to Dr. Hayag, some common ingredients found in lip products that can cause irritation are vitamin E, castor oil, lanolin, and fragrances or flavorings. "A lot of lip balms contain these ingredients," she said. "Treatment is to find the cause and eliminate it. You don't necessarily develop a reaction right away after using a product. It's common to develop an allergy to an ingredient that you have been using for some time."

The best way to figure out what's causing irritation is by process of elimination, stopping the use of each product you think might be the culprit and then re-adding them to your routine after a few weeks.

"This is challenging and time consuming, so if all fails a visit to a dermatologist for a consultation and patch testing to likely ingredients would be prudent," Dr. Hayag said. "Using a topical steroid cream will help clear up the problem unless you are still using the suspected culprit."

Eating Salty or Spicy Foods

Eating Salty or Spicy Foods

If you've noticed that your lips are chapped and have also spent the last few months stress-eating unhealthy, processed foods, there's a good chance your eating habits — specifically eating salty or spicy foods — has a lot to do with it.

"Salt keeps water absorption from the lips and causes dryness," Dr. Hayag said. "Spicy foods can cause skin irritation and water loss. To help treat chapped or peeling lips as a result of salty or spicy foods, cut back on those types of foods!"

Dr. Hayag also recommends using "a basic lip balm with petroleum jelly or a paraffin base." Some good options are Vaseline Lip Therapy ($2) and CeraVe Healing Ointment ($20).

Getty | Eva Blanco


Your skin may also be dry because of a general lack of water intake, so to help with this, make sure you're drinking the appropriate amount of water per day.

According to a quote that Lori Zanini, RD, and creator of For the Love of Diabetes, previously gave to POPSUGAR, the average person should consume half their bodyweight (in pounds), in fluid ounces, daily. That means that if you weigh 175 pounds, you should try and drink 88 ounces of water (or 11 cups) a day.

Sun Damage

Sun Damage

According to Dr. Hayag, another cause for dry, cracked, or peeling lips can be actinic cheilitis, which is damage to the lips as a result of chronic sun exposure. "The long-term sun damage and inflammation can lead to precancerous lesions and skin cancers," she said. "You should seek evaluation by a dermatologist if dryness and scaly patches are persistent, especially in the lower lip."

You can treat this issue with topical treatments, light therapy, and lasers.