Health Tip Tuesday: Chapped Lips

It may sound like a petty problem, but chapped lips can quite literally be a major irritation.

My stepmother once got into a tangle with a feisty cat, and the cat won.

She ended up being admitted to the hospital after her scratched and bitten hand became infected. So did she want visitors to bring her magazines? Flowers? Ice cream? No — all she wanted was some ChapStick.

It may sound like a petty problem, but chapped lips can quite literally be a major irritation.

Weather extremes like what we’ve seen recently can bring out the worst in your lips. Cracking, peeling, tearing and even bleeding can develop from too much exposure to wind and cold temperatures. Other things that can cause chapped lips include dry indoor air, mouth-breathing (while sleeping or when your nose is clogged), frequent nose-blowing, dehydration, ill-fitting dentures and even some medications.

Lips lose moisture much faster than other parts of the body because the skin is so thin and lips have no protective hair layer or oil glands.

The Office on Women’s Health, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, offers some tips for combatting chapped lips:

  • Treat lips as needed with a balm or lip moisturizer that contains ingredients such as cocoa butter, vitamins A and E, beeswax, petrolatum or dimethicone. Reapply lip protection before heading out into harsh weather conditions.
  • Protect lips from sunburn with a balm that has an SPF of 15 or higher. If you wear lipstick, apply the balm first.
  • Choose a balm that includes an alpha-hydroxy acid to soothe and exfoliate lips that are already chapped. You can exfoliate by coating with lip balm, gently brushing lips with a toothbrush to remove flakes, and then wiping clean and applying more lip balm.
  • Try not to lick your lips. It may feel good at first, but the evaporating moisture will actually cause your lips to dry out more.
  • Cover your mouth with a scarf when outdoors.
  • Use a humidifier to alleviate dry air inside your home.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking lots of water.

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