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Chapped Lips

Definition

Chapped lips are a result of very dry skin on the lips. Dry skin occurs when the moisture, or water, content of the skin is decreased for any reason.

What is going on in the body?

The surface of the skin holds a certain amount of water. When the water content decreases, the skin becomes dry, itchy, and uncomfortable. Some people have extremely sensitive skin that is easily irritated. Since a person's lips are often exposed to elements such as cold and moisture, the lips may become irritated before other parts of the body do.

Risks

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

Some individuals have a genetic predisposition to dry skin. As people age, their skin tends to become drier. Dry air, resulting from winter's low humidity and the use of indoor heat, can cause skin to dry out. Long, hot baths and showers can also make skin dry.
Factors that increase a person's risk of chapped lips include:
  • prolonged exposure to cold, dry weather
  • sunburn or windburn
  • smoking
  • a history of a skin disorder, such as eczema
  • a habit of licking the lips frequently
  • certain medications, such as those used to treat acne
  • allergic reactions to cosmetics or skin care products
  • dehydration

Prevention

What can be done to prevent the condition?

Some cases of chapped lips can be avoided by eliminating the cause of the condition. For example, chapping from an allergic reaction to a skin care product will go away when the individual stops using the product.
Other measures to prevent chapped lips include:
  • avoiding frequent licking of the lips
  • avoiding unnecessary exposure to cold weather, sun, or wind
  • applying lip balm frequently
  • eliminating any skin care products that may be triggering an allergic reaction
  • avoiding smoking
  • drinking plenty of water

Treatments

What are the treatments for the condition?

Chapped lips are treated the same way they are prevented, following the guidelines for avoiding exposure to the elements.

Side Effects

What are the side effects of the treatments?

There are no side effects to treatment, unless an individual is allergic to lip balm. Those individuals should choose unscented or hypoallergenic products.

After Treatment

What happens after treatment for the condition?

After chapped lips heal, no further treatment is needed.

Monitor

How is the condition monitored?

Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare professional.

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