12 Tried and Tested Treatments for Chapped Lips

(Last Updated On: August 3, 2018)

Dry skin is a common skin problem. Your skin is your body’s barrier against the environment, and harsh products you might come into contact with. It has to deal with the sun, the wind, detergents, chemicals, and pollution, so no wonder it can end up dry and irritated!

The main causes of dry skin

Cold weather

When it gets cold outside, the air loses its moisture, and dry air is bad news for skin, as it can strip moisture from it leaving it dry and itchy. We go from cold air outside to central heating which dries our skin out further.

To combat this problem, you can get a humidifier installed at home to keep the air moist. Before you step outside in arctic weather, protect sensitive areas of skin, such as the lips face and hands with a scarf and gloves.

Hot showers

Hot water strips the natural oils from the skin which can leave it dry. Try to keep your shower lukewarm, and don’t stand under it forever, a few minutes is enough to get your skin clean without leaving it parched.

Drying soaps

Washing with a harsh soap can upset the PH balance of your skin and strips the natural oils. If you wash with soap, choose a mild fragrance-free soap that’s formulated for dry skin.

Scrubbing skin when you wash

You may think that you need to scrub your skin to get it clean but friction strips natural oils from the skin and can leave it dry and irritated. Use your hands or a washcloth in the shower instead.

Drying skin with a towel straight after a shower

Showering moistens your skin, but drying it off right away can make the top layer of your skin lose moisture. Towel dry your skin but leave a little moisture on the skin, then apply a moisturiser. It will absorb better, and skin will feel baby soft. When choosing a moisturiser, choose one with rich ingredients such as petroleum jelly, which will seal in moisture.

Getting older

Skin can become thinner and drier as we age, due to hormonal changes. Obviously, you can’t reverse ageing, but you can take steps to slow it down. Each day, apply a good face and body cream. To minimise wrinkles while getting rid of dryness, choose moisturisers with ingredients such as retinol.

Irritating detergents and other products

We wash our clothes with detergents, we apply perfume, and cosmetics every day, and our skin has to deal with product overload, which can make it dry. Try to choose fragrance-free products, and products that are made for sensitive skin. Wear natural fabrics instead of manmade fabrics, as they are gentler on your skin.

You have a health condition

If your skin is red and scaly, you may have a skin condition such as dermatitis or psoriasis. Problems with the thyroid can also cause dry skin. See your doctor if you think that you might have a skin condition. If your condition is particularly bothersome, you may be referred to a dermatologist.

The lips

The skin on the lip is very thin compared to typical face skin, as it has far fewer layers. The lips have no sweat glands so they aren’t protected by natural oils like other areas of skin. These natural oils keep skin smooth, inhibit the growth of bacteria, and regulate temperature, so the lips tend to dry faster and become chapped more easily. Inflammation of the lips is known as cheilitis. This can present in several forms such as chapped lips, inflammation of the corners of the mouth, herpes, and sun damage.

Chapped lips

Your lips can become chapped and dry when they’re exposed to the sun, wind, or cold air. A lip balm containing petroleum or beeswax can provide a barrier to protect them and help to seal in moisture. More moisture is lost through the lips than through any other part of the face or body, as the skin is thinner and they do not have the benefit of having natural oils to protect them, so when they lose moisture, the skin can become tight and start to split.

What to avoid if you have chapped lips

What to avoid if you have chapped lips

As tempting as it is to pick or bite off dry skin, this will make your lips bleed and they will take longer to heal. If you cause irritation to the skin around your mouth, it can cause a cold sore. This is also true if you are tempted to keep licking dry or cracked lips.  This will only dry your lips more, as the saliva will evaporate and the repeated licking removes the natural grease from the skin.

How to treat dry or sore lips

The best thing to do if you have dry or sore lips is to regularly apply a lip balm containing petroleum or beeswax. You may need to try a few different lip balms before you find one that works for you. For example, you may be sensitive to fragranced products, in which case non-fragranced lip balms, such as Vaseline are available. Plus, you might just keep licking the yummy tasting balms off!

If you’re going to be spending time outdoors in the sun, choose a lip balm with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 to help protect your lips, as they can easily burn in the sun.

Lip balm acts as a shield to protect your lips against the sun, wind and cold or dry air. It will trap moisture and protect your lips from infection.

Avoid lip balms that come in pots because repeatedly dipping your finger into the balm can introduce germs into it.

Cover your lips with a scarf when you’re outside during the winter can also help prevent dry lips, as it shields them from the cold air and wind.

When dry lips become inflamed

Sometimes dry lips can become very inflamed and feel sore. The term for inflamed lips is cheilitis.

Lips usually become inflamed due to mild irritation, or when they have become infected with bacteria or fungi that have entered cracks in the skin.

If the corners of your mouth have become red and sore, you might have a type of inflammation called angular cheilitis. This is normally caused by bacteria or fungi and is treated with medicated ointments applied to the area.

The condition is more common in older people, because as you get older, the creases around the corners of the mouth become deeper, and saliva can build up and irritate the skin.

When to see your GP

See your doctor if your lips are red and sore and you suspect that they are infected. Your doctor might prescribe an antibiotic or antifungal cream to treat the infection.

Remedies for chapped lips

Sugar

Sugar is a natural exfoliant, so it will buff dead cells off your lips

Sugar is a natural exfoliant, so it will buff dead cells off your lips and restore them to their former soft glory. Try this:

Mix 2 teaspoons of sugar with one teaspoon of honey to make a paste. Apply the paste to your lips and leave it on for a few minutes. Then use your fingers to rub the mixture on your lips in a circular motion. This should gently buff off the dead skin cells. Rinse it off with warm water.

Honey

Honey is an excellent natural moisturizer which also has healing and antibacterial properties to treat chapped lips. Try this:

Apply pure organic honey directly onto your chapped lips a few times per day.

You can also make a paste of honey and glycerin and apply it to your lips before going to bed. Your lips will be noticeably softer in the morning.

Rose petals

Rose petals are an unusual but effective remedy for chapped lips. The petals keep your lips feeling soft and even enhance their natural colour. Try this:

Wash a handful of rose petals thoroughly in water. Soak the petals in milk for a few hours, or you can soak them in glycerin if you have sensitivities to milk products. Try this:

Mash the rose petals into a thick paste.

Apply the paste onto your dry, chapped lips 2-3 times per day and each night before going to bed.

Coconut oil

Coconut oil is a natural moisturiser that can help to seal moisture in your lips and to heal chapped lips caused by cold or dry weather. Just apply pure coconut oil a few times per day on your lips to keep them moist. Olive oil also works well.

Castor oil

Castor oil is an effective treatment for dry and chapped lips.

Just apply the castor oil to your lips several times each day.

You can also make a soothing treatment using one teaspoon of castor oil, one teaspoon of glycerin and a few drops of lemon juice. Mix the ingredients well and apply the mixture onto your lips before going to bed. In the morning, wash it off with cotton wool dipped in warm water. Repeat this every day until your lips have healed.

Milk cream

Milk cream has a high fat content, so it makes a great natural moisturiser, which will form a barrier and seal moisture in your lips. Try this:

Apply fresh milk cream on your lips and leave it on for 10 minutes. Gently wash it off your lips with cotton wool dipped in warm water.

Do this every day to help to heal your dry, chapped lips.

Aloe vera gel

Aloe vera has well-known healing properties. Apply a small amount of aloe vera gel on to your lips every day to help the skin to heal. Aloe vera gel isn’t the nicest tasting thing in the world, so you shouldn’t be tempted to lick it off!

Cucumber

Cucumber is a great natural solution for chapped lips. Try this:

Rub a small slice of cucumber across your dry lips gently so that the juice is applied all over them.

Leave it on for 15 to 20 minutes and then wash your lips with warm water.

Do this several times each day to help your lips keep your lips soft and moisturised.

Petroleum jelly

Petroleum jelly is very effective for treating dry, chapped lips

Petroleum jelly is very effective for treating dry, chapped lips. Try this:

Apply some petroleum jelly onto your dry lips a few times per day to keep them well protected and nourished. Reapply it before going to bed to seal moisture in your lips overnight.

You can also first put a light coat of honey on your lips, leave it for a few seconds and then apply a light coat of petroleum jelly. Wait for a few minutes and then remove it with some cotton wool dipped in warm water. Repeat this remedy twice per day.

Water

Dehydration might be the reason behind your chapped lips. It’s important to drink plenty of water during the day to keep your body well hydrated and to keep your body’s systems working as well as they should. Try to start your day by drinking 1-2 glasses of water before eating or drinking anything. Have a glass of water in the evening as well. Water also helps to flush toxins out of the body.

Glycerine

Applying pure glycerine helps to restore the moisture to lips and keeps them soft. You can also mix glycerine with honey or rose petals for an extra softening treat.

Warm ghee

You can apply warm ghee or butter directly onto the lips to get rid of chapping and cracking.

Try these homemade lip scrubs to remove dry skin and restore moisture to your lips.

Sugar

Sugar is a cheap and readily available kitchen ingredient that can be used to make a good body scrub and an effective lip scrub.

Its grainy texture can exfoliate dead skin cells from the lips. For a lip scrub, it’s best to use brown sugar, which is softer than white sugar. If your lips are sore, try caster sugar, which has very small grains, and so it’s far gentler. Try this:

Mix a teaspoon of sugar with a few drops of honey to make an instant lip scrub. Apply the mixture on your lips and gently rub it in, in a circular motion, for 1 to 2 minutes. Wash it off with warm water, then moisturise with your usual lip balm.

You can also try combining equal amounts of sugar, olive oil and lemon juice and mix it thoroughly. Use this mixture to gently scrub your lips. Wipe it off with cotton wool and rinse with warm water. Apply a lip balm. Use either scrub a few times per week.

Honey

Honey is an excellent natural moisturiser which also has healing

Honey mixed with sugar is exfoliating and moisturising. It can get rid of dead skin cells, and lock moisture into your lips. The antibacterial action of honey reduces the risk of infection if your lips are cracked. Try this:

Mix together a teaspoon of honey and a little sugar. Scrub your lips with the mixture in a circular motion for 2 to 3 minutes, then leave it on your lips for a further 5 minutes. Rinse off with warm water. Apply coconut oil afterwards. Use the scrub once per week.

You can also mix ½ teaspoon each of honey, plain yogurt, and flour to make a paste. Apply the paste on your lips and leave it on for 10 minutes. Rinse it off with warm water. Repeat this remedy once per week.

You can also apply some pure honey directly onto your lips and leave it on overnight for soft and hydrated lips when you wake up.

Almonds

Almonds also make a soothing and effective lip scrub.

The soothing and moisturising properties of almonds supports lip skin health and helps to keep them soft and supple. Try this:

Put a teaspoon of ground almonds in a small bowl. Add 1 teaspoon each of refined sugar, honey, and almond oil. Mix the ingredients thoroughly.

Apply the mixture to your lips.

Wait for a few minutes, then use a soft-bristled toothbrush to gently scrub your lips.

Rinse off your lips with warm water, pat them dry and, apply some almond oil.

Use this remedy 1 or 2 times each week.

You can also massage your lips with a mixture of equal amounts of castor oil and almond oil each day before bed to keep lips soft and supple.

Final thoughts

Lip Balm Cap

Our skin is our first line of defence against the harsh environment, chemicals, and pathogens. But when it is exposed daily to pollution, cosmetics, detergents, and many other irritants, it’s hardly surprising that it can become dry and chapped.

The skin on our bodies is made of sterner stuff, and it withstands a lot, but the skin on our lips is much thinner. It doesn’t have glands so it doesn’t produce natural oils to protect and moisturise it, like the skin elsewhere on our bodies. And when we go from the cold weather outside to indoor central heating constantly, our lips suffer. Try some of these tried and tested remedies and ugly chapped lips will be a thing of the past!

Written by Irina Radosevic MD
Irina graduated from the University of Belgrade, School of Medicine as a Doctor of Medicine (MD) and spent over 3 years working in the Clinical Hospital Center Zvezdara, in the Department of Emergency Medicine. She also undertook a postgraduate in Cardiology from the same University and had previously worked for over a year as a Physician and Nutritionist Dietitian for the Fitness club Green Zone. She eventually left her chaotic but fulfilling job in the ER to pursue her passion of writing, travelling and mountain climbing which has included writing a first aid course for the alpine club of Belgrade. Irina currently works as a VA for PintMedia focusing on medical and travel writing. Feel free to connect with Irina on LinkedIn and FaceBook. Her CV can be seen here.