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What Are the Causes of Severe Chapped Lips?

What Are the Causes of Severe Chapped Lips? What Are the Causes of Severe Chapped Lips?

Dry, flaky, cracked lips are uncomfortable and unsightly. Although your first instinct may be to lick your lips when they are chapped, by doing so, you are wiping off the natural moisture and oils that would otherwise protect the delicate skin on your mouth. Many soothing remedies are available for severely chapped lips, but the best one in most cases is to find and eliminate the cause.


Unprotected lips that are exposed to cold air and strong winds or hot, dry air will soon become severely chapped. Extreme temperatures evaporate the natural moisture from your lips. If you are outdoors for long periods of time and using lip balm for protection, you must reapply often throughout the day to prevent further chapping. Remember to use sunscreen or a lip balm that contains sunscreen on your lips, because the sun can burn your lips just as it can burn other areas of your skin. Some sunscreens and other ingredients used in cosmetics can have a drying or irritating effect on the lips and may actually cause more chapping. If you suspect that's the case, try a different product.


Severe chapped lips are one sign of dehydration, which occurs when your body loses too much water that is not being replaced. Excessive loss of fluids can be due to extreme exercise, overexposure to sun or heat, vomiting, diarrhea or simply not drinking enough fluids. Dry air in the home can also contribute to chapped lips, but these can easily be remedied by the use of a humidifier. Some medications, such as diuretics, antidepressants and antihistamines, have a dehydrating effect that causes dry mouth and contributes to severely chapped lips.

Nutrient Deficiency

Although vitamin deficiencies are rare in the United States, Riva Tougher-Decker, Ph.D., of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, points out that dry, cracked lips and mouth are often the first sign of a deficiency of B-complex vitamins. Specifically, a lack of niacin, Vitamin B6 or riboflavin, can result in severely chapped and cracked lips. An iron deficiency will have the same effect. If you are a vegetarian and do not plan your diet carefully, you could be lacking in B vitamins and iron, which are more abundant in meat, poultry, fish and dairy products than in plant foods.

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