Dry, Chapped Lips & Mouth
Dry, chapped lips and dry skin around the mouth may be unsightly, may interfere with talking and eating and may be the sign of a larger health problem. Although there are remedies for replenishing lip skin moisture, consider lifestyle changes and not just topical or symptomatic solutions.
According to the American Academy of Dermatologists, lip skin is vulnerable to dehydration due to a lack of oil glands. Lips also contain no structural protection, such as hair, or means of thermal regulation, such as sweat glands. Lip skin is thin and easily irritated by saliva. The acids that help food digestion can irritate and dehydrate. Moreover, when lip skin cells lose moisture, they also lose flexibility, leading to an uneven surface that is prone to peeling and cracks.
Lip skin can become dry due to environmental exposure, from strong wind (or air conditioning) to dry climates to intense sunlight. Allergies to skin care products or laundry products may also create skin irritations, leading to redness and chafing. The skin on the lips may also become irritated from dental health products, spicy or acidic food, smoking and drinking extremely hot, alcoholic or caffeinated beverages.
Chapped, Peeling Lips
Excessive exposure to the sun or outright sunburn can lead to chapped or peeling lips. However, peeling lips may also be a sign of exfoliative cheilitis, when an overactive immune system initiates skin shedding and growth. This condition may follow a lengthy round of medication or result from dietary excesses or increased alcoholic intake. Dietary changes, increasing water intake and increasing fitness levels can improve the condition of the immune system.
Dry skin around the outer edges of the mouth can result from excessive lip licking and drug interactions, according to the Skinsight.com. Dry mouth may also be a sign of Sjogren's Syndrome, an autoimmune disease with many signs of dryness and no known cure. However, mouth skin that is dry, brittle and cracked may also be due to angular cheilitis, a fungal infection that can result from eating too little vitamin B, iron, and zinc or too much vitamin A. However, older individuals may develop a dry mouth with cracks due to overcompensation while talking or eating. While an OTC antiseptic cream may be helpful in some cases, cracks that refuse to heal or accompany more complicated symptoms may need to be referred to a physician.
The American Academy of Dermatology warns that chapped lips can occur in any season and recommends covering the face, using lip balm with an SPF of 15 or higher and running a humidifier in the home. Since lip irritation can occur in sleep from saliva, consider using lip balm or, in the case of children, a dab of vitamin E oil or lanolin before bed. Individuals using cosmetics on or near the mouth should try washable applicators and products in tubes to prevent the risk of contaminating the product and irritating the face. Using a humidifier, especially at night, can help replenish skin moisture levels. Above all, try to drink more water to prevent skin cell dehydration and maintain lip health.
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