Chapped Lips, Dry Lips

Why do we get chapped lips?
Because we've got dry lips.
Why do we get dry lips?

People in higher latitudes, northern USA, anywhere in Canada, northern Europe and Asia, southern Argentina, Chile, South Africa, southern Australia, etc.) are accustomed to their skin drying out in winter. Chapped lips and cracked hands. It's hard to avoid because cold air holds less moisture than warm air. If we're outside, the exposed skin gets chilled and dried by wind. If we're inside, the dry, cold outside air has been pulled into your house or workplace and heated up. Mostly we don't add moisture when we do that, so the air that was already kinda dry at low temperature becomes progressively more parched as it warms, because warm air can hold more moisture than cold, and there isn't any... and it sucks it out of any source it touches... like your skin, and throat and nose and lips.

All skin works for a living, but exposed bits like lips and hands work harder and are in contact with stuff. That (and any associated washing that you do) tends to strip off the protective outer layer of oils and other skin oozings. Your lips get dry and chapped. They split, peel, bleed. It's no fun for you and no fun for anybody else to look at, and certainly chapped lips are less fun to kiss.

When your lips get chapped, it's uncomfortable and even painful. You can treat it by using various sorts of lip-balms. You can prevent it by, again, using various sorts of lip balms, and by keeping your mouth shut. Breathing through your mouth is a sure way to get chapped lips, in winter. If you have some sort of physical problem that makes you a mouth breather, consider getting that fixed. If you catch head-colds a lot, that will make you breathe through your mouth. Licking your lips a lot is a great way to get them chapped. Keep your tongue in your mouth and your hands away from your face. Your lips will thank you, and you'll catch fewer colds.

By the way, if you catch fewer colds, you'll sleep better and be more resistant to other diseases like the flu. Also, you won't be constantly wiping and blowing your nose, so your nose won't spend most of the winter being pink and inflamed with little cracks around the corners from all the dripping and wiping.

Hey, a chapped nose. Try some medicated ointment rubbed into the worst reddened, cracked area just at the corner of each nostril.

Lip balms?

Yeah. Chap Stik is an old standby, but it's like applying wax crayon. Not our favorite.

Blistex in the tube is very similar.

Neither one seems to last very long, before you need to reapply.

Blistex (or similar versions from other brands) in the pot - tiny little pot with screw-on lid - is less heavy and waxy, but then it's greasier and requires that you get it on your fingers, to apply it.

Like many before us, we've come to appreciate Burts Bees brand. The stick is somehow more pleasant - somewhere between the waxen shell from Chap Stik, and the greasy smear from the little pots.

It might also be that they use actual bees' wax, and not petroleum [by]products (parafin).

OK, but how to prevent it?

Same as on our "chapped hands" page (link below).

If you don't already have chapped lips, still consider applying a lip balm, perhaps with a little sunscreen, before you go outdoors in winter weather. The colder it is out, the less moisture that air can hold. If the wind is blowing - even a wet wind - it's hard on exposed skin like lips.

Indoors, use a humidifier. You don't want the air in your house/apartment so moist that the windows drip and you've got mold in the corners. But you do want to inject enough moisture that when the cold dry air gets heated (and becomes even dryer) you prevent chapped lips by ensuring that the humidity in your living area is between 35 and 50 percent.

That means 35 to 50 percent of full saturation of the air with water vapor, which would feel a bit like a jungle.

If you don't have a humidity meter, then try to keep the air moist enough that you aren't always zapping the cat with static electricity. Enough humidity to prevent electrostatic build-up is usually enough to prevent chapped lips and hands.

Humidifier for chapped lips?

Yeah. If you live in an apartment, or in a house with electric baseboard heating, get a portable unit for your bedroom area.

If you live in a house with forced-air heating, prevent chapped lips by adding a flow-through humidifier to the furnace. You can buy one as a kit, at any hardware store or home-improvement center. For the unpracticed or the un-handy, it might take a few hours to install your first one, but they usually have good instructions, and you need only basic skills and a couple of simple tools. Choose the flow-through type, rather than the older drum-style humidifier. Both work about equally well, but the drum style tends to harbor bacteria and fungus and demands more maintenance. If you are dyslexic, get help. No... really.

If your hands are all reddened, fissured, sore, split, find some relief on our

chapped hands and dry cracked hands page.

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