Believe it or not, your lips are a very particular and unique part of the face —physiologically speaking. In other words, lips are a little different from the rest of your skin areas. Now let’s get this straight, your skin is composed of 3 main layers:
- the epidermis (the top layer of the skin)
- the dermis (second layer of skin, and it’s thicker than the epidermis)
- the subcutaneous fat (the bottom layer of skin)
The epidermis itself consists of 5 thin layers. What really concerns us is the outer layer of the epidermis that’s called stratum corneum. Now, your lips, of course, do have these layers like any other part, except that its stratum corneum is way much thinner than anywhere else on your body.
Lips also lose a lot of water; actually, they lose water three to ten times higher than other parts of the face.
So, do these physiological facts have to do with lips chapping? Let’s find out…
What are chapped lips?
Chapped (or cracked lips) is the common word used to describe dry lips. An extremely dry lip is a very common condition that happens to almost everyone. It is caused by a number of factors and can happen at any time but mostly on cold days; however, chapped lips are totally treatable and so easy to cure, so there is nothing really to worry about.
Causes of lips being dry
The reasons why you have severely dry lips may differ and they’re plenty, so let’s get started…
A thin layer of stratum corneum: As we mentioned before, lips have a thinner layer of stratum corneum, which unfortunately makes them more sensitive to the external environment and prone to danger and outer threats like sun rays.
No hair follicles: Just like the palms of your hand and the soles of your feet, lips are also deprived of hair follicles, which means they don’t have any sebaceous glands to keep them moisturized.
No melanin: Melanin is the pigment in your skin that gives your skin color —and obviously gives tan when you’re exposed to the sun. Melanin is actually a body’s natural defense against ultraviolet rays, so when you’re under the sun exposition your lips will be likely more prone to sunbursts. Ohh… Poor lips!
Lip balm: okay… This sounds ironic. Lip balms may actually be a direct threat to lip chapping. Actually, some lip balms contain potent ingredients such as menthol, Menthoxypropanediol, ginger, or mint oils. These ingredients cause irritation to your lips —so maybe you want to check out that ingredient list first?!
Accutane: Accutane is known as an anti-acne medication (pills) and it’s effective; However, drugs have side effects, and one of the side effects Accutane has, is that dries your lips.
Lipstick: lipsticks look good on us; however the long-wearing of lipstick, especially the matte lipstick can threaten our lips and may cause lips chapping in the long term.
How to deal with extremely dry lips?
Just so you know, lip chapping does not disappear overnight; you need to be patient and consistent in your treatment.
Here is a nice way to take good care of your lips: Engage yourself in a lip care routine just like any other routine you usually practice. Every night and before your bedtime, apply an emollient lip balm, but, make sure the lip balm you intend to use is natural and does not contain an ingredient that may harm your lips.
Avoid any lip balms that are highly fragranced or contain any of these things: menthol, camphor, peppermint, or citrus. Just try to stick with a classic lip balm…
Do’s and don’ts
- Give your lips a scrub (mix honey and sugar for a natural homemade scrub) it helps your lips get rid of all the dead cells and all the dry and flaky skin, which makes the skin more susceptible to treatment.
- Don’t apply your lipstick directly, make sure to apply the lip balm before you apply your lipstick to help you protect your lips from dryness.
- Buy a lip balm with sun protection.
- Cover your lips with a scarf when you’re outside in the cold, to keep the temperature stable, just like we do with our hands and feet.
- Drink up so you can prevent dehydration and make it up for your lips.
- Don’t lick your lips, saliva makes it worse because as that saliva evaporates, your skin will get even drier.
- Apply oil: oils are 100% natural and very sufficient, oils like almond oil, olive oil, jojoba, and coconut oil may help a lot with moisturizing and soothing your lips, so don’t be hesitate to apply some oil several times a day.
Does malnutrition contribute to lips chapping?
Just like dehydration, malnutrition plays a big role in the functioning of your skin. So if you’re not eating well, or on a diet limit make sure your body gets all the vitamins and the elements it needs, otherwise, symptoms like muscle weakness, decaying teeth, bone fragility, and of course dry lips will start to show…
When should I see a doctor?
If your case is pretty severe, then, you may actually want to see a dermatologist, because you may be suffering from what we call cheilitis, it’s a common condition characterized by cracked skin at the mouth corners as well as several cracks on your lips.
Cheilitis is often attributed to inflammatory diseases such as Crohn’s Disease. So, make sure you take good care of your lips, and do not hesitate to see a doctor if you have any concerns about the health of your lips.
Can chapped lips indicate other diseases?
Dryness on your lips is not considered dangerous, however, it may be linked to some serious conditions —don’t panic though! Because the chances are pretty low.
Some of these conditions are:
- yeast infection
- Kawasaki disease: Kawasaki disease is a condition that causes inflammation in the walls of medium-sized arteries throughout the body, including the coronary arteries.
- macrocytosis: Macrocytosis is the enlargement of red blood cells with near-constant hemoglobin concentration.
- sexually transmitted diseases: Some STD’s like HIV can cause the dryness of the lips.
- Sjogren’ss syndrome: This syndrome is a disease that affects the glands that make moisture.