Chapped lips can become a recurring issue if left untreated, potentially leading to the more severe condition known as cheilitis. Dry weather and the habit of licking the lips are often to blame. Lips lack sweat glands and sebum production, resulting in a lack of natural moisture. Furthermore, the thin and delicate skin surrounding the lips is highly susceptible to cracking and drying out in dry weather.
Ironically, some people try to relieve dry lips by licking them, which only exacerbates the problem. Saliva lacks oil content and evaporates quickly, taking away even more moisture from the lips. Additionally, enzymes present in saliva, such as amylase, can irritate the lip skin.
Continuing these habits can escalate into cheilitis, a chronic inflammation that starts in the middle of the lower lip and spreads throughout. This condition is characterized by persistent scaling of the lips, which can last for several months. Secondary infections caused by bacteria or Candida fungus on the traumatized lip skin often contribute to cheilitis. Other factors that can cause cheilitis include atopic dermatitis, seborrheic dermatitis, psoriasis, vitamin B deficiency, and excessive exposure to UV radiation.
Early treatment is crucial to prevent cheilitis from becoming a chronic and painful condition. It is important to be aware that lip inflammation differs from inflammation on other areas of the skin, as there may not be any color changes or the formation of pus. Therefore, paying attention to the symptoms is essential.
To maintain lip health, the most important habit is to avoid licking the lips. Instead, using lip balms or creams that contain 100% moisturizing ingredients like Vaseline or lanolin is recommended for effective hydration. It’s important to note that flavored lip balms with added ingredients may cause itching or swelling of the lips.
It is also necessary to assess habits that may harm lip health, such as unconsciously biting or picking the lips when feeling tense, not wiping the lips after consuming spicy or salty foods, or using cosmetic products with excessive chemical ingredients. To prevent the progression of cheilitis, it is crucial to let the lip skin naturally shed off the dead skin cells without interference.