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Q
Cure for Chapped Lips?

I have chronic chapped lips and have tried many remedies. None have worked. Do you have any recommendations?

A
Answer (Published 9/29/2009)

Because lips don't contain oil glands, they can easily dry and become chapped, no matter what the season. Cold weather and wind can be aggravators, as can sun exposure or dry air at home or work. Habits can also cause chapping - if you lick your lips a lot, they can dry out. Not being well hydrated can also cause the problem, as can some chemicals you may come in contact with. In addition, chapped lips may be a side effect of some medications, such as Inderal used to treat high blood pressure, and can be a symptom of a number of medical conditions. It might be worth your while to consult a dermatologist, if you haven't already, to see if you can pinpoint the cause.

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In the meantime, Tieraona Low Dog, M.D., director of The Fellowship at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, suggests the following strategy:

  • Drink lots of fluids to stay hydrated.
  • Check to make sure your lipstick doesn't contain propyl gallate.
  • Make sure your toothpaste doesn't contain sodium lauryl sulfate, a known lip irritant.
  • If your lips are more chapped in the morning upon awakening it may because you are breathing through your mouth or snoring (if so, put a thick protective barrier of lip balm on your lips before bed).
  • If you have cracking at the angles of your mouth, be sure you're taking a good multivitamin that provides at least 100 % of the recommended daily intake of B vitamins.

Dr. Low Dog added that if you have tried "everything" else, you might want to apply an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream 3-4 times per day for one week and then apply your lip balm. I recommend trying a beeswax-containing lip balm, a conditioning lip balm with turmeric, or any type of calendula ointment.

In addition, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a humidifier at home to keep the air moist and covering your mouth with a scarf in cold, windy weather.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

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