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Chapped lips can be caused by too much sun, too much wind, or maybe something systemic. Here are seven serious conditions that can cause chronic chapped lips even when you are practicing the best chapped lip care.

Sometimes even the best natural remedies for chapped lips just don't work, and chapstick doesn't help either. When your best efforts to soothe and smooth your chapped lips, the problem may be a more serious disease condition that affects your whole body. Here are seven examples:

Yeast infection

Everyone's skin hosts at least a few yeast cells. Ordinarily other microbes on the skin keep them in check. About 85 percent of people who have yeast infections elsewhere in their bodies, however, also get yeast infections at the corners of the mouth, causing a condition known as angular cheilitis. Yeast infections can also cause white patches in the mouth and on the tongue. An unexpected common denominator of dozens of cases of yeast-induced angular cheilitis is iron deficiency [1]. Usually you can't get rid of the yeast infection unless you also take supplemental iron [2]. Just don't assume you have an iron deficiency because you have sores at the corner of your mouth. Get a blood test to make sure.


We all know that dehydration "dries out" your skin and that drinking more water, eight up to even twelve glasses a day, treats dehydration (unless you have a condition like diabetes insipidus), but it isn't dehydration in your body as a whole that causes chapped lips. It's drying out of the lips themselves. Your lips get dry, so you lick them. That transfers any problem chemicals from your mouth to your lips so they can cause inflammation. The action of licking your lips can cause sores and even ulcers [3]. If you keep your lips moist by drinking lots of sips of water than a few glasses of water, you minimize this problem. If you just can't keep water close to your desk or place of work, then lubricate your lips with something like HPA lanolin [4].

Acne treatment

Retinoid drugs (Roaccutane, topic tretinoin, and similar medications) have a side effect of drying out the skin. They can cause dry lips, dry eyes, dry sinuses, and dry skin (that tends to break out in whiteheads). One way to compensate for this effect is taking evening primrose oil (also known as EPO). It provides anti-inflammatory essential fatty acids that reduce dryness of lips and skin elsewhere on the face [5].

Vitamin B2 deficiency

Not getting enough vitamin B2 (riboflavin) can result in angular cheilitis (sores at the corners of the lips), stomatitis (mouth sores), and glossitis (tongue sores), along with a kind of moist inflammation of the skin known as seborrheic dermatitis. The problem usually isn't diet. It's usually a deficiency of an enzyme known as methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase, also known as MTHFR [6]. Hypothyroidism or adrenal insufficiency can aggravate the problem. The solution usually is to take vitamin B supplements that don't need the enzymes the body can't make, available at any health products store (inexpensively) or by prescription (expensively). Chapped lips remedies will never work for more than a few hours if you have a riboflavin deficiency.

Vitamin A excess 

Taking too much vitamin A dries out the skin, especially the lips [7]. There will redness and flaking usually with itch. The solution is taking less vitamin A, or avoiding codfish liver oil or similar supplements. Eventually, the redness goes away if you stop taking too much of the vitamin. 

Allergic reactions

Did you know that you can be allergic to chapstick?

  • Beeswax (because of either pollen or bee proteins),
  • shea butter, and
  • castor oil are the most common offenders.

But it is also possible that you have chapped lips due to intolerance or allergy to the following list of lip balm ingredients you should avoid

  • Achillea millefolium (yarrow extract), 
  • alpha isomethyl ionone (a fragrance that is so prone to causing allergic reactions that most countries require it to be listed prominently in the list of ingredients),
  • amyl cinnamate (a volatile form of cinnamon oil),
  • apricot kernels (which are abrasive),
  • Azardirachta indica (neem leaf or neem oil),
  • bee pollen,
  • bergamot,
  • bitter orange oil,
  • black pepper,
  • butylphenyl methylpropional (synthetic floral scent),
  • camphor,
  • cardamom,
  • cinnamon,
  • citronellol (with a lemon-grassy scent),
  • citrus oils,
  • clove oil (also known as eugenol),
  • hayflower extract (which makes lips tighten and crack),
  • lavender (makes your lips sensitive to other plant oils and chemicals),
  • lemon oil,
  • mandarin orange,
  • menthol,
  • mint,
  • para-aminobenzoic acid (PABA, sunscreen ingredient),
  • pentadecalactone (artificial fragrance),
  • peppermint,
  • pine scent,
  • rose oil (sensitizes skin to other chemicals),
  • sandalwood,
  • any kind of soap,
  • sodium lauryl sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate,
  • sodium silicate (very irritating to skin),
  • spearmint oil,
  • star anise,
  • TEA-lauryl sulfate,
  • thyme oil,
  • verbena,
  • and ylang ylang [8].

If you tend to have a problem with chapped lips that just won't go away even though you use chapstick all the time, make sure your product does not contain these ingredients, especially anything that has a citrus smell, a mint smell, or a pine scent.

Smokeless tobacco use. Use of snuff, snus, and chewing tobacco can cause cancers of the lip that begin as chapped lips, although these usually occurs after decades, sometimes many, many decades of using the tobacco product [9]. Chapped lips are also possible after smoking clove cigarettes for a few years. If you vape, it's the cherry flavored products that are the biggest problem [10].

None of these problems ring a bell? Then the problem may be factitious cheilitis, caused by something as simple as licking your lips too often. Don't lick on or chew your lips, sip something soothing instead.

A chronic licking of lips can cause crusting and ulceration that is probably secondary to chewing and sucking of the lips. There are other problems related to this seemingly innocent problem: atopy, actinic damage, exfoliative cheilitis, cheilitis granulomatosa or glandularis, contact dermatitis, photosensitivity reactions and neoplasia should be considered in the differential diagnosis of crusted and ulcerated lesions of the lip. Horrible, right? There is a treatment available:

  • The first step is: do not pick, bite or pull the lips.
  • In case you need to heal crusting and ulceration, follow good oral hygiene, apply cold compress with water to relieve pain, 
  • Apply a cream or lip balm 2 to 3 times a day in order to keep your lips moist.
  • Preventive measures should include drinking plenty of water to keep your body well hydrated, and a balanced diet with an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables.

In some cases, topical steroids are helpful, and your doctor might advise anti-fungal creams to manage an overgrowth of Candida yeast infection. If you fail to respond to all treatment methods, laser treatment, photodynamic therapy, cryosurgery, and electrocautery are your last resorts.