Chapped Lips: 8 Unexpected Reasons Your Lips Might Be Dry And Peeling

by Ileana Paules-Bronet
Ileana is a writer on the Original Content team. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Almost everyone knows how it feels to have chapped lips. Most people have experienced minor lip dryness from time to time, and a select, unfortunate few (I’m part of this group) get such severely dried-out lips that they peel and even bleed.

Everyone — men, women, and children — can get chapped lips.

Having dry lips isn’t just uncomfortable; it can actually be incredibly painful. It can also indicate that there’s something more serious going on under the surface of your skin!

Many people just assume that chapped lips are caused by cold weather or dry air. However, there are a number of other reasons that you might have dry, peeling lips.

When it comes to dry lips, most people turn to lip balm. Coating your lips with a waxy or oily substance seems like the easiest solution, but it may not fix the underlying problem.

Read below to find out more about the causes of dry, chapped lips!

Photos: Laura Caseley for LittleThings; Pixabay / Skullman

What Normally Causes Chapped Lips?

normal chapped lips
Laura Caseley for LittleThings

Having chapped lips is usually not something to worry about. The weather is one of the primary causes of chapped lips, explains HealthLine.

Your lips can dry out from something as simple as dry weather, spending time in the cold, or being outside in the wind.

Surprising Causes Of Chapped Lips
#1: Dehydration

dehydration chapped lips
Laura Caseley for LittleThings

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Dehydration occurs when you use or lose more fluid than you take in, and your body doesn’t have enough water and other fluids to carry out its normal functions. If you don’t replace lost fluids, you will get dehydrated.”

When you’re dehydrated, your body may pull water from your skin, drying you out.

Dr. John Higgins told Everyday Health that, “as you go through various stages of dehydration, you get very dry skin.” This dried-out skin may affect your lips more than other parts of your body.

#2: You Lick Your Lips

lick your lips
Laura Caseley for LittleThings

For most of us, the natural reaction to having dry lips is to lick them. This is a big mistake.

As the saliva evaporates on your lips, you’ll lose even more moisture. Dr. Joel Cohen told BuzzFeed that there’s a chemical in saliva that can actually dry out your lips. This makes them feel even more dry, itchy, and irritated than before, which often leads to compulsive lip licking.

#3: You Have A Sunburn

sunburn chapped lips
Laura Caseley for LittleThings

Sometimes, you may feel like your lips are chapped, but they’re actually sunburned. Many people don’t realize it, but your lips can get sunburned, just like every other part of your body.

According to HealthLine, the symptoms of sunburned lips include tender skin, swollen lips, lips that are redder than usual, and blistering on the skin.

Make sure you always apply sunscreen to your lips when you spend time outside.

#4: You Consume Too Much Vitamin A

too much vitamin a
Laura Caseley for LittleThings

The Mayo Clinic explains, “The recommended daily amount of vitamin A is 900 micrograms (mcg) for adult men and 700 mcg for adult women.”

According to the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements, consuming too much Vitamin A can lead to a number of health problems, including skin irritation.

#5: You Have An Allergy To Certain Products

lip allergy
Laura Caseley for LittleThings

Many people have sensitive lips, even if the rest of the rest of their skin isn’t sensitive.

If you’re allergic to any of the ingredients in your lipstick, makeup, toothpaste, or other skincare products, it can irritate your lips and cause them to become chapped.

Certain food allergies and intolerances can also irritate your lips.

#6: You Have A Vitamin Deficiency

vitamin deficiency
Laura Caseley for LittleThings

Vitamin B2, known as riboflavin, can be found in foods like milk, mushrooms, spinach, yogurt, and certain meats.

According to Oregon State University, if you don’t get enough riboflavin, it can cause you to have cracks or sores on your lips and at the corners of your mouth.

#7: Your Medication Dries You Out

medication dries you out
Laura Caseley for LittleThings

Sometimes, dry skin is caused by certain medications.

Prescription drugs that cause dry skin include things like diuretics, certain cholesterol medications, and acne medications.

#8: Your Lips Are Irritated By Citrus Or Cinnamates

lip irritation
Laura Caseley for LittleThings

The acid in citrus fruits can irritate your mouth and lips. If your lips are already chapped or dry, eating acidic fruits and vegetables can be painful.

Cinnamates (which can be found in gum, candy, toothpaste, and other items) can also cause irritation and pain.

Remedies For Chapped Lips

chapped lips remedies
Laura Caseley for LittleThings

The best way to treat chapped lips is to stay hydrated and keep your lips moisturized with a plain lip balm. You can also use a humidifier at home and work to keep your environment moister.

If your lips are really bothering you, set up an appointment with your doctor — they can check to see if there’s a more serious underlying cause.

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