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Chapped lips

Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Roger HendersonReviewed on 29.04.2024 | 2 minutes read

Chapped lips, also known as cheilitis simplex, is very common and occurs when the skin on your lips becomes too dry. This happens because your lips have fewer layers of skin than other parts of your body so they dry out more rapidly when exposed to different conditions such as hot or cold environments or being dehydrated.

It results in dry-looking lips that can become flaky, cracked and can bleed. Chapped lips are not contagious. However, if you have flaking lips due to a cold sore then this can be contagious.

Doctor’s advice

Next steps

To avoid getting chapped lips you should make sure you are staying hydrated, covering your lips with a scarf in cold weather and using a lip balm with a minimum of SPF15 during sunny weather.

To treat chapped lips we advise using a lip balm that contains either beeswax or petroleum jelly. Apply at regular intervals throughout the day. Wash your hands before applying, and never share lip balms with other people. Try to avoid touching or licking your lips as this can make the symptoms worse.

Healthwords pharmacists' top tips

There are many lip balms, creams and moisturising chapped-lipsticks to help maintain moisture and protect from further drying out.

Treatment choice is purely dependent on someone's preference, and you can also get products with colour or flavour included. For those with particularly sensitive skin, or prone to sunburn, it may be preferable to use a product with a sun protection factor, there are many which contain SPF 15 such as Carmex. Uvistat SPF 50 lip screen has factor 50 protection from UVB rays, the ones that cause sunburn, and may be particularly suitable for harsh conditions such as skiing.

Pharmacist recommended products

Am I fit for work?

You are fit for work if you have chapped lips.

When should I see my doctor?

If the chapping on your lips is severe or not improving after one to two weeks of using a lip balm recommended by a pharmacist then you should book an appointment to see your doctor. If your lips feel swollen, painful or there is redness around them then see your local pharmacist and they can advise you whether you need to see your doctor.

The doctor will take your medical history, ask about your current symptoms and examine the area. If it is infected they may prescribe an antibiotic cream to apply to the area. The doctor may want to do blood tests, as in a small number of cases chapped lips can be caused by an underlying medical condition.

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Dr Roger Henderson
Reviewed by Roger Henderson
Reviewed on 29.04.2024
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