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Chapped lips

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 2 minutes read

Chapped lips, also known as cheilitis simplex, are very common and occur 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, 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 others. 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 moisturizing chapped lipsticks to help maintain moisture and protect from further drying out.

Treatment choice purely depends on someone's preference, and you can also get products with color or flavor included. For those with particularly sensitive skin or sunburn, it may be preferable to use a product with a sun protection factor, and many 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.

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, or 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, an underlying medical condition can cause chapped lips.

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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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