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Crusty Lips

The lips are one of the attractive parts of the face. It is important to have healthy lips for they can affect the person’s facial feature. Unhealthy lips are not just unsightly for the human eyes. They can also a cause of embarrassment. Dry crusty lips can be bothersome.

Although most cases resolve on their own after a few days. However, if left untreated could lead to a serious condition.

Cheilitis is a severe form of crusty lips. There are various types of cheilitis but the most common types include the following:

  • Factitious cheilitis – It is characterized by dryness, scaling, and fissuring of the lips. It is caused by frequent biting or licking of the lips.
  • Angular cheilitis – It is characterized by inflammation of the corner of the lips. It is commonly associated with fungal infection, but can also be linked with virus or bacteria. The clinical manifestations include deep crack on one or both corners of the mouth, painful and burning sensation of the lips, redness and itching of the lips, dry and crusty lips, and a bad mouth taste. (1, 2, 3)

A severe case of crusty lips characterized by yellowish flaking of the lips.image

Photo 1: A severe case of crusty lips characterized by yellowish flaking of the lips.
Picture Source: curezone.com

Severely dry and chapped lips.photo

Image 2: Severely dry and chapped lips.
Photo Source: www.healtreatcure.org

Clinical manifestations of angular cheilitis.image

Photo 3: Clinical manifestations of angular cheilitis.
Picture Source: upload.wikimedia.org

What is the cause of cheilitis?

Chapped lips causes are vast. It varies from one person to another. The common causes include the following:

  • Prolonged exposure to extreme heat of the sun
  • Dry indoor heating
  • Dehydration and malnourishment
  • Habitual licking of lips
  • Trauma to the lips and the surrounding structure
  • Dermatitis (inflammation of the skin)
  • Mouth breathing (4)
  • Braces and dentures
  • Herpes virus 1 infection
  • Diabetes
  • Thyroid problems
  • Crohn’s disease (bowel dysfunction)
  • Kawasaki disease (5)

Who are at risk?

Some habits and medical conditions increase the possibility of crusty lips and cheilitis. Drinking caffeinated beverages, smoking, poor skin care regimen, and side effects of medications. Chemotherapeutic drugs, retinoids, and lithium can all increase the possibility of having crusty lips. (5, 6)

Clinical Manifestations

  • Severely dry and crusty lips
  • Bleeding of the lips secondary to cracking of the skin
  • Red to dark pink colored lips
  • Swelling of the lips
  • Ulceration
  • White plaques on the skin
  • Multiple fissures (7)

Diagnosing Crusty Lips

The doctor will thoroughly assess the condition of the skin, specifically the lips and the surrounding areas. Past medical and surgical history will be taken to rule out any possible cause of oral infection. Laboratory testing should also be done which include culture swab from the affected area. Differential diagnosis should be done as well. (8, 9)

Treatment and Management

How to get rid of chapped lips fast? What is the treatment for cheilitis? A mild crusting of the lips usually resolve on its own. If you want to speed up the healing process, then there are natural remedies you can do right in the comfort of your home.

However, for severe crusting of the lips such as in the case of cheilitis, the doctor will prescribe medications, but will primarily depend on the root cause of the problem. (10)

  1. Proper skin care – one of the essential parts of dry lips treatment is to observe proper skin care. Do not use skin care products containing strong ingredients as they could be potentially harmful for your skin, especially if you have sensitive skin. Make it a habit to use lip-friendly products. Keep your lips well moisturized. In case of white crusty lips, you should gently exfoliate the lips and apply a moisturizing ointment afterward. (1, 4)
  2. Nutrition – It is important to keep the body healthy. Eat foods rich in essential vitamins and minerals. Keep the body hydrated by drinking plenty of water. As much as possible, you should limit your intake of foods with dyes and artificial sweeteners.
  3. Drug therapy – Depending on the root cause of the crusty lips, the doctor will prescribe oral and topical drugs. However, it depends on the severity of the condition. Cheilitis is a serious condition and warrants immediate medical attention. The doctor might order an antifungal or antibacterial cream. To somehow alleviate pain and inflammation, the patient is put on hydrocortisone cream. (3)

Natural Remedies for Crusty Lips

  • Apply olive oil – Applying a good quality oil on the lips before bedtime helps promote hydration and hastens the healing process. Olive oil and vegetable oil are very good for the lips.
  • Honey – It soothes irritation and hastens the healing process. It also has antibacterial property, which is perfect for fighting infection.
  • Diet modification – Anything you put in your mouth has repercussions to your health. Crusty lips could be a sign that your body lacks nourishment. You could be deficient to certain types of vitamins. Hence, it is important to modify your diet. Increase your intake of vitamins and minerals rich food. As much as possible, you should limit your intake of foods containing preservatives, additives, and food coloring. (2, 4, 5)

How to prevent crusty lips?

As the famous saying goes, “prevention is better than cure.” Prevention for crusty lips starts by taking good care of your skin and body. Feed the body with essential nutrients. Keep it well-nourished and hydrated. Drink at least two liters of water a day.

You should be choosy when it comes to using cosmetic products for the lips. Most cosmetics today contain ingredients that can be harmful to the skin. If right after using a lip product you developed irritation, then you should discontinue using it. When going out in the sun, you should apply sunscreen for the lips. The typical sunscreen for the skin is not enough to protect the lips.

You should use a sunscreen specially formulated for sensitive lips. If you notice any abnormalities in your lips, you should immediately take measures to correct the problem. Do not apply anything to your lips without consulting your dermatologist. You could probably inflicting more harm than good. (6, 8, 9)


  1. healthsaline.com
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org
  3. www.healcure.org
  4. www.amoils.com
  5. www.wikihow.com
  6. www.symptomfind.com
  7. www.webmd.com
  8. www.buzzfeed.com
  9. www.livestrong.com
  10. www.steadyhealth.com

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