Here's What May Be Causing Your Chapped Lips

Chapped lips don't just ruin your lipstick; they also feel awful and can shatter your confidence. There's nothing worse than the sensation of raw, peeling, flaky lips, especially when you're wondering if everybody else is staring at them.


Most people experience chapped lips from time to time, and they're particularly common after a day in the sun. In many cases, chapped lips can be treated with a simple topical ointment. There are also more unconventional lip treatments you can try, including olive oil. But when your chapped lips persist, even after you've applied hydrating lip balm, it might be worth investigating what root causes could be at play.

The factors that contribute to chapped lips are usually benign and easy to correct. However, in some cases, chapped lips can be a sign of something more serious, and if left untreated, can lead to unwanted consequences.

Take a look at the main causes of dryness so you can get to the bottom of the problem and get back to having baby-smooth lips.



Perhaps the most common cause of chapped lips is dehydration. This happens when your body is in a fluid deficit, and can occur because you're either not consuming enough fluid or you're losing too much (via NHS Inform). It might be that you've forgotten to drink water today (it happens) or you've been throwing up or had diarrhea and lost a significant amount of fluid.


Though chapped lips is one of the most annoying side effects of mild dehydration, severe dehydration can lead to seizures or even death if left untreated.

Other factors besides your lifestyle can also affect how hydrated you are. The weather and environment can also contribute to dehydration, so you might find that your chapped lips stem from hot, dry temperatures or even being exposed to the heater during winter.

The most obvious way to deal with chapped lips caused by dehydration is to up your water intake. The Mayo Clinic reveals that women need around 11.5 cups of fluids per day, or 2.7 liters, while men require 15.5 cups, or 3.7 liters.

Vitamin deficiency

If you're drinking plenty of water and your lips are still chapped, the root cause could be a vitamin deficiency. In particular, a lack of iron and vitamin B are known to result in symptoms such as chapped lips, per Cleveland Clinic.


Iron deficiency is a common condition, but luckily, there are treatments available. Visit a general practitioner or nutritionist to find out how to consume more iron through your diet. Sources rich in iron include beans, seafood, red meat, leafy veggies, and iron-fortified cereals. However, for more serious iron deficiencies, you might have to take a daily iron supplement or get an iron infusion. Again, a doctor will point you towards the best course of action for your situation.

Meanwhile, good sources of vitamin B include leafy veggies, chickpeas and kidney beans, broccoli, and breakfast cereals fortified with folic acid. There are eight nutrients within the vitamin B category, and Healthline explains that your symptoms will differ depending on which particular nutrient/s you're lacking. Like with an iron deficiency, your doctor will likely suggest a change to your diet or supplements to get your levels back on track.


Medical conditions

Certain medical conditions can lead to dry, blistering lips, so it's important to rule these out if your lips are persistently chapped.

According to natural skincare company Jeunvie, chapped lips are an early symptom of low thyroid function. This occurs when the thyroid stops producing certain hormones, which affects a person's metabolic functions. Other signs of hypothyroidism are constant fatigue, weight gain, weakness in the muscles, irregular menstrual cycles, poor concentration, and hair loss or thinning. Those with hypothyroidism also tend to experience dry skin in other areas besides their lips. If you have one or a combination of these symptoms, it's worth seeing a doctor to investigate further.


Chapped lips can also occur as a result of certain autoimmune disorders, including Sjögren syndrome. Cedars-Sinai explains that this describes a condition where the body attacks its own glands that produce moisture, leaving behind dryness in the skin, eyes and mouth. This is a common disorder and dry lips are often accompanied by a cracked tongue, a dry throat, digestive issues, and joint pain.

Allergic reactions

Chapped lips can also be a symptom of allergic reaction. The medical name given to inflamed lips is cheilitis, and allergic contact cheilitis occurs when the lips come in contact with an allergen (via DermNet). Usually, those experiencing an allergic reaction will feel itchy around their lips and notice redness or irritation, but chapped skin and dryness are also common.


If you are experiencing an allergic reaction in your lips, pay special attention to the products and objects that your lips have come into contact with. Makeup and lip balm are common culprits of allergies. The American Academy of Dermatology Association advises avoiding certain ingredients when your lips are chapped, and these may also induce an allergic reaction. They include eucalyptus, menthol, lanolin, and flavorings such as cinnamon and peppermint.

Antihistamines can help to ease the symptoms of allergic reaction, but you'll need to avoid contact with whatever you're allergic to in order to see lasting results. Keeping a diary of everything that touches your lips and tracking your symptoms is one of the best ways to find the source of your allergy.


Taking certain medications

There are particular medications that can cause chapped lips in some people. According to Healthline, one of the most common medications that lead to chapped lips are oral retinoids, which are ironically used to treat a variety of skin disorders, skin inflammation, and skin cancer.


You can also develop chapped lips after taking lithium, which is often used to treat bipolar disorder, and chemotherapy drugs. In most cases, the chapped lips will heal when you stop taking the medication. If you are on a prolonged course of the medication and can't stop for a significant amount of time (as is often the case with chemotherapy), there are actions you can take in the meantime to relieve the dryness.

Skincare brand By Sarah London recommends using a hydrating lip balm that also has protective properties. Beeswax in particular is a great ingredient to have in a lip balm as it adds moisture while also forming a barrier of moisture on the lips. To avoid aggravating chapped lips, stay away from lip balms that contain fragrances and essential oils.