Cold weather, drying air-conditioning, and dehydration can all cause dry skin and chapped lips, but there are more surprising culprits at play. Your lips don’t contain oil glands like the rest of your face (and body), so they can’t re-hydrate or protect themselves.
Culprit 1: Toothpaste
Putting toothpaste chemicals on your lips at least twice per day is doing no favors for your lips. More specifically, sodium laurel sulphate (SLS) is the culprit here. SLS is a common detergent, found in everything from laundry liquid to shampoo, and it makes things nice and foamy. Although the quantities are small in toothpaste, and you're advised not to ingest it, toothpaste still gets on your lips and can cause them to dry out because it strips the oil from your skin.
"People do occasionally develop hypersensitivity to toothpaste that can lead to a chapped appearance,” Dr. Neil Sadick, a clinical professor of dermatology at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, explained to Seventeen.com. “Sometimes there's an allergy to sodium laureate sulphate or to a component called cinnamaldehyde."
Culprit 2: Lip Balm
Some lip balms contain petroleum jelly, which is crude oil that's been refined to create the clear gel we're familiar with. Because it's a humectant (meaning it draws water up from the lower levels of your skin), it only gives the illusion of moisturizing dry or chapped lips.
Once the water is drawn up to the petroleum jelly sitting on your lips, it can then evaporate. These lips balms don't contain any healing properties, force you to constantly re-apply to get that hydrated feeling, and can even leave your lips feeling worse after prolonged use.
Culprit 3: Vitamin Deficiency
Chapped lips might be a sign that you're deficient in certain vitamins, such B2 and B6. Vitamin B2 is important for cell function and the metabolism of fats, and it can help the body protect against infection — all of which are vital for maintaining the skin's barrier. Being low in B2 can result in swollen and cracked lips, so you should eat foods rich in vitamin B2 such as almonds, eggs, and mushrooms to increase your levels. Cracked lip corners can also mean a vitamin-B6 deficiency. Add in extra chickpeas, tuna, and potatoes to your diet to boost this vitamin and help repair your lips.
Culprit 4: Sunburn
Your lips are a commonly missed place when applying sunscreen and are easily susceptible to burn, even if you don’t notice it. Sunscreen can also be rubbed off with eating and drinking, or missed entirely when reapplying it. Sunburned lips, like any burn, can be dry and dehydrated, causing the skin to crack and flake. Even if your lips don’t show signs of being burned, you should be protecting them with an SPF lip balm during the day, and using a cream rich in ceramides at night to restore the skin's barrier.
Culprit 5: Citrus Fruit
Citrus fruits are highly acidic, which can damage the layers of skin on your lips by chemically burning them. Although this sounds scary, the levels of acid in the fruit aren't high enough to cause permanent damage, but it might sting or inflame the delicate skin. The high acidity can also irritate existing chapped lips, causing more flaking and pain.
This article was originally written by Amber Elias. For more, check out our sister site, Now to Love.