Chapped lips, also known as cheilitis, is a common condition marked by dryness, redness, and cracking of the lips (
Several factors may cause chapped lips, including cold weather, sun exposure, and dehydration.
However, chapped lips can also be a sign of something more serious, including certain nutritional deficiencies.
This article examines which vitamin and mineral deficiencies can cause chapped lips.
Specific nutrient deficiencies
Deficiencies in various vitamins and minerals may contribute to chapped lips.
Iron is necessary for several bodily processes, including oxygen transportation, DNA synthesis, and red blood cell production. This mineral also plays a key role in skin health, wound healing, and inflammation regulation (
Iron deficiency anemia may cause angular cheilitis, which is characterized by inflammation and dryness on one or both sides of your mouth (
A deficiency in this mineral may also cause pale skin, brittle nails, and fatigue (
Zinc is an essential mineral that’s vital to your health.
In fact, a deficiency in zinc may impair skin health, digestion, immune function, reproductive health, and growth and development (
It can also cause chapped lips, as well as dryness, irritation, and inflammation on the sides of your mouth (
Other symptoms of zinc deficiency include diarrhea, decreased immunity, skin ulcers, and hair loss (
B vitamins are a group of eight water-soluble vitamins involved in energy production and cell function. Animal and test-tube studies indicate that they also affect tissue repair and wound healing (
Chapped lips are a common symptom of deficiencies, especially in folate (vitamin B9), riboflavin (vitamin B2), and vitamins B6 and B12 (
People with disorders that affect nutrient absorption — such as celiac disease, chronic gastritis, and Crohn’s disease — are especially susceptible to deficiencies (
Given that vitamin B12 is found primarily in animal products, vegans and vegetarians may also be at a higher risk of deficiency (
Furthermore, a deficiency in B vitamins may lead to dermatitis, depression, irritability, and fatigue (
Deficiencies in multiple nutrients, including iron, zinc, and B vitamins, can cause chapped lips.
Other causes of chapped lips
Aside from nutritional deficiencies, several other conditions may contribute to chapped lips.
Environmental conditions like sun damage and cold or windy weather can cause your lips to dry out and become chapped. Also, dehydration and excessive licking or picking at your lips are factors (
Chapped lips may indicate other serious health conditions as well.
For example, Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disorder that can cause dry lips, along with swelling or cracks in the corners of your mouth (
Chapped lips may also be an early sign of thyroid problems, along with dry skin, weakness, and changes in weight (
Angular cheilitis is another condition that causes inflammation, irritation, and dryness in the corners of your mouth. It can occur due to certain fungal or bacterial infections, or when saliva becomes trapped on the sides of your lips (
In addition to particular nutrient deficiencies, chapped lips may be caused by several other environmental and health conditions.
Treatments for chapped lips
In most cases, applying lip balm throughout the day is the easiest way to treat dry, chapped lips.
For lips that are very dry, peeling, or cracked, you can also opt for thicker ointments, such as petroleum jelly.
If you suspect you have a nutritional deficiency, talk to your healthcare provider to determine the best treatment option.
For some people, making simple dietary modifications and eating more foods rich in iron, zinc, or B vitamins may be sufficient. However, others may require a multivitamin or supplement to meet their needs.
Your healthcare provider can also evaluate whether any underlying conditions may be contributing to your chapped lips.
You can usually treat chapped lips with lip balms and ointments. In some cases, supplements or dietary changes may be necessary.
The bottom line
Chapped lips can be caused by deficiencies in certain nutrients, including iron, zinc, and B vitamins.
However, environmental factors and other health conditions may also play a role.
If you have chapped lips that don’t seem to heal with lip balms or ointments, consult a healthcare professional to determine whether you have any deficiencies.