Chapped lips decoded — why do lips crack and bleed?

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Chapped Lips Decoded -- Why Do Lips Crack And Bleed?

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Chapped Lips Decoded -- Why Do Lips Crack And Bleed?

Chapped Lips Decoded -- Why Do Lips Crack And Bleed?

Kiss, speak, smile, pout ever wonder how much you express yourself through your lips? It goes without saying that taking care of them is of the utmost importance. Also Read – Summer beauty guide: Say goodbye to chapped lips with these DIY lip balms

Chapped Lips Decoded -- Why Do Lips Crack And Bleed?

Also Read – Say goodbye to dry, peeling lips with these magical home remedies

Chapped Lips Decoded -- Why Do Lips Crack And Bleed?

Dry, chapped, bleeding lips are not only an eyesore, they are of great inconvenience too. And more importantly, your dry, cracked lips may be a sign that everything is not alright with your body. Here are a few home remedies to heal dry, chapped lips. Also Read – Get soft pink lips naturally with these 5 home remedies

Chapped Lips Decoded -- Why Do Lips Crack And Bleed?

Let’s check out some of the causes of chapped lips.

Chapped Lips Decoded -- Why Do Lips Crack And Bleed?

Weather conditions

Chapped Lips Decoded -- Why Do Lips Crack And Bleed?

The properties of lip skin are such that it loses moisture 3-10 times faster than any other part of your body. Weather conditions are the most common cause of dry lips. The arid climate, dry winter air, frequent exposure to summer sun; all of these can cause your lips to lose moisture very quickly.

Breathing through mouth

You may have noticed when you speak for too long, your lips get dry. Having air constantly passed over the lips, such as when you are talking or breathing through the mouth when your nose is blocked, or when you snore can cause chapped lips.


Medicines such as levothyroxine for hypothyroidism, Accutane for acne and wrinkles, propranolol for high blood pressure and few other medicines can cause lips to dry, crack or puff up, possibly along with other side effects. That does not mean that it happens to everyone. If you feel that you start getting dry, cracked lips soon after you take certain medicines, consult your doctor.


If you are sensitive to particular cosmetic products, your lips may dry and bleed. For example, if you are allergic to beeswax, shea butter, or castor oil, take care not to use moisturizers or lip balm that contain those ingredients. Even toothpaste containing sodium lauryl sulphate can cause your lips to dry. This chemical is known to cause inflammation of lips and mouth in some people.

In the same way, if you are allergic to certain foods or food ingredients, like figs or food colorants and dyes, you may get dry, chapped lips as an allergic reaction.


Dehydration occurs when your body loses more fluid than you take in. It is a serious condition because the reduced water content upsets the balance of minerals in your body, adversely affecting the way the body should function.

Early signs of dehydration are

  • Thirst
  • Dark coloured urine
  • Dry lips, mouth, and eyes
  • Dizziness or light-headedness
  • Headache
  • Tiredness

Drink at least 8 10 glasses of water everyday to avoid dehydration. Drink even more if you are an athlete or are diabetic. Alcoholics and elderly people too need to drink a lot of water. Drink more water than you normally do to avoid dehydration if you have persistent vomiting or diarrhoea, or you are sweating a lot due to fever. Here are the health risks of dehydration.

Vitamin deficiencies

Vitamin C deficiency Vitamin C deficiency causes scurvy. Symptoms include swollen and bleeding gums, dry lips, bruise-like spots surrounding the hair follicles, and swollen and painful joints. Prevent scurvy by maintaining sufficient body stores of vitamin C (30-60 mg per day).

Excess of vitamin A Too much of vitamin A can cause dry lips. A study reported that high dose vitamin A therapy for Darier s disease (a skin condition characterized by wart-like blemishes on the body) reduced the lesions, but showed side effects such as frontal headache, dry lips and dry nose. [3]

Vitamin B2 deficiency Also known as riboflavin, this vitamin is required for proper cellular function, metabolism of fats, and maintain normal levels of amino acid homocysteine in the blood. One of the symptoms of riboflavin deficiency is swollen cracked lips. Try to include more riboflavin-rich foods such as eggs, lean meat, organ meat such as kidneys or liver in your diet. If you are vegetarian try to include more of milk, milk products and fortified breakfast cereals in your diet. [4]

Vitamin B3 deficiency Vitamin B3, or niacin, is required for lowering cholesterol, regulating blood sugar levels, and processing fats in the body. Although niacin deficiency diseases are not common these days, amino-acid imbalance, diarrhoea, liver disease, and alcoholism can cause niacin deficiency. Rice bran, brown rice, tuna, salmon, chicken, and peanuts are some of the foods rich in niacin.

Vitamin B9 deficiency It is also known as folic acid and is required for the production of healthy red blood cells and also to fight anaemia. Deficiency of folic acid can cause abortion and infant death. It is important for pregnant women to consume sufficient folic acid through foods such as lentils, beans, dark green vegetables and citrus fruits, and supplements. Other symptoms of folic acid deficiency include depression, sluggishness, gastrointestinal problems, and even some cancers. Chest pain and cracked lips are lesser observed deficiency symptoms.

Here is a complete guide to vitamin supplements.

Angular cheilitis

Angular cheilitis is an inflammatory condition most commonly caused by organisms such as Candida albicans, Staphylococcus aureus, and -haemolytic streptococci. One or both angles of the mouth are affected. Symptoms include reddening of the affected skin, dry lips, painful cracking, scaling, bleeding, and ulceration at the corners of the mouth.

This condition may occur in anybody, but you are more susceptible if you wear oral dentures and appliances such as orthodontic braces or wear masks as part of your occupation. Excessive mouth washing and aggressive use of dental floss can also contribute to the development of angular cheilitis.

Angular cheilitis is also common among HIV-infected patients and those suffering from Down syndrome. Small children, especially those who slobber and use pacifiers, or who frequently lick their lips or suck their thumbs, too may develop this condition.

Treatment of angular cheilitis depends on the cause. So, your doctor will first determine the cause and when the cause cannot be determined, they may simply suggest applying petroleum jelly to the affected area. [1]

Lip licker s dermatitis

For many children, lips become dry and chapped, and the skin around the mouth is itchy during winter. The winter air is dry and lacks humidity, and the children feel their lips and skin drying, so they keep licking their lips. Lip-licking results in moisture quickly evaporating from the lips, contributing to further dryness and potentially even painful cracking and bleeding. Some children will lick around their mouths as well, leading to a condition called lip licker s dermatitis, says paediatrician Jennifer Ammons from Pennsylvania. She also asks parents not to admonish their children if they have lip licking as a habit but to get medical attention for them.

Treatment is again applying petroleum jelly to the lips.

Kawasaki disease

Kawasaki disease is a rare but serious disease in children (mostly below the age of 5 years) that affects the lymph nodes, skin and the mucous membranes, especially of the nose, throat and mouth. When the disease advances and is left untreated, the blood vessels are inflamed leading to heart problems. If the disease affects the coronary arteries that supply oxygenated blood to the heart, it can cause severe heart problems such as abnormal heart rhythm, aneurysm or weakening and bulging of artery walls, myocarditis or inflammation of heart muscles.

Although the cause of the disease is not fully known, scientists believe it is caused by the immune system s reaction to the virus.

The symptoms of Kawasaki disease include

  • High fever of 102 – 104 degrees Fahrenheit that persists for 5 or more days
  • Severe redness of the eyes
  • Dry cracked lips
  • Swollen tongue with big red bumps
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Rash on stomach, chest and genitals

Irritable Bowel Syndrome:

Sometimes, symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) manifest outside of the bowels. IBS is mainly of two types Crohn s disease and ulcerative colitis.

Ulcerative colitis is a type of IBS that involves only the colon and just the lining of the colon is inflamed. Crohn s disease is one of the major types of IBS that affects any part of the intestinal tract from the mouth to anus and affects the whole thickness of the bowel wall.

You may be one of the 40 percent of those who suffer from IBS with extra-intestinal manifestations, especially if your IBS is Crohn s disease. Researchers found that about 11 percent of those who have skin problems because of IBS show symptoms such as dry, cracked, bleeding lips or some other skin disorder on the face. [2]

In most cases, dry lips are not a sign of major health problem but do take it seriously if it is accompanied by other symptoms, and especially in children. Consult a doctor if it is persistent.

Image source: Shutterstock

Published : July 13, 2015 4:54 pm | Updated:July 13, 2015 6:25 pm

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