Winter Skin Care

How to Heal Cracked Lip Corners Fast, Because…Ouch!

Zoe Weiner

Photo: Lauren Naefe

Having perpetually chapped lips is one of those annoying side effects of winter weather or dry heat that you often have to learn to grin and bear (after slathering on copious amounts of lip balm, that is). But if you let things go totally untreated for too long, sometimes the dryness spreads to the lip corners and then even grinning and bearing it hurts.

Cracked lip corners can happen for a few different reasons, the most obvious being that your lips are hella chapped and the dryness has started to spread to the outermost edges of the mouth, due to a lack of moisture. But, if you find this happens to you on repeat, take note that there can be some other things at play, too, which you’ll want to get checked out by your doc.

“Chapped lip corners could be caused by an allergy to something you’re eating that’s causing over dryness in the corners of your lips or mouth, so some people need to figure out what that allergy is,” says Rachel Liverman, CEO and co-founder of Glowbar, who also points to acidic foods like oranges and grapefruits as purported culprits. Another condition, called angular cheilitis, that could also be at play, according to board-certified dermatologist Rachel Nazarian, MD. “It happens often because people breathe with their mouth at night, usually when their nose is stuffy, like during allergy season,” she says. “Small bits of saliva collect in this area and degrade and, since saliva is a digestive enzyme, dissolve the tissue.” This, she explains, can cause secondary yeast to “invade the area,” creating inflammation.

When chapping is the issue, you should be able to clear things up in a day or two with the right routine tweaks. But if you suspect something else, you’re going to want to check in with a derm to figure out your best course of action (which, according to Dr. Nazarian, will likely be topical cortisone and an occlusive balm).  For all those chapped AF situations, though, we asked pros weigh in on how to heal cracked lip corners fast. Scroll for what they had to say.

1. Slather on a balm

This one might feel a little “duh”—especially because chapped lips are literally begging you to put some balm on them, and if you ignore their call they’ll just keep screaming—but it’s important that you’re using the right product. You’ll want something with the best-of-the-best hydrating occlusives, which derms call out as beeswax and petroleum, to seal in moisture, and getting a formula with a little hyaluronic acid in it will help do the trick. Just make sure that whatever you’re using doesn’t have menthol, which can dry out your lips.  For a balm that fits the bill, Dr. Nazarian is a fan of Aquaphor ($7) and Vaseline ($9), while board-certified dermatologist Alicia Zalka, MD suggests applying CeraVe Healing Ointment ($12) all over. Be sure to coat the entirety of you lips, focusing on the corners, and slather on an extra coat at bedtime for some overnight repair.

2. Hydrate internally

Topical hydration is important for any sort of dry skin condition, but you also want to be sure you’re getting that H2O internally, too. “Whenever someone tells me that they have chapped or dry lips, the first thing I tell them to do is drink a ton of water,” says Liverman. “It sounds simple, but that’s the first step. Water is the best way to nourish you body in general, and it really works.” And Dr. Zalka recommends staying away from salty foods, since they can further dehydrate your body.

3. Invest in a humidifier

Skin pros sing the praises of humidifiers during the winter months for a number of reasons thanks to their ability to disperse moisture into air that would otherwise be super dry (thanks, blasting heaters). “Sleeping with a humidifier at night is obviously going to keep your lips more hydrated, the same way it does for the rest of your body,” says Liverman, and the derms agree. For one that won’t cost you your entire budget, try one of these affordable options from Amazon.

4. Pop some B vitamins

“Cracked, peeling lips can be a sign of a vitamin B deficiency,” says Dr. Zalka, and there are studies to back this up. If none of the other fixes seem to be helping, add a supplement into your routine to treat the situation from the inside out might be what you need to do the trick. If not? It may be time to book an appointment with the derm, just in case.

Skin feeling thirsty elsewhere? Here’s everything you need to know about treating dry skin all over, straight from a dermatologist.

Want to add some color into your lip-treatment game? These next gen glosses will hydrate your lips while also making them look totally, colorfully kissable. And if you’re more of a balm person, this is the tinted one our editors can’t get enough of

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