‘I’m a Dermatologist and *This* Is the Most Common Dry-Lip Ailment I See in the Winter’

Photo: Stocksy / ohlamour studio
There's nothing fun about having dry lips. Especially when not a single lip balm seems to fix the issue. If you've got chronically dry lips, Caren Campbell, MD, a California-based board-certified dermatologist, says you may be suffering from lip licker's dermatitis.

"When our lips are dry, we tend to lick our lips, which creates a vicious cycle," says Dr. Campbell. "When we lick our lips that moisture evaporates, further contributing to the dryness and irritation of the lips.  Then we keep licking and on and on." She says lip licker's dermatitis is the medical terminology for what is typically happening with dry lips.

Experts In This Article

Lip-lickers dermatitis likely gets worse as the temperatures drop. "Dry lips happen just like dry skin due to the lack of humidity in the air due to the season change and use of heaters that further dry out the air," she says. "When we lick our lips it makes things worse."

The best way to break this cycle is to avoid licking your lips. Easier said than done, right? Dr. Campbell says the best way to avoid the continued evaporation of water from lip-licking is to keep a barrier ointment on your lips. Barrier ointments keep moisture in and keep dry air out.

"Especially with the rise in anxiety and lack of distractions, [lip-licking] can become a vicious cycle," says Dr. Campbell. "So best to just reapply the vaseline or ointment every time you lick. As things become less dry you're less likely to lick again and can break the cycle."

When shopping for a barrier ointment, Dr. Campbell says to look for something that's free of propolis, a common contact allergen that is commonly found in products made with beeswax. She also says to avoid products with cinnamon and mint, which could also trigger an allergic reaction.

"Contact allergy presents as itching, burning, red and scaly lips that can seem like continued dry lips, but actually be from the thing you were hoping would help," says Dr. Campbell.

Shop three of Dr. Campbell's favorite barrier ointments to heal lips experiencing lip-lickers dermatitis below.

3 products to help lips heal from lip licker's dermatitis

1. Vaseline Lip Therapy Advanced Formula, $6

Vaseline Lip Therapy Advanced Formula, lip licker's dermatitis

"[Vaseline] contains petrolatum which is a barrier that locks moisture in and keeps the outside environment out," says Dr. Campbell. Vaseline is known as the "Swiss Army Knife" of beauty products because it has so many different uses. It can help with everything from soothing chapped lips to protecting your eyebrow tint.

Shop now: Vaseline Lip Therapy Advanced Formula, $6

2. CeraVe Healing Ointment, $8

CeraVe Healing Ointment

Petroleum and dimethicone serve as moisturizing barriers in this ointment. "Ceramides in CeraVe Healing Ointment also restore the skin's own barrier as they are the lipids in our skin that serve as the normal barrier," says Dr. Campbell. "Lastly, hyaluronic acid in the healing ointment is one of the most moisturizing ingredients that can be applied to the skin."

Shop now: CeraVe Healing Ointment, $8

3. Dr. Dan's Cortibalm, $8

Dr. Dan's Cortibalm, lip licker's dermatitis

Shop now: Dr. Dan's Cortibalm, $8

"Another product that is great for really chapped lips is Dr. Dan's Cortibalm, which contains hydrocortisone which can help calm the inflammation from severely chapped lips," says Dr. Campbell.

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