How to prevent and treat chapped lips during winter

By Amanda Schmidt, AccuWeather staff writer

With the cold, dry winter season, the presence of chapped lips tends to increase.

Your lips don’t have oil glands, so they're almost always exposed to the elements. Exposure to sun, wind and cold, dry air can contribute to chapped lips, according to the WebMD.

People have chapped lips throughout the year, but it can get much worse during winter months. The dry air indoors, wind and rough weather outside contribute to worsening conditions, according to Dr. Arefa Cassoobhoy, senior medical director at WebMD.

"What I tell people to really just take care of their lips, like the way they take care of their face," Cassoobhoy said.

chapstick, lips

Apply lip balm daily, especially at night, when you start to experience dry lips. The base of the product should be petroleum gel, mineral oil or dimethicone. Those are the three big ones, according to Cassoobhoy.

The lip balm should have a sunscreen, year-round, even in the winter when you feel like there may not be that much sunlight. This will help to protect your lips from the sun and burning.

Some people get irritated by products that have a lot of additives. Common irritants are eucalyptus oil, camphor and menthol. Be cautious of using lip balms with a lot of additives.

"If someone has dry, irritated lips and they’re noticing that sting, it may be the product in their lip balm and they should choose something that doesn’t have that added in," Cassoobhoy said.

Home products, such as olive oil and coconut oil, also work. However, you want a product that stays on the lips. For this reason, petroleum gel really tends to stand out as a good product to use, according to Cassoobhoy.

6 unexpected ways winter affects your health
Snow blindness: How snow, the sun's UV rays can temporarily damage your vision
5 ways your body combats cold weather's harsh impacts

Dehydration leads to chapped lips. Thus, increasing your water intake and staying hydrated help to prevent and heal chapped lips.

Moisture in the air also helps to heal dry lips.

"If you’re indoors a lot, the air is really dry. A humidifier is going to add moisture into the air, so your skin and your lips stay hydrated," Cassoobhoy said.

While it may seem counter-intuitive, don’t lick your lips. The saliva actually promotes dry and chapped lips.

"You also don’t want to pull on the skin of the lips, just use the lip balm over and over again," Cassoobhoy said.

Avoid products that may be irritating your chapped lips until they heal, which may include spicy food for many people.

Maintaining a healthy diet is helpful in treating chapped lips. Processed foods often contain ingredients and salts that will contribute to dehydration, which are good to avoid when you have chapped lips.

Chapped lips also heal at different paces for everyone.

"It depends on how well you are taking care of the problem, and if you’re constantly licking their lips or pulling the skin off, then it’s going to persist," Cassoobhoy said.

See a dermatologist if your problem persists. Chapping that doesn’t heal, despite regular use of lip balm, can be a sign of infection or a more serious problem.

"If chapped lips are really severe, or you’re getting blisters or breaking around the corners of your mouth, then that could be a sign of a different problem that needs medical attention," Cassoobhoy said.

For more safety and preparedness tips, visit

AccuWeather ready logo

Report a Typo


Comments that don't add to the conversation may be automatically or manually removed by Facebook or AccuWeather. Profanity, personal attacks, and spam will not be tolerated.

More Weather News