Dry Lips In Winter - An Avoidable Problem

Written by Josh Beechraft

February 03, 2021

beautiful young girl with a smiling face

Winter is a beautiful time, filled with snow, hot chocolate, and comfy scarves. Unfortunately, the cold weather also comes with one of the most uncomfortable and unsightly side effects to grace your face: chapped lips.

Although chapped lips aren't a serious medical concern, they certainly are annoying and painful. Not to mention, they are not very attractive and make you feel insecure. Even with mask mandates, you want to avoid chapped lips.

Luckily, chapped lips are an avoidable problem, even if you live in areas prone to harsh winters. Just by incorporating some of these ideas into your routine, you can avoid chapped lips and have healthy, plump, and moisturized lips instead.

Why Do Lips Get Chapped In The Winter?

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Before we answer exactly how to avoid the problem, it's helpful to discuss what the problem is. We’re sure you are aware of the ailment, but chapped lips are simply whenever your lips are dry, cracked, or red. A number of reasons can lead to chapped lips, including allergies, infections, sunburns, and skin irritations.

Most often, chapped lips are a sign of a lack of moisture. Even if you drink a lot of water, the exterior of your lips can become dry and cracked, despite the rest of your body being hydrated. So, why is this more likely to happen in the winter?

During the winter months, the temperature gets cold. Likewise, the level of humidity drops. Though you might not realize it, humidity plays a big part in the moisture levels of our skin and lips. Whenever the humidity drops, our skin's moisture can evaporate more quickly. As a result, our lips dry out.

It is important to note that dry lips can be an issue in the summer too. Chapped lips in the summer months are most often attributed to sunburns. Once the sunburn is treated and new lip skin comes in its place, the dry lip issue leaves.

tongue cleanser

Other Risk Factors

On top of normal elemental conditions for chapped lips, some people may be at high risk of getting chapped lips. Most often, certain medications lead to chapped lips, making it more difficult to target the issue without stopping the medication.

Vitamin A derived medications and topicals especially lead to chapped lips. One of the most popular vitamin A medications is isotretinoin (Accutane), which is commonly used to treat acne. Similarly, retinoids like Retin-A and Differin also lead to chapped lips and are often used to treat acne, fine lines, and wrinkles.

Lithium, a medication often used in bipolar disorder treatment, as well as chemotherapy drugs are also responsible for severely chapped lips.

If you are on any of these medications or topical treatments, it is important to drink a lot of water and keep your lips hydrated. Additionally, talk to your doctor about any preventative options. These medications may require you to use medicated treatments instead of over the counter options for your dry lips.

Ways to Avoid Chapped Lips

snow lip scrub


Here are the most effective ways to avoid chapped lips in the winter:

Try A Lip Scrub

Whenever you notice that your lips are becoming chapped, one of the first things you should do is reach for a gentle exfoliator or lip scrub. A lip scrub will gently exfoliate away all of the dead skin. When this happens, the new skin revealed can properly be treated with lip balm and ointment, helping to retain moisture as a whole.

When trying out a new lip scrub, it is important to be gentle and not select too harsh of an option. If you select an exfoliator that is too harsh, the opposite effect will likely happen. It will get rid of all of your natural oils and damage your skin barrier, making the issue worse.

One of the best things you can find in a lip scrub is oil as an ingredient. Oil is an emollient, which means that it helps to soothe and soften the skin. Emollients will ensure that your skin is still protected while you are removing all of the dead cells. Meanwhile, humectants ensure that your skin retains water by attracting it to the skin's surface.

Some of the most popular emollients include shea butter, coconut oil, jojoba oil, vitamin E oil, and grapeseed oil, but there are many more. Humectants include honey or aloe.

Obviously, a lip scrub will also need an exfoliating aspect. For skin on the lips, items like fine granule sugar or coffee grounds are the best. These small fragments are enough to buff away the dead skin without tearing your lips.

LED Electric Toothbrush

Lip Balm

After sloughing away all of your dead skin, grab an unscented lip balm. Before just grabbing any lip balm, however, it is important to know that not all lip balms are created equal. Some will simply waste your money, while others will make your lips dependent on them for moisture, forcing you to use the lip balm more and more frequently.

The first thing you should look for when selecting a lip balm is that it is free of fragrance. Even though fragrance smells delicious, the skin on your lips is incredibly delicate. Any fragrance will likely irritate it and exacerbate the issue.

Additionally, avoid certain ingredients that make your lips drier. This will include phenol, menthol, and salicylic acid. If you get down to what these ingredients really are, they are exfoliants. Exfoliating your lips a few times a week is great for them, but constantly coating them with a chemical exfoliant is incredibly dangerous.

If you use these ingredients on your lips, you will find your lips becoming drier and drier. This creates a vicious cycle that you can't escape. Avoid lip balms that include any of these ingredients or others related to it.

Instead, look for simple lip balms with either petroleum jelly or beeswax base. We personally like beeswax-based lip balms the best because they add moisture instead of trapping the moisture in. Even if you see a lip balm with a beeswax base, still make sure that it is free of the other ingredients.

Next, look for a lip balm with SPF 15. Even in the winter, the sunrays are powerful and harmful. Since your delicate lips are so sensitive, make sure they are protected with a lip balm equipped to resist the sun.

Finally, consider adding an additional layer above your lip balm. Something like Aquaphor or Vaseline will help trap the moisture to your lips. In other words, putting a thin coat of Vaseline over your applied lip balm will help ensure that your lips stay moisturized throughout the day.

Use a Humidifier In Your Home

As described above, lips get chapped in the winter because of the lack of humidity in the air. Even though you can't add humidity to the natural atmosphere, you can add it back into your home. This will help offset the lack of humidity outside.

Do this by adding a humidifier to your home. The best time to use your humidifier within your house is while you are sleeping. This ensures that your lips stay moisturized and supple throughout the winter, especially when you are sleeping.

Obviously, using a humidifier within your home won't help if you are not at your home frequently, but it is a great option to give your lips much needed additional moisture whenever you are back at the homestead, relaxing and enjoying your day.

Drink Water

Since Chapped lips can be a sign of dehydration, you probably need to drink some extra water. During the winter, your mouth may produce less saliva. As a result, your lips feel drier, causing you to lick them more often. The more you lick your lips, the drier they get.

Easily avoid this problem by drinking more water. You should be drinking between 6 to 8 glasses of water a day. Another way of gauging how much water you should drink is relative to your body weight. A general rule of thumb is drinking half of your body weight in ounces.

For example, you should be drinking 60 ounces of water if you weigh 120 pounds. You may need to add more water if you exercise. Not only will water moisturize your lips, but it will help your body as a whole.

Don’t Pick At Or Over Lick Your Lips

Whenever your lips get chapped, little pieces of dead skin can sit on them. Though it is tempting to pick at them, and let's admit it, satisfying to do it, you should avoid picking at your lips. Picking at your lips can cause tears, cracks, and bleeding. When your lips are already irritated, these are effects you want to avoid.

Instead of picking at the dry skin, opt for an exfoliator like we mentioned above. The exfoliator will remove the dead skin without causing any more tears or irritation.

Additionally, don't over lick your lips either. Your saliva is full of enzymes meant to breakdown food. With this in mind, it's clear that your saliva will aid in drying out your lips. Instead of licking your lips, drink water or select a lip balm, as described above.

When To See A Doctor

doctor treating dry lip patient


Some lip irritation is more serious and will require a doctor’s attention. If you treat yourself with intensive self-care and are still not seeing any improvement in your lips, you may have something more serious than winter-related chapped lips.


One of the most serious forms of chapped lips is cheilitis. Most often, cheilitis will need to be treated by a dermatologist. This condition includes severely cracked lips, especially around the mouth corners.

This illness is so serious that your lips can develop ulcers, white plaques, or a lumpy texture. Though you might write it off as severe chapped lips, cheilitis is caused by infections or inflammatory diseases. You will need to see a doctor to ensure that you don't have any other underlying condition.

To treat cheilitis, you can use an over the counter antifungal cream. Still, contact your doctor or dermatologist before using it. Many antifungal creams are incredibly hazardous if swallowed. Checking with your doctor will make sure that you are safe from all fronts.

Dehydration or Malnutrition

Additionally, severely chapped lips can be a sign of severe dehydration or malnutrition. If your chapped lips are accompanied with any signs of lightheadedness, dry mouth, constipation, headaches, or decreased urine, you may have dehydration. Similarly, signs of muscle weakness, bloated stomachs, decaying teeth, and bone fragility are signs of malnutrition.

Although you may want to treat your chapped lips for comfort’s sake, it is most important to treat any underlying conditions. See a doctor if you think that your chapped lips are signs of something more serious.

Chapped Lips Still Not Improving?

If you are giving your lips the love they deserve and you still aren't seeing an improvement, make an appointment with your dermatologist. This is especially true if you are on any of the medications mentioned above. Your dermatologist will be able to prescribe you special ointments and medicated lip treatments to fully target the issue with maximum power and effectiveness.

Snow teeth whitening kit

Final Thoughts

Anytime you meet a new person or talk to a friend, their eyes are drawn to your lips, showcasing your pearly whites. Make sure your lips look smooth and healthy by preventing dryness over the winter. Though the lack of humidity makes chapped lips more of an issue during these cold months, the issue is avoidable.

Invest in a good scrub and lip balm and avoid picking your lips or over licking them. At the same time, sleep with a humidifier on and drink lots of water. Just by incorporating the tips mentioned above, you will be able to avoid this problem.

If you are still unable to bring back your healthy lips, schedule an appointment with your dermatologist. You may have a more severe condition or underlying illness to explain the chapped lips. Target that issue first, and then incorporate our chapped lips avoidance tips into your routine!