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What Causes Dry Lips?

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  • Written By: Amanda R. Bell
  • Edited By: E. E. Hubbard
  • Last Modified Date: 23 November 2016
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Dry lips, which can make everything from breathing to smiling uncomfortable, can be caused by any number of things. The most common is dehydration, although extreme cold or heat as well as low humidity may also be the root of the problem. An allergic reaction to metal, beauty products, or toothpaste can cause chapped lips as well; essentially, any allergen that comes in contact with the mouth can cause dry lips. This condition is also often a side effect of blood pressure or anti-nausea medications.

For otherwise healthy individuals, dehydration is the most common cause of dry lips. This can occur because a person is not drinking enough water or is consuming substances or foods that dehydrate the body; generally, salt and alcohol are two of the biggest culprits. A lack of moisture can cause the lips to feel tight and cracked, as well as reduce the amount of saliva that the mouth produces, also leading to dryness. Drinking water regularly, limiting one’s salt intake, and consuming alcohol in moderate amounts can all help to bring moisture back to the lips and prevent this problem in the future.

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In addition to dehydration, the weather can also play a significant role in the occurrence of chapped lips. A lack of humidity, or moisture in the air, can dry out lips fairly quickly. When this is coupled with cold temperatures and wind or excessive heat, the mouth can dry out even faster. For those who live in arid climates with extreme temperatures in either direction, protective, moisturizing lip balms and plenty of water are typically the best ways to prevent this issue.

Countless items come in contact with a person’s mouth on a daily basis, any of which can potentially cause an allergic reaction. For many people, the lips are more sensitive than other areas of the body, and, while they may not experience a reaction when another body part comes in contact with an allergen, the lips may react by becoming swollen, chapped, or dry. The most common unknown reaction is the nickel found in objects such as pens or paper clips, both of which many people absentmindedly place in their mouths. Beauty products that contain propyl gallate, a preservative, and toothpastes that include sodium lauryl sulfate, a foaming agent, or guaiazulene, a blue dye, may also cause an allergic reaction that results in dry lips.

If a person has recently started a new medication and he or she develops dry lips, the drug itself may be the problem. Several common prescription medications list dry or chapped lips as a possible side effect. While this is usually not detrimental to one’s health, especially when compared to what would happen without the medication, it can be annoying and uncomfortable. Typically, this side effect occurs with blood pressure and anti-nausea drugs, and increasing one’s water intake and using a moisturizing lip balm will usually help.

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