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Lip Licker's Dermatitis: Causes and Best Home Remedies

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Licking your lips every few minutes can lead to a chronic condition called lip licker's dermatitis. It can look like an allergic reaction on your lips but doesn't lighten up or go away like an allergy. The good news is that a combination of topical remedies to hydrate your lips and behavior modification can treat lip licker's dermatitis, and help prevent its recurrence. 

Table of contents

    • What is lip licker's dermatitis?
    • What causes lip licker's dermatitis?
    • Environmental factors
    • Medical conditions
    • Medications
    • Smoking
    • Poorly-fitting dentures
    • Force of habit
    • How do you fix lip licker's dermatitis?
    • Address triggers
    • Hydrate your lips


    What is lip licker's dermatitis?

    Licking your lips may seem like a harmless thing to do. It is the body's natural response when you're excited or nervous. In either state of mind, your salivary glands stop secreting and your mouth becomes dry. Your lips can become dry due to other reasons, prompting you to lick them. Constant lip licking can lead to a skin condition known as lip licker's dermatitis, also called lip lick cheilitis and lip licking eczema. 

    When you lick your lips, you get only temporary relief from the dryness. The saliva evaporates in a few minutes and leaves your lips drier. If your lips are dry all the time, then licking them several times a day disrupts your skin's normal barrier function and causes inflammation. The ongoing inflammation further drives lip-licking, leading to a constant wet-dry cycle and increasing chances of lip licker's dermatitis.

    What does lip licker's dermatitis look like? Well, it ain't pretty! Persistent licking can make your lips chap, peel, flake and split. And not just your lips, but also the skin around your mouth can become dry, red and fissured. A number of reasons can cause this condition, as explained below. 

    What causes lip licker's dermatitis?

    Lip licker's dermatitis can affect anyone. It is more noticeable in children and adults with cognitive impairment. Children may have a tough time reminding themselves not to lick their dry lips. Adults with cognitive issues may not understand that constant licking is making their lips drier or they may not be aware of their actions at all.

    So, what are the reasons for this condition? 

    Environmental factors

    Staying out in the sun for too long can cause sunburn and dry lips. A good sunscreen of SPF30 or greater can help prevent sunburn. A lip moisturizer can similarly offer sun protection and hydrate your lips. Many lip balms also give a lip color, addressing your aesthetic needs. 

    Cold weather and low humidity draw moisture away from your skin. Dry heat indoors can have a similar dehydrating effect on your skin and lips. For this reason, people with skin conditions like psoriasis and eczema have flare-ups in old and dry months.

    Medical conditions

    If you frequently have nasal congestion, you may breathe through your mouth, which can dry out your mouth and lips. Relieving your blocked nose should clear up the problem and prevent skin dryness and cracking from getting worse. 

    Autoimmune conditions like Sjögren's syndrome and Crohn's disease attack glands producing moisture, leading to dry mouth, skin and eyes. Dry and flaky skin is also associated with an underactive thyroid condition known as hypothyroidism. 

    Medications

    Dry mouth and lips are the side effects of certain medications. Retinoids are most frequently reported having side effects such as chapped lips and a reduction in saliva. 

    Smoking

    Tobacco smoking irritates the skin around your mouth, leading to dryness and cracks. It can manifest as lip licker's dermatitis. 

    Poorly-fitting dentures

    When dentures don't fit correctly, they cause your lips to fold inwards, especially when you're eating. This leads to food and saliva drying on your lips. 

    Force of habit

    When you cannot help yourself from licking your lips frequently, then the risk of lip licker's dermatitis can increase. Identifying the triggers or reasons for your habit will help you break it. 

    How do you fix lip licker's dermatitis?

    The condition resolves when you stop licking your lips so much. And this is possible when you don't feel the need to moisten your lips because they're well lubricated and don't cause discomfort. If, apart from dry lips, the habit is driven by certain triggers, then practical interventions in lip-licking dermatitis can be helpful. Here's a look at home remedies that can give you respite from severely chapped lips and behaviour modification tips. 

    Address triggers

    Mental and emotional conditions can cause physical symptoms that mimic those caused by chronic medical conditions. For example, panic disorder can cause dizziness, chest pain and breathing difficulties, while depression can cause gastrointestinal distress, fatigue and limb pain. In the absence of an underlying medical condition for dryness, anxiety or stress experienced on a regular basis can lead to a cycle of repeated licking. 

    Practical tips to reduce stress or anxiety within minutes:

    • Breathe deeply and pay attention to your breathing;
    • Massage your hand;
    • Stretch at your desk;
    • If possible, take a quick walk;
    • Listen to music;
    • Acknowledge your feelings to lighten their burden;
    • Inhale essential oils. 

    As your emotional state can also affect your life in other ways, it is best to seek help from a behavioral therapist. 

    Hydrate your lips

    Gently exfoliating your lips and the area around it removes the dead skin that may cause itchiness or increase the feeling of dryness. You can use a damp washcloth to exfoliate, but a face scrub with natural botanicals is more effective in sloughing off dead skin cells. 

    Ubtan Face & Body Scrub is infused with almond, walnut powder, chickpea flour for effective exfoliation, an oil blend for hydration, and a turmeric and saffron extract to soothe the skin. It is suitable for all skin types and should be a part of your exfoliation routine for lip licker's dermatitis.

    After exfoliation, use a lip balm to moisturize and nourish your lips. Apply the balm several times a day to ease dryness and keep your lips feeling soft and hydrated, so you don't feel the need to moisten them. You can also apply coconut oil to your lips or prepare a homemade balm. Consider adding a few drops of essential oil for boosted effects and a refreshing scent that makes using the balm enjoyable. 

    Take a pick from our essential oils range offering a variety of fragrances to suit every taste. The 100% pure single oils and blends can be topically applied (properly diluted) for body-wide relaxation and wellness. 

    Lip licker's dermatitis is a chronic condition, but it can go away with the right lip care routine and practical interventions. Take good care of your lips, and you'll eliminate the urge to moisten them. 

    Fiona F

    I'm curious about skincare not just from the perspective of beauty but also overall well-being. After all, the skin is a mirror of our internal health. I chase the facts and love sharing skincare tips that I would use myself! Drop your comments and share your experience caring for your skin and dealing with skin anxieties.

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