Zinc oxide For Lips

“There are several different things that can cause chapped lips, ” says dermatologist Clay J. Cockerell, MD, medical director of Dermpath Diagnostics in Dallas. “Most of the time it’s just caused by dryness.” The outdoor elements, such as wind, are a prime culprit.

Occasionally there are more serious causes for persistent chapped lips, including:

  • Sun damage to the lips that has become a precancerous condition
  • Allergies
  • Inflammatory skin disease

Breaking the Chapped Lips Habit

These tips will help both treat and prevent chapped lips:

  • Stay hydrated. Dry, cracked lips may be a sign that you are not drinking enough water.
  • Use lip products with a sun protection factor (SPF). These help to protect against sun damage, which can lead to chapped lips.
  • Don’t lip-lick. People sometimes lick their lips to reduce the feeling of dry lips, but the saliva actually worsens the situation. This becomes a vicious cycle.
  • Don’t exfoliate. This beauty practice isn’t necessary for lips, says Cockerell. The skin will replace its old cells at the right time. Exfoliation can make dry lips even more uncomfortable.

Choosing the Right Chapped Lip Product

Your best choice is a basic lip balm, with either a petrolatum or paraffin base, that can keep moisture in your lips, protect them from the elements, and give them time to heal. Even “medicated” lip products have one of these as their primary ingredient. “My recommendation is to put on Vaseline Intensive Lip Therapy or ChapStick frequently throughout the day, ” says Cockerell, who also advises choosing a formula with a built-in sunscreen (look for an SPF number in the product name). “Your skin will return to normal over a period of time.”

Before you dig through your first aid kit or medicine cabinet for something to relieve chapped lips, consider this advice on what to avoid:

  • Antibiotic ointment. “You probably don’t need this unless you have an infection, ” says Cockerell, adding that instead of self-treating infected lips it’s best to see a doctor for the right care.
  • Zinc oxide. “That’s mainly a sunscreen. It won’t treat chapped lips, but will help prevent sun damage, ” he says.
  • Hydrocortisone. This steroid cream “can cause a problem with thinning of the skin around the mouth and the development of an acne-like condition, ” warns Cockerell. “Don’t overdo the hydrocortisone or the steroids.”
  • “Natural” products. Shea butter, beeswax, lanolin, coconut oil, and mentholatum are all so-called natural products promoted for lip care. However, warns Cockerell, many people can develop allergies to them, making their dry, cracked lips worse rather than better.
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