How to help your chapped lips beat the winter weather: Westmead dermatologist shares her top tips

Whether it’s 2008 and you’ve just rocked up to a party with your cherry chapstick, or you are just trying to soothe some irritation, there are many dos and don’ts when it comes to properly caring for your lips.  

Chapped lips, also known as cheilitis, are characterised by cracks or tear in the lips (usually the lower one) and dryness.  

This very common problem is just another thing we have to keep well-moisturised in the cooler months.  

With winter only just beginning, Westmead Hospital dermatologist Shien-Ning Chee has provided some useful tips on avoiding and managing chapped lips this winter.   

Westmead Hospital dermatologist Shien-Ning Chee

The causes 

Shien-Ning said there could be many reasons why chapped lips occur, but the biggest myth is dehydration.   

“Dehydration can be a factor, but you have to have extremely severe water loss for it to dry out your lips,” she said.   

“If you have dry lips, it will usually be because of environmental factors, eczema, excessive lip licking or allergies.  

“In windy and cold weather, we lose a lot of moisture from our skin and lips, hence why we are more prone to chapping in winter. It is important to be vigilant with moisturising to avoid this irritation.”  

Like our skin, our lips can also get sunburnt. Excessive sun exposure can cause the DNA in your skin to change, and as a result, we get permanent chapping.  

Shien Ning emphasised that in Australia especially, sun damage is a big cause of lip irritation in the older generation.   

“No matter how much moisturiser you put on, this condition will not go away with medical intervention,” she stressed. 

“So I encourage everyone from a young age to look out for those lip moisturisers and lip balm that have some SPF in them.”  

Recommendations: The more basic, the better  

It is important to identify what’s causing dry lips. 

If it’s due to lip licking, then you need to make habitual changes to stop the practice. If it’s due to cold, windy or dry weather, then certain balms and ointments can help protect the lips.  

If there are no underlying causes, such as the use of certain medications, and you’re simply treating dry lips resulting from winter weather, Shien-Ning recommends avoiding any products that sting your lips or anything with fragrances.  

“When you buy a fancy lip balm, chances are they are full of ingredients that you could be allergic to, or that could irritate your lips,” Shien-Ning said.  

“My advice is to keep it simple – something like Vaseline or pawpaw ointment is great. I also recommend products with some SPF in it to protect your lips from the sun.”  

“If you find that your lips simply won’t heal, there may be an underlying condition to blame and you should see a doctor. Chapped lips can get infected, as bacteria can enter through cracks and abrasions.”  

Westmead Hospital Dermatology clinic provides clinical, surgical, research and education services – but please talk to your GP in the first instance. 

For more information on the Westmead Hospital Dermatology clinic or to book an appointment, call 02 8890 7149 or click here