Most of your body has sebaceous glands beneath the surface, which pump sebum, or oil, to the skin in order to keep it hydrated and protected from the elements. Your lips, however, rely on internal moisture and hydration to prevent chapping from factors like wind, low humidity, coolness, high heat or sun exposure. As your lips dry out, they can crack, causing severe chapping. Taking certain precautions, you can both alleviate and prevent chapped lips.
Use a Humidifier
Avoid dry conditions, which may accelerate chapping. If the air in your home constantly dries out your lips, then invest in a humidifier. Any steam-producing device will suffice as it increases moisture in the air. Also, take a warm bath or head to a steam room, but beware of hot water or showers, which may cause skin to dry out and itch, according to dermatologist Dr. Barbara Reed, in the New York Times. The goal is to provide your lips with the moisture they may be lacking in their normal environment without causing damage elsewhere on the body.
Drink Plenty of Fluids
Other than changing the environment around you, you can make the internal conditions of your body more fluid happy. Any beverages that are low in sugar and salt, like water, tea or a low-sugar sports drink, will help to hydrate your mouth, organs and skin. Of course, drinking too much of anything is not healthy for you, but generally the idea here is to stay hydrated enough that your lips do not dry out due to dehydration.
Apply a Lip Balm
Lip balms, especially ones with a sun-protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher and that contain fat-based products like petroleum jelly, can reduce the pain of chapped lips while helping them to recover. At the same time, dermatologist Jerome Litt warned in a March 1, 2004, Los Angeles Times article, watch out for any burning or itching associated with the use of a certain lip balm. Ingredients like phenol, menthol and camphor may cause an allergic reaction or skin irritation, which can further burn the lips and exacerbate the problem.
Avoid Licking Your Lips
Licking your lips will not provide moisture. Instead, the saliva will cause lips to dry out quicker, because saliva tends to evaporate rather easily. In fact, using a flavored lip balm may increase your tendency to lick your lips and actually hurt you more than it helps. Therefore, consider buying a flavorless lip balm or consciously make the effort to leave your lips alone.
About this Author
Sky Smith has been writing on psychology, electronics, health, and fitness since 2002. He graduated from the University of Florida with honors in 2005, earning a B.S. in psychology and statistics with a minor in math. He writes articles for LIVESTRONG and eHow.