Itchy and irritated lips: Causes and Remedies


The lip constitute a particularly delicate area of ​​the face, which can easily get red and irritated, especially in the presence of factors such as exposure to cold, wind and/or sun, contact with aggressive substances, consumption of spicy foods. If the lips occasionally itch and redden, in general, there is no reason to worry: if, on the other hand, the sensation of tingling and discomfort is constant, it is better to investigate why it could be the alarm bell of a condition to be treated.

The causes of itchy lips

Especially during the cold season, when the temperatures are harsh and the air is pungent, it is quite common to have chapped and itchy lips. But if the situation does not improve with the application of emollient products and/or if it lasts for a long time, it is better not to underestimate it because there could be specific problems at the origin. Here are which ones.

An advice

When your lips are itchy, dry and itchy, you may be tempted to scratch. It is important not to do this and resist the urge to scrubbecause otherwise the lips would become even more red and inflamed.

La cheilite

All cheilitis are defined inflammatory processes on the labial semi-mucous membranes (from “cheilos” which means lip). Typically, cheilitis manifests as redness, dryness, cracking, scaling, and itching. In some cases, there may also be mild localized pain and sores on the lips and mouth. This rather common problem can be triggered by many factors, such as chronic lip licking and/or biting, an infection, exposure to atmospheric agents, trauma (for example from the use of musical instruments). Less common causes of cheilitis include nutritional deficiencies, including B vitamins and iron deficiencies, as well as autoimmune disorders.

What to do

Obviously, treatments depend on the underlying cause. For example, if your cheilitis is related to an infection, your dermatologist might prescribe an antifungal cream to treat the itching as well. Those who lick their lips, on the other hand, should learn to limit this bad habit and to use topical barriers (such as petroleum jelly and other emollients, i.e. substances that moisten and soften the skin). In some cases, topical steroids may be used to heal the inflammation.

Atopic dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis, also known as eczema, is a chronic condition that makes the skin dry, itchy and inflamed. It is a problem that can occur anywhere on the body, even on the lips, which then become irritated, chapped, itchy. Incidentally, people with eczema on the lips are also more prone to developing irritant or allergic contact cheilitis. Typically, affected individuals have a personal or family history of atopy, ie genetic predisposition to develop allergic diseases including eczema, hay fever and asthma.

What to do
If the lips are affected by atopic dermatitis, it is advisable to consult a dermatologist, who could prescribe the use of emollients and topical steroids.

Contact dermatitis

Itchy, sore lips could be a symptom of allergic contact dermatitis. This disease – caused by contact and/or an allergic response to an irritant– causes, in fact, an itchy and annoying skin rash, with dryness, flaking and cracking. Common irritant or allergic triggers include: lipsticks, lip balms, and other cosmetics; toothpaste, mouthwash and metals present in other dental materials/products; fragrances; preservatives; some foods (such as mangoes, citrus fruits, and cinnamon); some drugs.

What to do

Avoid the irritant it is both the best prevention and the best treatment. But how to understand what are the triggering factors in your case? The ideal is to consult a dermatologist who could prescribe various tests, including the patch test, which involves applying patches to the skin that contain small traces of possible allergens. If you develop a skin reaction to a particular patch, this could indicate that a certain substance is creating an allergic response. Meanwhile, you can soothe itchy lips with topical steroids to get immediate relief.

The urticaria

It is a skin reaction that causes itchy patches, which can occur anywhere on the body, including the mouth and lips. This rash usually occurs due to a specific trigger, such as: some foods (especially peanuts, eggs, tree nuts and shellfish); medications, such as penicillin, sulfonamides, ibuprofen; insect stings or bites; physical stimuli, such as pressure, cold, heat, exercise, or sun exposure; latex; blood transfusions; bacterial infections, including urinary tract infections and sore throats; viral infections, including the common cold, infectious mononucleosis, and hepatitis; pet hair; pollen; some plants. When the person comes into contact with these triggers, the immune system releases chemicals (such as histamine) that cause the itchy rash. Along with itching, hives can also be associated with angioedema, a swelling around the eyes, cheeks, lips and tongue.

What to do

The best treatment for hives is prevention. In other words, you have to avoid triggers. When this is not possible, hives can be treated with antihistamines and sometimes steroids. If your hives are accompanied by dizziness, swelling of the tongue, lips, mouth, or throat, or difficulty breathing, see a doctor right away.

Always helpful tips

  • Always keep your lips hydrated, using a lip balm or ointment as needed during the day. For example, products based on emollient and soothing substances, such as aloe vera, alfabisabolol, vitamin E, beeswax, colloidal oatmeal, are very useful.
  • Apply lip balm along with sunscreen when outdoors.
  • Do not bring foreign objects (pens, jewelry, metal objects, etc.) to your mouth.
  • Avoid wetting your lips frequentlyespecially when outdoors.
  • Don’t bite your lips.
  • In winter, especially when it’s very cold, protect the area with a scarf o un foulard.


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