If you can’t stop grabbing the lip balm, the problem could be bigger than you think. Dry chapped lips are one symptom of vitamin deficiency. They are also an early warning sign for serious health issues.
Dry lips are usually caused by the environment. That first cold snap of winter often leads to chapped lips. So does a sunny day at the beach. Dry conditions or excessive licking can also damage them. If your environment or behavior hasn’t changed, it’s time to dig deeper.
Your mouth may be telling you something. If you aren’t putting the right food into it, then chapped lips can be the result. There are eight water-soluble B vitamins. One study examined combinations like B9 and B12 or B3, B5, B6, and B10. It showed certain combinations improved healing and sped the production of skin cells.
Our lips are often the first casualty of vitamin B deficiencies. If you notice cracking at the corners of the mouth when you smile, it could be from lack of a B. People with Crohn’s disease or some gluten allergies face chapped lips from a lack of nutrition. Of course, vitamin deficiencies can happen even if you don’t have a medical disorder.
Vegans and vegetarians often lack B-12, which is found in meat. Riboflavin (or B2) is vital for healthy skin, hair, nails and yes, lips. If you have sores in your mouth, it could be due to a deficiency. Riboflavin can be found in dairy products, eggs and green leafy veggies. It is also in nuts and beans. Adults need 1.7 milligrams of riboflavin. A multivitamin offering 100 percent or more of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for all the Bs is the simplest solution.
Just as non-meat eaters often suffer B12 deficiencies, they face iron issues as well. Although iron is present in vegetables like spinach and broccoli, the problem is that phytates in them inhibit iron absorption. Polyphenols in vegetables, fruit, legumes, tea, coffee, and wine also inhibit iron absorption. Since women can lose iron due to excessive blood loss during menstruation, those who don’t eat meat are at even greater risk for serious or even life-threatening iron deficiencies. Your lips may be an early warning sign. Your health care provider might recommend an iron supplement.
One of the most important mineral supplements you can take, zinc does far more than help keep your lips kissable. It’s vital for a healthy immune system. It can be found in everything from meat and fish to legumes. Although deficiencies are rare, taking a zinc supplement can prevent respiratory infections. It’s safe at doses up to 40 mg of elemental zinc but too much will interfere with your body’s ability to absorb copper. This can actually increase your infection risk.
Too Much A
As with zinc, it’s possible to get too much of a good thing. Too much Vitamin A can cause dry lips. Because Vitamin A is present in retinoids from animals and carotenoids from plants, most people get more than enough in their diet. Everything from green leafy vegetables to beef and eggs have Vitamin A. Three thousand mcg is the upper limit for daily Vitamin intake. Supplements can easily push you past this–and excessive vitamin A can be fatal.
Besides vitamins, some drugs can make your lips dry, for example, the high-blood pressure medication Inderal. Skin care products containing retinoids may also be responsible for chapped lips. Your toothpaste, lipstick, or the lip balm itself may be responsible. Avoid lipstick with propyl gallate and toothpaste with sodium lauryl sulfate. Lip balms with parabens, phthalates or plumping ingredients like phenol and carmol can harm your lips as can menthol.
Drinking enough water to prevent dehydration is vital to overall health. If you live in a very dry environment, a humidifier in your room can help. Keep in mind that dry lips can be an early warning sign for serious illnesses. If you’ve taken every step and still have the problem, it’s time to get in touch with your doctor. The thyroid, our body’s primary metabolic regulator, can cause a host of problems when it’s not working properly. Thyroid dysfunction often reveals itself with mouth or lip issues. Paying attention to your lips is about more than vanity. Healthy humans usually have healthy lips.
- Effects of Vitamin B Complex and Vitamin C on human skin cells: is the perceived effect measurable? Advances in Skin and Wound Care.
- Review on iron and its importance for human health
- Zinc Deficiency
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Vitamin A
- Oral manifestations of thyroid disorders and its management
John Bankston is a published author of over 150 nonfiction books for children and young adults including biographies of Jonas Salk, Gerhard Domak, and Frederick Banting.