By Mary Schoepe
For Capital Region Independent Media
We use our mouths for lots of things — talking, eating and, of course, kissing! But most of us don’t really consider how much our lips do throughout the day and how important they are, which also means we don’t think about taking care of them… until it’s too late.
And even though I thought I was doing everything right — drinking lots of water, using a dry scrub, applying lip balm throughout the day and making every effort not to lick my lips — I still had chapped lips!
And that’s when I decided to do some research.
According to dermatologist Dr. Melissa Piliang, “Lips are a special type of skin that is thin and delicate and requires a little extra TLC. Unlike other parts of your skin, your lips don’t contain oil glands, making them more susceptible to drying out and becoming cracked.”
Cheilitis, also known as chapped lips, is a common and uncomfortable issue for many people. Cold weather, the dry air courtesy of your furnace or woodstove, and lip licking are just some of the common causes of chapped lips.
However, my chapped lips were the result of something more alarming.
Sometimes my lips looked like I just had lip filler injected into them — all swollen and puffy. To my surprise, I found that I was allergic to the lanolin in the lip balm I used. Most dermatologists agree that applying natural ingredients with antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties such as aloe vera, honey, coconut oil, cucumber and green tea will bring your lips back to normal.
Our lips are often the first causality of vitamin B deficiencies, especially if you notice cracking at the corners of your mouth when you smile. Of the eight different B vitamins, the most common deficiency is vitamin B12, which is responsible for keeping the body’s nerves and blood cells healthy. Men and women need at least 2.4 micro of B12 daily, however it’s best to check with your doctor first.
And according to the National Resource Center on Nutrition, Physical Activity and Aging, one of the most important supplements you can take to keep your lips kissable is the mineral zinc. Zinc is vital for a healthy immune system and can be found in everything from meat and fish to legumes.
Found in everything from eggs and beef to plants or prescription medications, taking too much vitamin A may cause chapped lips. The recommended daily amount of vitamin A for men is 900 micrograms and 700 for women.
The Environmental Working Group warns against using lip balms containing harmful ingredients such as glycerin, parabens, camphor, menthol and phenol, which can be irritating and inflame your lips.
When it comes to lip care, the saying “prevention is better than the cure” shouldn’t be taken lightly. While restoring the health of your lips will take time, taking care of them should be a vital part of your health regimen.
After all, your lips define your beauty and your health.