treat chapped lips

What’s the best chapped lips treatment? How do you fix them fast?

To me, it happens every winter. I live in windy London, a city famous for its gloomy, rainy weather. The cold temperatures and harsh winds suck all the moisture out of my lips, getting them all dry and chapped. It’s ugly. It’s uncomfortable. It’s painful. When they crack… Ouch!

Even if you live in more forgiving climates, you can still get chapped lips. Harsh skincare products and treatments, dehydration, and a vitamin deficiency are all reasons why you may be dealing with chapped lips all year round. Not fun.

If you’re anything like me, you want to fix chapped lips fast. But how? Since living in London and having the pleasure to work with some incredible dermatologists, I’ve learned a few science-backed tips on how to treat chapped lips, so when the winter strikes or anything else upsets my lips, I know how to get them in top shape immediately:

What Are Chapped Lips?

The name says it all. Chapped lips (medical name cheilitis) is a catch-all term to describe lips that are dry, flaky, cracked, sore, and inflamed. There are different degrees of severity, from a slight flakiness to deep cracked, but they’re all uncomfortable and can take weeks to heal. The more severe the inflammation, the longer it takes your lips to heal and get back in top shape.

The skin on your lips is thinner and more sensitive than the skin on the rest of your body and don’t have oil glands, so they can’t release sebum, the skin’s natural moisturiser. Plus, unlike the rest of your skin, your lips don’t have much of a protective barrier, that first layer of defence against environmental aggressors. As a result, your lips are more prone to dryness and cracking when exposed to the elements, constant licking or harsh skincare products.

What Causes Chapped Lips?

Chapped lips happen when your lips don’t have enough moisture. Unlike the rest of your skin, lips have no oil glands. Plus, they’re thinner, too. This makes them more susceptible to dryness when exposed to environmental aggressors and other skin enemies.

The main causes of chapped lips are:

Harsh Weather

Harsh weather, like freezing temperatures in winter and scorching heat in the summer can both suck all the moisture out of your lips, leaving them chapped. In winter, the constant change from freezing temperatures outdoors and indoor heating can also accelerate the process.

Of course, external factors can be to blame for dry, chapped lips. Freezing temperatures, increased wind speeds, sun exposure (yep, even when it’s cold out!), and indoor heating are all culprits. Keep some lip balm handy in every coat pocket to protect your lips. 

Harsh Skincare Products

Harsh skincare products, like retinol serums and exfoliants, can dry out lips and make them cracked when they accidentally slip onto your lips. Acne products are some of the worst culprits. “I find that when patients use acne products, they often inadvertently get some on their lips,” says Erum Ilyas, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Pennsylvania. “These products are designed to exfoliate your skin to improve [breakouts]. If they get on your lips, you will find your lips are persistently dry and cracked.” 

If you’re going for a chemical peel, tell your aesthetician NOT to exfoliate your lips. Trust me, I’ve made this mistake again and my lips were dry and cracked for a month. Not fun! Instead, ask her to apply a layer of vaseline or balm on your lips before applying high concentrations of exfoliating acids or retinoids onto your skin. This will create a protective barrier on your lips, so that if some of the products accidentally slips onto your pout, it won’t cause any harm.

Finally, oard-certified dermatologist Dhaval Bhanusali, MD. says that “if you are medications like accutane [isotretinoin’s brand name], it’s not uncommon to have dry lips as a side effect of treatment.” The same is true for other high-strength retinoids.

Sun damage

Sun damage is the cause of all skin evils, including chapped lips. “In adults with a lot of sun damage over the years, it’s not uncommon to have patients come in concerned about ‘chapped lips,’ which may be in one spot or along the entire low lip year-round,” says Dr. Ilyas. Unfortunately, this can be a sign of actinic cheilitis. In plain English, that means that your lips are showing precancerous changes. Have them checked out as soon as you can, just to be on the safe side.

Licking Your Lips

Do you often lick your lips absent-mindedly? Maybe you don’t even realise you’re doing it that often. When it becomes a habit, it can cause chapped lips. Your saliva disrupts the skin’s protective barrier, leading to dryness. If you’re not sure you’re doing it, set a timer for 15 minutes and pay attention to see if you’re licking, touching, or picking at your lips often. You may surprised at what you discover.

Salty And Spicy Foods

Are you a fan of crisps or hot wings? Having a treat every now and then is perfectly fine. But if you’re eating them regularly and your lips are always dry and flaky, there could be a connection. “Salt holds water, so it can absorb the water away from the lips and just dry them out,” dermatologist Dr Dray explains. Spicy foods can do the same. Anything in moderation, ladies!


Have you heard of contact cheilitis? It’s an allergic reaction that happens on the lips, usually from lipsticks, fragrances, or even flavouring agents in your foods. If you think you may be allergic to something in your skincare or foods, ask your dermatologist to carry out patch testing, so you can determine what the culprit is and remove it from your life – and lips – for good.


Chronically dry lips that won’t heal no matter what you do many indicate a vitamin or mineral deficiency, such as vitamin B12. In this case, it’s best to see a doctor to determine what’s going on and get appropriate treatment.

Related: The Best Skincare Routine For Dry Skin

Need help creating the best skincare routine for you dry skin? Sign up to the newsletter below to receive the “Dry Skincare Routine Cheatsheet” (it includes product recommendations, too!).

Will Chapped Lips Heal On Their Own?

Yes, chapped lips will heal on their own. Your skin is amazing like that. Your body is perfectly capable of healing small cuts and wounds – but it can take weeks for that to happen. Plus, it only works if you remove what causes chapped lips in the first place. Let’s say your chapped lips are caused by harsh winter weather. If you keep going out without protecting your lips with a heavy layer of lip balm, the harsh weather will keep chapping your lips faster than your body can naturally heal them.So, yes – your chapped lips can heal on their own. But it takes a long time. In most cases, you want to give them a helping hand. So what’s the best chapped lips treatment?

What’s The Best Chapped Lips Treatment?

Ideally, the best chapped lips treatment is prevention. But if you’re currently dealing with them, here’s how to fix chapped lips fast:

1. Never Lick Lips

Let’s start with the basics here. It’s usually the most obvious treatment that gets overlooked, but doing this thing alone can help massively. After all, when my lips are dry and cracked, I REALLY want to lick them. Just to get some relief, you know? Do you feel the same?

An yet, I have to restrain myself because licking chapped lips only makes things worse. *sighs* Licking your lips gives you instant relief… and two minutes later they feel even drier than before! Blame it on saliva. Saliva makes moisture evaporate, drying out lips even more.

When you have chapped lips, try to refrain yourself from licking your lips. If they feel very uncomfortable, apply a layer of lip balm instead. You can find my recommendations and fave lip balms for chapped lips below.

la roche posay cicaplast levres repairing balm

2. Wear Lip Balm

I’m a lip balm junkie. I have a dozen at home and use them every day. But when my lips get chapped, I switch to richer formulas. Rich formulas use oils and butters that create a barrier on the skin that keeps moisture in + protects them from the harsh winter weather, germs and other enemies. This way, they heal faster.

I also steer well clear of anything with camphor, menthol, phenol, and alcohol. They all have one thing in common: they’re super irritating. Fragrance and pigments are also common irritants you should avoid – at least until your chapped lips heal.

Best picks:

  • Jack Black Intense Therapy Lip Balm SPF 25 ($7.50): Enriched with shea butter and antioxidants, it protects lips from environmental aggressors and helps them heal faster. Available Ulta
  • La Roche Posay Cicaplast Baume B5 Lips (£4.50): This is the lip balm that saved me from my worst case of chapped lips, after an aesthetician had the “brilliant” idea of giving them a strong chemical peel. If you’ve tried everything, give this one a go. Available at Boots, La Roche Posay, and Sephora
  • Lanolips 101 Ointment Superbalm ($16.95): A super thick balm that creates a protective barrier on your skin that keeps moisture in and irritants out. Not the most pleasant texture, but it works. Available at Free People, Lanolips and Ulta

Related: La Roche Posay Cicaplast Baume B5 Lips Full Review

coola liplux spf 30 original formula 01

3. Wear Sunscreen Every Day

No, I don’t apply my face sunscreen to my lips. There may be ingredients in there that are totally safe for topical application, but dangerous when ingested. Don’t risk it. But you need a way to get SPF on the lips. UV rays make chapped lips worse. They disrupt the skin’s protective barrier, which is already pretty much non-existent on your lips, causing dryness and irritation. Protecting lips from the sun is so NOT optional.

Bonus points if your lip balm has SPF. If not, don’t worry. Use a lipgloss or lipstick with SPF. They do the trick too. Whatever you use, thhe important thing is that you use it every day. UV rays can penetrate through clouds and windows and be reflected on snow. Just because you can’t see the sun, it doesn’t mean it’s not damaging your lips. Oh, and reapply as often as you can during the day.

Best Picks:

  • Coola Liplux SPF 30 Original ($12.00): A simple, moisturising formula that protects skin from UV rays and keeps them soft and kissable. Available at Sephora, SpaceNK, and Ulta
  • Jack Black Intense Therapy Lip Balm SPF 25 ($7.50): Enriched with shea butter and antioxidants, it protects lips from environmental aggressors and helps them heal faster. Available Ulta
  • Paula’s Choice Lipscreen SPF 50 ($10.00): A fragrance-free, moisturising lip balm with SPF that deeply moisturises skin, protects them from environmental damage, and prevents UV harm. Available at Dermstore and Paula’s Choice

Related: Coola Liplux SPF 30 Original Full Review

4. Home Remedies To Heal Chapped Lips (Without Chapstick)

What if you want to heal chapped lips without chapstick? What’s the best natural remedy for chapped lips? Again, moisture, moisture, moisture! Thankfully, Mother Nature has provided us with plenty of natural moisturisers that can do the job as well, if not better, than chapsticks (as long as you’re willing to be forgiving about their texture). Here are the best natural remedies for chapped lips:

  • Coconut oil: Rich in fatty acids, it creates a protective barrier on the skin that slows down water loss and protects lips from environmental aggressors, so they can heal faster. You can also mix a few drops of soothing grapeseed oil with it.
  • Honey and Vaseline mix: Honey has powerful soothing and antibacterial properties that calm down irritations. Vaseline creates a protective barrier on the lips that keeps them safe from environmental aggressors. Using them together helps chapped lips heal faster. Start by applying a layer of honey on your lips. Then, apply vaseline on top. Wait 15 minutes and then use a damp tissue to gently wipe it off. Do it at least once a day for a week to see results.
  • Shea butter: Rich in fatty acids and antioxidants, it’s one of then most moisturising substances on the planet. It creates a protective barrier on the skin that locks moisture in and protects it from the elements. The texture can be lumpy, but if you don’t mind that, it works wonders.

5. What To Do If Your Chapped Lips Won’t Heal

So you’ve tried everything I mentioned above to fix your chapped lips fast, but they still won’t heal. So frustrating! What can you do in this case? When everything else fails, you need to see a doctor. Hear me out before you accuse me of exaggerating. Dry, chapped lips can be a sign of something serious, a symptom of an underlying condition, such as a vitamin deficiency. Your doctor will be able to tell what’s wrong and prescribe the appropriate treatment to get you and your chapped lips well again.

How Long Do Chapped Lips Take To Heal?

Depending on the severity of your condition, chapped lips can take anything from one day to 3 weeks to heal completely. If it’s been a month and your chapped lips have not yet healed, it’s time to see a doctor.

The Bottom Line

Chapped lips are a common condition, especially in winter when the harsh weather strips all the moisture out of your skin. The key to fixing chapped lips is to moisturise well, use sun protection, and avoid licking your lips. When all else fails, it’s time to see a dermatologist.