When it comes to our appearance, we can all agree that our skin is a very sensitive issue. Health conditions affecting the skin are particularly distressing and can significantly reduce your quality of life, especially when they appear on visible areas such as the face, hands, and feet.
Even a minor, relatively common, and mostly benign condition such as eczema on the lips can be quite frustrating. With that being said, let’s take a look at lip eczema, the types, triggers, how to cure eczema on lips, and tried tips you can follow to prevent or reduce the severity of eczema flare-ups.
What is Eczema?
Eczema, also commonly referred to as atopic dermatitis, is a relatively common skin condition that is characterized by itchy, red, dry, and sometimes flaky patches on the skin. It may sometimes also appear as cracked skin, bumpy skin with oozing blisters, crusty scabs covered with yellowish ooze, or thickened scaly skin.
It’s important not to confuse eczema with acne. Although the red itchy bumps may look the same, acne is characterized by distinct spots and pimples while eczema tend to be more widespread and looks like a rash.
Eczema is often seen in babies or young children but can affect people of all ages. The most commonly affected parts in adults are the face, neck, hands, skin folds, crook of your arm, and the backs of your knees. In younger children and babies the abdomen and limbs may also be involved.
While the exact mechanism behind eczema flare-ups is not fully understood, strong evidence suggests that the condition is due to an abnormal immune response by the body against certain proteins which are found in the skin. This leads to an inflammatory response against the skin and can be triggered by a variety of common environmental factors such as:
- Household chemicals like detergents and bathing soap
- Rough, scratchy material like wool or synthetic fibers
- Raised body temperature
- Food allergies
- A sudden drop in humidity
- Pet hair
- Upper respiratory tract infections
- Harmful plants such as poison ivy
What Is Lip Eczema?
Although lip eczema isn’t very common, it isn’t difficult to diagnose. The flaky, dry, angry-looking skin characteristic of lip inflammation and the extension to the perioral skin easily gives the condition away. Eczema on the lips is also characterized by severe itching, a burning sensation, or even dull soreness. It can also rarely affect the mucosa lining the inside of the mouth and the perioral skin.
Lip eczema (also known as eczematous cheilitis) may be caused by many factors, but the environment and your genetic predisposition play a significant role. Certain hereditary factors can predispose to lip dermatitis, for instance, in families who are genetically predisposed to conditions like atopic dermatitis.
However, in many cases, an exogenous cause can also be identified. For instance, the condition is more common in individuals who often lick their lips. Certain lip balms, food allergies, and other irritants are also common culprits.
Several types of lip dermatitis exist. While the conditions usually look alike, they typically have different triggers. They include the following:
Allergic Contact Cheilitis
This type of lip eczema is seen in people with known allergies to certain allergens like skin products (such as balms, lip gloss, etc) and oral products (like toothpaste and mouthwash). This inherent characteristic makes them more susceptible to develop mucosal lesions when using these products. At least 25 percent of lip dermatitis cases are due to getting into contact with allergens.
Irritant Contact Cheilitis
Irritant contact cheilitis (also known as contact dermatitis or just irritant cheilitis) is similar to the allergic type but results from direct irritation by a certain substance instead of allergic contact reactions. Some common examples include harsh beauty products, certain food, and external lip-drying factors. A major cause of contact dermatitis can be due to regular licking of the lips. In this situation, the individual did not develop an allergic contact reaction but is instead reacting to the irritating nature of the substance.
This is usually due to bacterial or fungal infections. These mucosal lesions can also be seen in individuals with diabetes mellitus. It results from infections due to saliva accumulating around the corners of the mouth, especially in people who often lick their lips.
Triggers and Causes of Eczema on Lips
Eczematous cheilitis can be triggered by many factors relating to irritation and relevant allergic reaction symptoms. It’s important to note the time when the symptoms commenced to ascertain the underlying cause of lip dermatitis. Although it isn’t entirely clear what the major causes of eczema are, experts point to these factors as major contributors.
Allergies are usually due to an exaggerated response by the body’s immune system against a particular trigger or a wide range of triggers (a condition referred to as a root). For example, atopic people can have their allergies triggered by abrupt changes in the weather, such as cold or hot weather. This can lead to lip dermatitis (known in this case as atopic cheilitis) with painful cracking of the lips. Other possible triggers for atopic cheilitis may include sensitivity to particular foods (such as eggs, shellfish, etc.), lip products, oral products, and even clothing material.
2. Hormone Fluctuations
Fluctuations in hormone levels in the body can also cause lip eczema. Diseases of the thyroid gland, diabetes, and even premenstrual syndrome can lead to changes in the production of certain hormones, which affect the metabolism and immune response of the body significantly.
3. Lifestyle Habits
The use of tobacco products like cigarettes, can irritate the lips and tend to dry out of the lips, which may also lead to lip eczema. Chronic stress can also cause lip dermatitis in several ways. Not only does chronic stress affect your hormone balance, but it may also lead to harmful stress-relieving habits such as lip licking, which is a common risk factor for lip eczema.
Your genes play a role in your risk of developing lip eczema. Certain genes carry a significant risk. For example, if you take a careful history you may find a family history of atopic dermatitis, asthma, allergic rhinitis, and food allergies. Therefore, if a relative of yours has a history of eczema, you have a higher chance of developing eczema at some point in your life than the general population.
5. Lip Products
Though lip balm is often prescribed to help moisturize chapped lips, certain chemicals used in preparing lip products can be irritating to the lips. That is why it is advisable to check the ingredients of any products before you use them.
6. Chapped Lips
Chapped lips are prone to lip dermatitis, owing to the tendency to crack and possibly let germs in. Therefore factors that lead to dry skin such as low humidity, cold weather, frequent lip licking, and dehydration, should be avoided.
Eczema on Lips Treatment
Treating eczema essentially involves restoring the natural skin barrier to prevent moisture escape, adding moisture to the lips, and providing a soothing environment that promotes the regrowth of healthy epithelia. This can be done using natural remedies that can easily be made at home or by purchasing more orthodox treatments
There are several natural remedies endorsed by the National Eczema Association. These typically contain natural oils whose function is to augment the body’s omega-3 reserve, an important nutrient that is lacking in a large number of eczema patients. However, not every natural oil is beneficial to eczema-ridden skin since some can irritate the skin, or even disrupt the protective skin barrier such as olive oil.
More modern medical treatments have also been developed to help in keeping moisture in the skin and promoting rapid healing. It is advised you see your doctor for a skin patch testing appointment for compatibility with any new lip or skin product before using them to prevent further possible irritation.
Natural Home Remedies
Here are some great natural homemade remedies that are safe and quite effective for dealing with lip dermatitis. They include:
- Coconut Oil
Virgin coconut oil is endowed with many great properties and is a strong moisturizer. In fact, it is even preferred to mineral oils for eczema on lips treatment. Coconut oil contains the fatty acid monolaurin which helps to fight staphylococcus aureus (a bacteria commonly implicated in severe cases of eczema). Apply cold-pressed virgin coconut oil directly to your skin as many times a day as possible, preferably before bed for optimal results.
- Aloe Vera
Aloe vera is a widely used plant extract used in the treatment of many inflammatory skin conditions, including eczema. Aloe vera is popular for its wound-healing properties, as well as its antimicrobial effects. It’s no wonder it is used in soothing broken skin to prevent infections. You can apply aloe vera extracts directly on the skin, but check that the product does not contain alcohol as it contributes to skin drying.
- Shea Butter
Shea butter is a highly medicinal compound and has been used for centuries to combat dry skin. It is effective in treating several skin problems and can help alleviate the symptoms of lip eczema. Shea butter heals the skin and underlying tissue but usually requires prolonged use. Dabbing some shea butter directly to the affected lip area several times daily can improve symptoms of lip eczema.
Honey has been used in wound healing for years. It contains anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial elements that prevent infections in wounds. In recent years, it has been introduced to the treatment of eczema owing to the moisturizing effect of honey on the skin. Dab a luxurious amount of honey on the affected area and let it seep in.
- Sunflower Seed Oil
A powerful skin moisturizing oil is recommended for the treatment of skin dehydration. Its rich antioxidant properties make it stand out amongst other natural oils.
- Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar remains a viable natural remedy for eczema of any type, though it should be used with caution as the acid can burn or irritate certain skin types (leading to soft tissue damage). This is because, though the normal skin is acidic, eczematous skin is less acidic. Use only diluted apple cider vinegar on the skin to avoid burns. Add apple cider vinegar to warm water before use, and moisturize immediately you’re done dipping into it.
- Natural Lip Balm
Balms help to keep the lips moisturized for a while, especially if the lips are dry and cracked. It can be used to soothe inflamed lips, too.
Modern Medical Approaches
Here are some more orthodox treatments for lip eczema. They are quite common and can be purchased at most drug stores and pharmacies. They include:
Keeping the skin area well moisturized is the first step of lip eczema healing. Many moisturizers have been developed to help with this. Most of these products contain mineral oil, and they can be used safely on most skin types.
- Topical Creams
Topical creams are often prescribed to help treat eczema. These topical creams are applied to the skin surface in considerable amounts. They help to heal the affected skin as well as keep it supple and well protected from further drying.
Lip eczema can get so itchy sometimes that you scratch to the point of developing peeling dry itchy skin. In such cases, over-the-counter antihistamines can help reduce the itch and promote faster healing.
- Enhanced Lip Balm
Lip balm helps with dry, cracked lips, itchy rashes, or during dry, windy conditions. They help to keep the lips moist. Enhanced lips balms contain special ingredients that make them more effective at doing this than most ordinary lip balms. Apply lip balm to the lip area, and repeat several times a day.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are very essential for the normal skin barrier that prevents drying out. It also helps to secure the body’s natural moisture and promotes a luxuriant appearance. You can normally attain this nutrient by consuming enough fish in your diet, or taking an omega-3 supplement.
Lip Dermatitis Prevention
As stated earlier, the definite major cause for lip eczema isn’t completely clear to doctors yet. However, factors that tend to increase the risk of developing the condition include dryness, excessive licking, irritations, and allergy.
Therefore, it’s logical to avoid conditions that promote the above factors to prevent this condition. Lip eczema due to genetic implications is harder to prevent since it can’t be affected by external factors.
Preventive measures to apply against lip eczema include:
- Moisturizing your lips frequently is a great idea. Avoid lip drying, apply lip balms, good oils, and avoid licking your lips frequently.
- Avoiding triggers such as certain foods, cosmetics, etc, that trigger lip eczema, if you have an allergy to these things.
- Hot climates can predispose to skin flare-up, while dry conditions try to take away moisture from the lips. Thus, you may want to avoid triggers like extreme weather conditions to prevent flare-ups.
- When you decide to buy beauty products or lip products, look out for certain chemicals and irritants on the labels. See your doctor for skin patch testing to know which skin products suit you.
Managing Lip Eczema
There are lots of lip eczema products in the market you can purchase, ranging from lip balms to lip creams. Below is our recommended list of lip products you may want to try out. They are handpicked and carefully selected. You can find each of them online on the Lazada store.
This robust prescription is made in Australia from a combination of ingredients that provide hydration to the skin. Also, customer reviews have pointed to its added skin-softening effect. Dermal Therapy Lip Balm has got to be one of the best lip balms out there. It is available in Original and Mint varieties, producing visible results in a day.
Specially designed for painful cracked lips, Eucerin Aquaphor SOS Lip Repair gives quick relief within 60 seconds. It is enriched with vitamin E, glycerin, and other ingredients that promote lip moisture and keep the skin supple and soft. It’s the ideal balm for cracked lips.
Made from the karite trees that grow in parts of West and Central Africa. These trees take a long time to mature before they can be used for butter. This karite butter is exceptionally recommended for its numerous fatty acids that help to moisturize the skin and keep it from drying out. The natural, unrefined butter easily finds its way into the skin.
It is protective in several aspects – prevents moisture loss, cracked lips, UV penetration (hence doubles as sunscreen for your lips). It is an effective balm for cracked lips, with its added vitamin E benefits. This product also promotes luxuriant lips without being greasy. It is convenient for most skin types.
Lip eczema isn’t life-threatening in itself, although it can escalate with the entry of microbes under the skin. You should see a doctor when you begin to notice any of the above symptoms.
Keep your lips well hydrated all year round. Also, before you use a new skin product, you may want to see your doctor for a skin patch testing appointment especially if you have sensitive skin.
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Eczema on lips adds an unwanted dry, scaly, inflamed tinge to your lips, but they are curable if you maintain the right amount of moisture and make certain lifestyle changes.