Our lips assist us in eating, speaking, and breathing and contribute to a variety of facial expressions. We decorate them with lipstick, gloss and lip balm. But have you ever wondered what the condition of your lips is telling you about your health? Here are some tips on understanding what certain conditions in your lips mean, and how you can best care for your lips.
Symptom #1: Dry and Chapped Lips
Lip dryness or chapped lips are a common lip issue. Symptoms include dry, sore and cracked lips, which can amount to frequent licking. Licking your lips will usually make the dryness worse, as your saliva evaporates quickly, leaving your lips drier than before. Further, the enzymes found in your saliva contribute to the dryness and chapping. The dryness and chapping can also be a result of mouth breathing, or even from environmental causes such as cold or windy weather.
Regularly apply a good quality lip balm or moisturizer. Look for products that contain beeswax, paraffin or petroleum jelly, and apply hourly. Aloe Vera or Vitamin E are also soothing ingredients to help repair dry lips. Finally, a humidifier in your bedroom at night may also help you breathe more easily, thus reducing mouth breathing.
Symptom #2: Cold Sores
Cold sores can appear in the corners of the mouth or on and around the lips. Cold sores are caused by the herpes virus, and can appear once, or as frequently as a few times a year. Usually, a cold sore begins with a mild tingling sensation, and then the sore appears. Cold sores can last anywhere from two days to a few weeks.
There are topical creams that you can apply that will reduce the soreness and appearance of a cold sore, as well as reduce the severity. You can also speak to your doctor regarding medication that you can take orally that will help reduce the severity of a cold sore.
Symptom #3: Cracks at the Edges of the Mouth
Cracks at the corners of your mouth, like dry lips, can also be a result of cold weather, dry climates or too much licking of the lips. It can also be more severe, such as a yeast infection of the mouth, irritation from a dental device such as a retainer, or even an allergic reaction.
Tip: Using a lip balm or moisturizer around the edges of your mouth can help with dryness, but if you suspect a yeast problem or cold sore, speak to your physician and request a topical anti-fungal cream or a cold sore medication.
Symptom #4: Discoloration of the Lip
Discoloration can include a harmless blemish due to an injury to the lip, to an entire discoloration or paleness of the lips. In most cases, a bit of discoloration is no cause for alarm. If any strange colors persist, see your physician to rule out anemia, cancers or other conditions. Smoking can also cause discoloration of the lips.
Avoid lip-staining products such as wines and certain candies, and look for a lip balm that has SPF in it to help prevent skin cancer.
Symptom #5: Tenderness/Irritation/Swollen Lips
One of the first signs of a food-related allergic reaction is a tingling or itchy sensation in the mouth and swelling of the lips. Allergic reactions may be accompanied with a swollen tongue, burning lips or hives or itching on the skin. In this case, seek medical help immediately as it could be serious. Other types of irritation may be an allergy or sensitivity to a lip product or sunlight. If you have swelling of the lips after being struck due to injury, an ice pack and time will help to reduce it.
Know your body and its reactivity to certain things you are ingesting. Ensure that you are aware of what type of products you are applying to your lips, and that you are throwing out any expired lipsticks or products to avoid transferring germs or breeding bacteria.
Other care tips for your lips:
- Always use sunscreen on your lips, they can be burnt or damaged by the sun
- Protect your lips year-round with a good quality lip balm or moisturizer
- Exfoliate on a weekly basis by purchasing a lip exfoliator or gently rubbing them with a damp towel
- Invest in an anti-aging lip treatment to prevent fine lines
- Drink lots of water to stay hydrated
Essentially, a normal set of lips will look pink, soft, and smooth. If you follow the above advice and report any strange symptoms to your doctor, you will have healthy lips for life.