Read our article on risks and possible causes of crusty lips which may form on around mouth including the mouth corners and lip border.
Who gets crusty lips?
This is not only a problem in humans but is observed in animals, but for various reasons, people can face this problem.
“For the last two days I have woken up with a yellow, crumbly crust covering my lips. I have been applying Vaseline liberally, and while that helps keeps my lips nice and moist, I still have this crust developing and I often feel as though my lips are weeping or sweating.[Source: www.medhelp.org]
Why people get crusty lips – causes
Who do my lips begin to crust over? To begin with, the formation of “lip crusts” can be mild or severe depending on the risks or cause. Here are the possible causes:
Factitious cheilitis could be described as an uncommon presentation of a lip dermatitis with “dryness, scaling, and fissuring of the lips resulting from mannerisms like biting or frequent licking.” [www.e-ijd.org]
Notably, individuals who have been diagnosed with factitious cheilitis, it has been found out that some had factitious disorders.
In simpler terms, people with the factitious disorder do something knowingly or deliberate a situation by themselves to create those symptoms so that they appear to get sick or hurt.
In this case of factitious cheilitis, there is a deliberate manipulation by the “sufferer”. However, in some cases, lip biting, picking, or lip licking disorder (unconscious licking) may be the underlying mechanism for trauma and crust formation.
These symptoms (as described) are as per the cases reported and those suspected of factitious cheilitis so far. These include:
- Self-inflicted lesions (non-nodular)
- Multiple fissures
- Frequent bleeding involving the lower lips
- Very thick lip crusts
- Hemorrhagic crusting
Hemorrhagic crusting gives the appearance of semi-solid to solid layers of blood or serum (see picture)
Other symptoms (as studied) show a great desire by the sufferer to fulfill whatever is causing their personality disturbances indicated by things like:
- Seeking emotional attention away from the target
- Competing with the target/rival
- Emotional instability
- Poor relation with other people
- Self-harm with one’s awareness
According to the report by The National Center for Biotechnology Information, some cases of exfoliative cheilitis may also be fictitious.
Impetigo is a bacterial infection of the skin which is most common among children.
- A bullae (bullous: singular) is a term used to refer to a vesicle or fluid-containing lesion larger than 5mm.
There are two forms of impetigo infectious – namely bullous and non-bullous impetigo. In many cases, bullous impetigo is caused by S. aureus.
The face, hands, and feet are mostly affected by bullous impetigo.
- Small lesions in form of pustules or vesicle
- Clear yellow or cloudy fluid in the vesicles would be seen
When removed, a moist shallow erosion is left on the affected area.
A form of impetigo that presents with crusting is ecthyma. Ecthyma is less common but can when infection occurs there is penetration into deeper skin layers.
This form of impetigo may affect the lip border or vermillion.
On hands and feet, there will be the presence of painful sores. These sores will develop into ulcers before crusting over even if treatment is given promptly. The skin crust that form are often thick and grey-yellow in appearance.
Moving on, another cause and risk for crusty lips is angular cheilitis. It is the inflammation of the mouth corner or lip corners in either way.
The occurrence of angular cheilitis is more often associated with fungal infection. Nevertheless, it may be caused by bacteria or virus.
This condition is more common since it affects many people.
Signs and symptoms
The symptoms linked to angular cheilitis causes discomforts. These include:
- Presence of deep cracks in one or both mouth corners
- Lip inflammation or “burning,” painful sensations
- Very dry, crusty with a scaly appearance
- Redness and itchy feeling
- A bad mouth taste
Many people who experience these symptoms have a hard time during meals. Sometimes the cracks start to weep or have minor bleeding.
Additional information plus for you about angular cheilitis.
- Angular cheilitis can lead to chapped lips
- Many people think angular cheilitis is contagious
- Bacterial or viral infection can also be an underlying reason for symptoms of angular cheilitis
- Severe Iron or Zinc deficiency can also be manifested in dry cracked lip corners
- Exposure to allergy sources, sun heat and extreme environmental conditions can worsen angular cheilitis symptoms
Complications of angular cheilitis
Angular cheilitis produces no complications once it has been diagnosed and treated.
For many people, topical treatment of angular cheilitis gives good results. Under normal conditions, the symptoms are expected to go away within 1 week or two, if drugs are well administered.
Even though, if you do not take appropriate measures and proper care for them, you may notice your lips start to turn dark at some point.
Other potential risk factors
These include the following.
This is a chronic condition characterized by persistent lip inflammation. There are various forms with which this condition presents itself including lip licker dermatitis and eczematous cheilitis.
The most common cause includes atopic dermatitis and irritants. While some forms are most commonly seen in children (lickers dermatitis), this problem may affect anyone.
Signs and symptoms
Triggers for will determine symptoms. In many cases, symptoms would vary with the severity of the condition. These are:
- Dryness of lips
- Thickened lip skin
- A scaly appearance
Sometimes crack on lips may appear.
Therefore, as a risk factor of crusting, it is worth to note that the more you expose to the trigger the more persistent your symptoms become. Crusting due to this dermatitis is thought to be mild should it occur.
Persistent lip sores or lesions
Another possible risk includes persistent lip trauma-causing injury and frequent or recurrent cold sores on lips.
Cases due to persistent lip (mouth sores) are owed to frequent secondary infections which are most likely to affect the healing of the wounds.
Diagnosis may involve the following:
- Skin examination
- You may be asked about family or personal history of oral infections
- Ask for laboratory tests
- Your doctor may carry out various procedures to confirm tests
- Take examination on culture swabs from the affected areas
Besides the physical examination of your lips, there are important medical reasons for differential diagnosis.
- Helps determine the most appropriate form of treatment/therapy
- To reduce the duration of treatment
- A response to infection-causing agents to medication
- A possibility of future episodes
Before a medical evaluation, some of the conditions that will necessitate differential diagnosis include allergic contact dermatitis, perioral dermatitis, seborrheic dermatitis, herpes simplex, scabies, candida cheilitis, actinic cheilitis, exfoliative cheilitis, cheilitis glandularis, etc.
Differential diagnosis helps your doctor with examination or evaluation of the suspected infection or underlying condition. This needs to be more accurate and done thoroughly.
Treatment or cure including OTC and prescription
Treatment is prioritized not only to get rid of the symptoms but to cure a possible underlying disease, improve symptoms of chronic conditions or both.
Treatments that fall into this category must be used according to a doctor’s instructions. Therefore, your doctors should first have examined your lip condition or treated you before.
Common treatment forms may be in form of creams or oral tablets your doctor can prescribe such as:
- Hydrocortisone creams – for severe inflammation
- Ketoconazole, Miconazole or Clotrimazole creams (esp. when your condition indicates a lip fungus growth after examination
- Other antifungal agents that may be prescribed are Monistat and Nizoral
- Antibacterial creams, oral drugs, and tablets
More importantly, all prescribed medicines or treatments should be finished in full dose. Strictly, adhere to duration and avoid other drugs/drug abuse (e.g. alcohol) that can potentially interact with your current medications.
Many OTC treatments are not prescribed doses. There are different ways with which medicines available over the counter can be used.
- Topical antiseptics to help prevent secondary infection and keep off the causing germs
- Topical steroid ointments
Doctors may recommend OTC medicines. If there is any no change, you need to see your doctor again.
Natural or Home remedies for mild cases
Although it might be mild, it can still cause lip discomforts especially if the problem presents with cracks or open sores. Here are some of the remedies you can try at home.
IMPORTANT: It is more practical to apply these remedies after consulting your GP or personal doctor.
a. Olive oil or vegetable oil
Why you need olive or vegetable oil before bedtime
- To promote hydration to dry, crusty area
- To quicken healing of cracks in the mouth corner
Honey is a perfect healer for closing up mild cracks on lips especially the corner of lips. It does not cause irritation and will help fight bacterial agents.
c. Sea buckthorn oil
Sea buckthorn oil is a herbal oil extracted from the Seabuckthorn plant. This oil works like tea tree oil but can boost immune function by protecting the body against bacterial infections.
If you acquire it from a drugstore, use it according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
d. Petroleum jelly
Applying pure plain petroleum jelly (e.g. Vaseline) is a simple before-bed remedy for dry, chapped lips. Its quality hydrating capability enables them to lock in moisture all through the night.
This remedy works when you have confirmed that lip dryness and cracking are not as a result of an infection like the yeast infection or angular cheilitis. (Petroleum products do not kill infection-causing germs.)
Beeswax is an ideal remedy for very dry lips (chapped also). However, before treat chapped lips with beeswax, try and figure out the possible cause or culprit.
f. Consider your special dietary needs
If your tongue, eyes or nails cannot be helpful in revealing more about your health, your lips can tell.
Therefore, to associate every single problem such as cracking to infection is like to overgeneralize or ignore other possible culprits such as vitamin deficiency.
For instance, lip cracking could be an indication of a poor diet. At times it is hard to figure it out but your nutritionist has many of the answers.
If your problem does not resolve – however much mild or less serious your problem appears to be – the first and best step to take is to seek medical attention from your primary care provider.
Other considerable remedies
See your healthcare provider if you have persistent lip sores that will not heal.
Tips to prevent chapped crusty lips
If you have chronic, dry chapped lips think of these as simple preventive tips:
- Use a sunscreen on them when outside in sunny weather
- Avoid excessive sun exposure.
- Consider a lip balm or balm-based lip oil before going out or when you have to be outdoors in dry, cold weather
- Try a milder toothpaste
- Try to raise and maintain a bit higher level of humidity in living rooms
- Drink additional fluids or more water most of the winter months.
Failure to keenly address both the causes and risks for crusty lips may lead to complex symptoms including the entire oral cavity.
Coupled with chronic dryness, however much mild, crusting will absolutely render less admirable and very dull. You would be adrift for kissable lips would be a dream.
Our Article Resources and Citations
- Crusty Lips: Healthsaline
- Diseases and conditions causing lesions of the oral mucosa. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 2000. Oral Health in America: A Report of the Surgeon General. NIDCR. Accessed online on 24 June 2017.