Dry lips aren’t usually a cause for concern. Dry and chapped lips happen, especially during the cold winter season. But in some cases, the bout of dryness is different from a regular episode. For some people, their lips flake off. Eventually, the lips and the skin surrounding the lips become cracked or inflamed.
If this is your case, you may have eczema on the lips.
In general, eczema is a skin condition that triggers severe flare-ups. Symptoms can range from rashes and redness to blisters. Anyone can have eczema. Both old and young people can suffer from lip eczema. The condition affects different types of lips.
Eczema on the lips is also known as eczematous cheilitis and allergic lip dermatitis. This condition causes the lips to become red, scaly, dry and itchy. People can get eczema on the lips due to genetics, environmental factors (e.g. irritating ingredients in lip products) and habits (e.g. frequent licking of the lips).
Lip Eczema: Types and Causes
There are two major types of lip eczema based on the cause:
- A type of lip eczema caused by external factors, aka factors outside of your body.
- Eczema on your lips could be due to an inherent characteristic. For example, you may have atopic dermatitis, which is common among people whose families have a history of the condition.
Lip eczema can also be categorized on the specific type of cause behind the condition, which includes the following:
- Irritant contact cheilitis. This occurs due to external irritation. Lip licker’s dermatitis falls under this category. The repeated licking of the lips throughout the day could dry out the lips, which results in flaking, splitting, chapping or peeling. This is especially true if you forget to apply sunscreen before you go out in the sun or if you live in a cold and dry climate. Other triggers of external irritation include environmental factors and cosmetics.
- Allergic contact cheilitis. This is an allergic reaction to dental materials, lip products, medication or toothpaste.
- Angular cheilitis. This lip eczema develops due to a bacterial infection or a fungal infection (usually Candida). A person can contract angular cheilitis due to lip licking, braces or dentures. People with diabetes are prone to this type of eczema.
What are the Symptoms of Lip Eczema?
Lip eczema’s symptoms often appear on one or both of your lips. It can also manifest on the area around your lips.
You could have eczema on your lips if you have the following symptoms:
- Scaly or split skin
- Flakiness or dryness
- A red rash around or on the lips
Also, eczema is different from dry lips. Apart from the dryness, lip eczema causes itchiness and extreme irritation. Allergens do not trigger dry lips either.
How to Diagnose Eczema on the Lips
Eczema is not a contagious illness. It is often caused by an allergic reaction. You should schedule an appointment with your doctor if you think the rash on your lips is a result of an allergic reaction.
During the consultation, your doctor may perform a patch test, which is a common way to determine the cause of your allergy. In this test, the doctor will place a series of sticky patches on your skin, usually on the back. The patches carry a series of chemicals that stay on your skin for about 48 hours to determine if you experience any allergic reaction.
If the path testing doesn’t confirm an allergic reaction, the doctor may use prick testing instead. This test is usually performed on your inner forearm. Your doctor will add a drop of the chemical to your arm before pricking it, enabling the skin to absorb the chemical. You’ll get your results within 20 to 30 minutes.
What are the Risk Factors of Lip Eczema?
You could be at risk for lip eczema if you have:
- Skin defects that enable chemicals to easily enter your skin, making you more prone to flare-ups
- A family history of asthma, allergies and eczema
- A high level of stress
- Sensitivity to cold or hot
- The flu or cold
- Changes in hormone levels
How Do I Get Rid of the Eczema on My Lips?
Doctors often recommend the following to treat lip eczema:
- Antifungal creams for angular cheilitis
- Medicated creams, which includes corticosteroids
- Lip balms
What is a home remedy for eczema on the lips?
The National Eczema Association recommends a list of natural remedies to relieve the symptoms of lip eczema.
Before you apply these natural remedies, make sure that they are edible, especially if they require any topical application:
- Vitamin D
- Sunflower seed oil
- Coconut oil
- Apple cider vinegar (can burn; test for skin sensitivity first by applying a small amount on the lips)
In some cases, people use a combination of contemporary and natural remedies. However, it’s important to consult with your doctor first before using any new products to avoid further irritation.
How Can I Prevent Lip Eczema?
The best way to prevent getting eczema on your lips is to identify potential triggers and avoid them. Your doctor can help you identify allergies, as well as other underlying causes of eczema.
Practicing preventive measures can also spare you lip eczema.
Consider the following practices:
- Do a skin patch test before using any new topical products
- Identify allergens and avoiding them. This may include food or cosmetics
- Avoid smoking
- Lower stress levels
- Switch to natural products that contain fewer fragrances and chemicals
- Get treatment for underlying health problems
- Wash your hands and face regularly
When Should I See a Doctor for My Lip Eczema?
It’s easy to treat eczema on your lips if it’s a mild case. Sometimes, lip balm or petroleum jelly can help. But if those products don’t help or eczema on your lips is worsening, it’s time to consult with your doctor. They can run tests to determine the medication you need.
Eczema can affect different types of lips; if you’re not careful, you may also experience eczema on your lips. Consult with your doctor if you notice redness or itching on your lips.