Crusty Lips: Causes, Pictures & How to Get Rid of Dry Chapped Lips

Lips are less desirable when they are dry, scabbed  and discolored. While simple dehydration may be the common cause of dry, cracking and painful lips, there may be other causes that need medical attention.

  • Crusty lips also described as dry, or chapped lips can occur to anyone in any season.
  • The problem is common in winter months, it can be painful, embarrassing and uncomfortable to have.
  • Chronic dryness may at times cause difficulty in talking or eating especially in children.

Here is an insight into some of the common causes of this condition, symptoms, treatment and how one can prevent his or her lips from drying, chapping and scabbing.

Scabbed lips
Scabbing and crusting lips

Chronic cases of chapped lips might be a sign of a serious underlying condition, we recommend you have it checked out as soon as possible.


Depending on what the underlying cause of the crusty lips is, you’re likely to experience symptoms such as:

  • Redness
  • Cracking, peeling, and splitting
  • Dryness
  • Tenderness and sensitivity

Common causes of crusty, dry and chapped lips include the following conditions.

1. Cheilitis

Cheilitis is a condition marked with dry, inflamed lips that may feel sore.  Your lips may become inflamed as a result of mild irritation. The same can also be a result of a bacterial or fungal infection that might have entered the skin through the cracks in the skin of your lips.

When the corners of the mouth are red and sore, this might be a sign of angular cheilitis. This is often caused by fungal and bacterial infection. Angular cheilitis can be treated by applying ointment on the lips.

In rare cases, angular cheilitis can be a sign of contact dermatitis. This is a type of eczema common in people who wear dentures. It is also common in old people than in young ones. We recommend you see your doctor is the lips become red or inflamed or you suspect them to be infected.

In cases of cheilitis, antibiotic or antifungal cream can be used to treat the infection causing the inflammation of your lips.

Cheilitis can be shown by the following symptoms:

  • Painful inflammation of the lips
  • Bad taste in mouth
  • Dry, chapped or crusty lips and corner of mouth
  • Severe itching and redness around mouth

2. Dehydration

Dehydration is a common cause of dry and crusty lips. To prevent this, it is important you drink plenty of water to keep your body well hydrated. Water also important as it helps flush out toxins that might be affecting your lips.

Start your day by drinking a cup or two of water, and before going to bed, take a cup of water. Apart from treating the dry lips, it will help prevent your skin from drying out. In addition to drinking plenty of water, you will need to maintain a proper diet.

3. Bullous impetigo

Common in children, bullous impetigo is a bacterial infection of the skin. The condition is characterized by fluid-filled blisters often on the arms, and legs but could occur anywhere on the body including on the face and around the mouth.

Ecthyma, a less common form of bullous impetigo occurs when the infection penetrated deep into the skin. This form of impetigo is known to cause crusting. The condition starts by forming painful sores that develop into ulcers before crusting over.

4. Breathing through your mouth

Breathing through your mouth can also cause to lose moisture which can leave them dry and crusty.  Remember when your skin loses moisture, it becomes tight and cold start to peel and split.

5. Drooling and repeated licking the lips

Saliva from drooling or licking your lips evaporates quickly. This may leave your lips dry, chapped or crusty.

According To NHS, drooling can be an initial symptom of motor neuron disease. They add that, reduce swallowing can cause an excess of saliva. Constant licking of the lips causes drying and irritation, this may cause the mucosa to split or crack.

6. Allergies to cosmetics

Allergic reactions to foods, medicine, and poor quality cosmetic products can cause your lips to dry and crust.

Most cases of allergic reaction on lips can be shown by the presence of red aura around lips. The crusting and peeling can also be as a result of using harsh toothpaste or mouthwash.

7. Lip dermatitis

Known medically as Eczematous cheilitis, this is a diverse group of disorders often with unknown causes. Chronic eczematous cheilitis accounts for the majority of cheilitis cases.

Lip dermatitis can be classified as either:

  • Endogenous which is often due to an inherent characteristic of an individual. The main cause of this form is atopic dermatitis or
  • Exogenous where the cause is an external agent, such causes include lip-licking

8. Diabetes

For people with diabetes, a dry mouth can worsen the side effects of diabetes. This then leads to an increase in glucose levels. A dry mouth is therefore not only a symptom of high blood sugar but it can also be the cause of it.

As a diabetic, dry mouth can lead to rampant tooth decay, this increases blood sugar as your body tries to fight off infections. It could also cause lack of sleep and an altered sense of taste.

Cracked corners of mouth

Chapped or crusty lips can be an acute condition which resolves after some time or a chronic one which takes longer to go away. It can also be a sign of an underlying condition that requires urgent medical attention.

Cracked corners of lips can be a severe form of crusty lips known as cheilitis.  Cheilitis is the inflammation of the lips. It may also include the perioral skin, laical mucosa, and the vermilion border. The condition is characterized by cracking, fissuring and peeling of the skin of the lips and corners of the mouth.

While both the lips may be affected, the lower lip is the most common site. Angular cheilitis is the inflammation of one or both of the corners of the mouth. It is a common condition, especially to old people. There are many possible causes of this condition which will include the following:

  • Vitamin and nutritional deficiencies
  • Candida infections
  • Edentulism, often with over closer of the mouth


Here are pictures for easy of identification of your symptoms.

Sore and dry lips

According to the NHS, your lips can become chapped and dry when exposed to wind, sun or cold air. In most cases, applying a lip balm containing petroleum or beeswax can help protect your lips as it provides a barrier that helps seal in moisture.

It is believed that in human, more moisture is lost through the lips than any other part of the body. The skin covering your lips will start to peel or crack when your lips lose moisture. It can be very tempting to lick or bite off the flakes of dried skin, you should not do it.

Licking or picking on crusty lips may make your lips bleed out making it painful and for the lips to heal slowly. The other risk of picking on dry lips is that it may trigger cold sores.  A condition marked with painful inflamed blisters in or near the mouth. It is caused by an infection with the herpes simplex virus.

With dry lips, the best thing you can do is to keep applying a lip balm, avoid picking or licking dry lips and most importantly, drink plenty of water to remain hydrated.

Diagnosis and treatment

Treating chronic dry lips starts with a medical diagnosis to identify what the exact cause of the crusty lips is. The diagnosis may involve:

  • Laboratory tests
  • Skin examination
  • Examination of culture swabs from different parts of the skin.

Your health care provider may use a differential diagnosis to help identify what the exact cause of the symptoms is. This way, he or she is able to rule out other possible cause with similar symptoms. This makes it possible to reduce the duration of treatment.

Depending what the actual cause of the crusting will be, your doctor might prescribe the following to get rid of the symptoms:

  • For severe cases of inflamed lips, hydrocortisone creams or pills might be prescribed to relieve the inflammation.
  • Antibiotics and antifungal creams and pill might be used to treat bacterial and fungal infection causing the crusting respectively
  • A topical antiseptic might also be prescribed to prevent secondary infection especially in case of bleeding, crusting and peeling lips.
  • Moisturizers can also be used to prevent your lips from drying out and cracking. You can use natural moisturizers like coconut oil or cocoa butter, a thick layer of Vaseline might also serve the trick.
  • You can also gently exfoliate chapped lips using a sugar scrub

How to get rid of crusty lips

Regardless of what the underlying cause is, chapped or crusty lips can be painful, annoying and unattractive to have. It is common and can occur to anyone one or twice through the year.  Unlike other parts of the body, your lips do not contain oil glands which makes them more susceptible to drying out.

There are some remedies that can help relieve the pain and stop your lips from peeling, bleeding or forming open sores.  Some of these remedies include the following:

1. Vaseline

For dry crusty lips, applying petroleum jelly such as Vaseline can be an effective way to treat the chapped lips. All you have to do is simply apply the jelly over the dry lips several times a day to protect keep them moist and protected.

2. Olive oil

Applying olive oil on crusty or chapped lips promotes hydration, it also promotes faster healing of cracks and open sores on lips and corners of your mouth.

3. Raw honey

Apart from being a great moisturizer, raw honey is said to have strong healing and antibacterial properties. This makes raw honey an effective remedy for dry, peeling or bleeding lips.

Apply a layer of raw honey on crusty lips and leave it on for some minutes. Do not lick the honey from your lips, alternatively, you can make a paste of honey and glycerin. Apply the paste before going to bed.

4. Sugar Scrub

A sugar scrub works by exfoliating dead skin cells on lips which help restore their natural softness faster. When faced with dry, crusty or chapped lips:

  • Mix 2 tablespoons of sugar with a tablespoon of raw honey
  • Mix the two then apply the resulting paste on your lips and leave it on for some minutes
  • Using your finger, gently rub the paste around your lips to loosen the dead skin cells
  • Now wash it off with warm water
  • Repeat this twice or thrice

5. Coconut oil

For chapped or dry lips caused by exposure to cold or dry weather, coconut oil is the best remedy to use. The oil is a natural moisturizer, applying is several times a day will make your lips moist, this will soothe the pain and prevent your lips from crusting.

6. Aloe Vera Gel

Appling aloe Vera on crusty lips will help soothe the pain, make them heal faster and above all prevent infection especially when the lips are peeling or bleeding. This remedy has an unpleasant taste, it can help you stop licking your lips.

Best lip balm for chapped lips

There are different brands of lip balm available in the market.  For crusty, chapped or dry lips, you may have to try out some different brands before you are sure what is right for you. You could also have your dermatologist prescribe the best lip balm for you.

When choosing the best lip balm, go for a non-fragranced one if your skin is sensitive or allergic to fragranced ones.

If you are one of those people who spend most of the time out in the sun, the best lip balm for you will be the one with a sun-protecting factor of at least 15. This will also help protect your lips from harmful UV rays from the sun.

To avoid liking your lips after applying the lip balm, we recommend you use a non-flavored one. Apart from applying the best lip balm, you will also need to cover your lips with a scarf when outside especially during winter.

Preventing crusty lips

Some cases of crusty lips can ebb prevent and managed by removing the underlying cause. For instance, if the underlying cause of the chapped lips is an allergic reaction to skin care products, then the best way to prevent the chapping would be to avoid the said product in the first place.

To prevent your lips from drying, peeling, bleeding or crusting, you can do the following:

  • Don’t bite or lick them, doing so increases the chances of  your lips drying once the saliva evaporates
  • Avoid excess sun exposure, if you have to, make sure you apply a sunscreen
  • You could also use a moisturizer that has high UV absorbing ability
  • When out in cold wear a scarf to cover your lips
  • Drink plenty of water and fresh fruits to remain hydrated
  • Avoid smoking
  • Avoid using flavored lip balm
  • Say clear of allergens, this includes any skin care products like lip balm that your skin might be allergic to