Crusty Lips

What are crusty lips?

Crusty, chapped or cracked lips describes the condition of the skin of the lips. It is a commonly seen condition that most people suffer from time to time. Crusty lips can be an acute condition, which resolves after a few days, or it can also be a chronic condition and a symptom of more serious underlying disease. A more severe form of crusty lips is cheilitis, which is characterized by cracked skin in the corner of the lips [1].

Crusty Lips


There are several causes for crusty lips. This condition is mostly seen in the cold winter months due to temperature changes. Crusty lips can also be a symptom of dehydration. Most common causes for mildly chapped lips are:

  • Dry indoor heating
  • Sun exposure
  • Wind exposure
  • Malnourishment
  • Dehydration
  • Dermatitis
  • Habitual licking of lips
  • Dentures, braces
  • Trauma
  • Breathing through mouth

There are also several medical conditions, that can cause crusty lips. These include:

  • Chron’s disease – a chronic, autoimmune, inflammatory bowel disease, which results with dysfunction of the bowels.
  • Herpes virus- usually herpes virus 1 can cause crusty lips. The condition is highly contagious.
  • Kawasaki disease -rare disease, seen in childhood, which is caused by inflammation of blood vessels in all the body
  • Thyroid conditions
  • Down’s syndrome
  • Diabetes- diabetes can be the cause for malnutrition and dehydration [2]

Risk factors

There are several habits and conditions that might cause crusty lips. Most commonly seen habits, that may also cause lip skin pigmentation and cracking are:

  • Smoking
  • Caffeine
  • Lack of proper skin care

Medications and other factors include:

  • Vitamin A
  • Retinoids
  • Lithium
  • Chemotherapy drugs[3]


Most common symptoms of crusty lips are:

  • Dry, crusting skin
  • Cracking skin, which may cause bleeding
  • Swelling of lips
  • Cracking lip corners- cheilitis:
    • Skin is red or dark pink
    • Lumpy texture
    • Ulcers
    • White plaques on the skin

Crusty Lips

Treatment & How to get Rid

Crusty lips are a condition that in most cases resolves on its own. There are also several home remedies that can be used, as well as several precautions:

  • Discontinue using medications that have caused crusty lips
  • Apply petroleum jelly
  • Avoid licking lips
  • Avoid usage of medicated lip ointments, to avoid development of an allergy
  • Ensure proper air humidity at your home
  • Use proper lip skin care:
    • Wash lips with moisturizing cleanser
    • Exfoliate the chapped skin
    • After exfoliation, apply moisturizing ointment, but avoid using irritating substances like menthol or citrus.
    • Drink plenty of water and avoid drinks with artificial sweeteners and food dyes[3]

If lips continue to crack and there are also signs of infection, medical attention should be sought. There might be an underlying condition, which the patient can be tested for. Usually, a doctor will prescribe several treatment options:

  • If known, treatment for the underlying condition
  • Discontinue or switch to different medications
  • Antibacterial or antifungal cream, if an infection is causing the condition
  • Hydrocortisone cream to reduce the inflammation [5].


In order to prevent crusty lips, it is important to take care of both the skin and the body. Proper nutrition and hydration is the basic step to prevent skin problems. Lip irritation can also be caused by several cosmetic products. Before using anything new, check if the product contains substances you are allergic to. If there is lip irritation after usage of a product, discontinue using it. In some cases, toothpaste can even cause irritation and crusting.

It is important to apply sunscreen on the skin of the lips. Skin on the lips is thinner and more sensitive and requires protection [4].


Chapped lips picture 5

Crusty Lips Pictures 7

Crusty Lips Pictures

Crusty Lips


  1. General information about the condition:
  2. Causes:
  3. Treatment:
  4. Prevention:
  5. Treatment:

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