What Does It Mean When The Corners Of Your Lips Crack?

When the corners of your lips start to crack, it can be very difficult to focus on anything else because virtually everything from smiling to drinking to speaking to eating to talking becomes incredibly uncomfortable, even painful depending how deep the fissures are. Dermatologists actually have a name for this condition, which is  Angular Cheilitis, and while it goes by one name, there are many potential causes (via Byrdie). 

Whether cold weather, dry indoor heating, vitamin deficiencies, sunburn, wind exposure, or wearing dentures are contributing factors, the major culprit, interestingly, is our own saliva. When any of the above factors cause us to lick our lips more than usual, we are actually doing more harm than good. Saliva actually causes the skin on our lips, which already extremely thin and sensitive, to break down. Combine that with any other contributing factors and you've got a perfect storm. This often invites infections like candida (yeast) or bacterial infections, which make the matter worse.  

Fortunately, there are several things you can do to prevent and treat these cracks so as to prevent infection or worsening pain and discomfort.  

How to prevent and treat cracked corners

If you already have an infection or suspect you may have one because over-the-counter measures are not working, you'll need to see your primary care physician or a dermatologist in order to get a prescription for either anti-fungal or antibiotic medication (via WebMD). If, however, it hasn't progressed to that level yet, there are plenty of things you can do. 

In order to prevent the issue in the first place, Dermatologist Orit Markowitz tells Byrdie that the keys are to stay very well hydrated by drinking plenty of water, and to regularly apply a thick, emollient lip balm several times per day. The more natural, the better, as lip balms with many preservatives, flavors, or colors can be irritating to the skin. Also, and we know this can be tough: stop licking your lips! Keeping unflavored lip balm on them at all times can help kick this habit.  

If you've already got the cracks but not an infection yet, try Vaseline or CeraVe Healing Ointment several times per day and stay well hydrated. This should help to heal the cracks. If it doesn't, definitely seek professional guidance from a doctor.