Chronic chapped lips can be irritating. Sometimes no matter how hard you try, the dry skin on the area around your mouth and lips is persistent. While moisturizers and lip balms are available to help ease discomfort, getting enough essential vitamins and minerals in your diet daily may help prevent this troublesome problem.
Nutrient Deficiencies That Can Cause Dry Lips
When it comes to chapped lips, also known as cheilitis, any nutrient deficiency causing dry skin can be problematic. If you experience chapped lips from a nutrient deficiency, your lips may feel dry, crusty or cracked, especially near the corners of your mouth. Your lips may feel rough, swollen, or sore. Open sores may develop in cracked areas where the skin is broken.
Vitamins and minerals including B vitamins such as biotin, thiamin, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 as well as iron and zinc play a key role in keeping your skin, including your lips, hydrated and healthy. Vitamin deficiencies on the other hand, can lead to chapped lips.
Biotin deficiency can cause problems for your lips, but this deficiency is rare. Getting too little biotin can cause dry scaly skin and cracks in the corners of your mouth. To help prevent this, make sure you choose foods rich in biotin such as meat, fish, eggs, seeds, nuts, sweet potatoes and broccoli.
According to a review article published in the Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research, deficiency in thiamin can lead to dryness and cracked skin on the lips. Thiamin can be found in whole grains, fortified foods including rice, pasta and cereals, meat, fish, legumes, seeds and nuts.
A deficiency in vitamin B6 can lead to chapped, dry lips. Although vitamin B6 deficiency is not common, you can choose foods rich in the vitamin including potatoes, poultry, fish, starchy vegetables and fruit.
Vitamin B12 deficiency is also a cause of chapped and cracked lips. Older adults, vegan dieters, and people who don't properly absorb vitamin B12 are at risk for developing B12 deficiency. That's why it's important to eat foods rich in vitamin B12 including meat, dairy, eggs and fortified cereals, and have your blood levels checked if chronic chapped lips are causing problems for you.
Another nutrient deficiency that can lead to dry, cracked lips is lack of iron, according to a 2017 study published in the Indian Journal of Dental Research. Get plenty of iron in your diet from foods such as lean meat, seafood, iron-fortified cereals, white and kidney beans and raisins.
A deficiency in zinc can cause dry and cracked lips. Zinc can be found in oysters, red meat, poultry, fortified cereals, beans, nuts, whole grains and dairy products.
How to Prevent Nutrient Deficiencies
The best way to prevent dry skin and cracked lips due to nutrient deficiencies is to eat a well-balanced diet. Healthy fats like those found in nuts, seeds, and avocado are essential for helping keep skin in good condition. A varied diet containing fruit, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins can also help your body manage inflammation which can be a cause of dry, chapped lips.
Ask your doctor about taking a daily multivitamin supplement to help make up for any shortfalls of these nutrients. The Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academies of Sciences Engineering, and Medicine provides dietary reference intakes (DRI) you can use as a dosage guide to ensure you're meeting daily nutritional needs.
While it's no secret that vitamin deficiencies, especially B vitamins, can lead to dry skin and chapped lips, sometimes dry weather is the culprit. You can try using a daily lip balm or moisturizer, such as petroleum jelly. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends avoiding certain ingredients that can be irritating such as fragrances or salicylic acid, and trying products with ingredients such as ceramides or mineral oil. It's also recommended to always protect your lips from the sun with a non-irritating lip balm with sun protection factor (SPF) 30.