4 Ways to Improve Lip Dermatitis – A Dermatologist’s 5-Minute Guide

January 8, 2021


What is Lip Dermatitis or Lip Eczema? 

Eczema on the lips, also known as lip dermatitis and eczematous cheilitis, is commonly identified by redness, drying, and scaling on your lips.

The lips are among the thinnest parts of our skin, consisting of only 3 to 5 cellular layers compared to 16 layers in other parts of our body. The outer layer itself is extremely thin, making it softer and more vulnerable.

Lips are also highly sensitive due to the lack of sebaceous glands, which produce sebum to moisturise the skin. Without sebum, the lips are more likely to be dry and chapped.

These symptoms may appear because of a genetic predisposition to eczema, or due to an outside occurrence. They could be caused by anything from licking your lips to using a lipstick that irritates your skin.

In this article, we look at the symptoms, causes, and ways to improve lip dermatitis.


The symptoms of eczema on the lips can include:

  • Rashes on or around the lips
  • Dryness or flakiness on the lips, or around the lip area
  • Split or scaly skin
  • Itching
  • Burning
  • Pain
  • Inflammation

These symptoms can occur on one or both lips, and it can also affect the skin inside and/or surrounding areas of the mouth.


The exact cause of lip dermatitis is often unknown, and it is believed to be developed as a result of environmental and genetic factors. For some, it could be due to family medical history, while others may be due to chemicals found in lip products or habitually licking the lips.

Here are some common external factors to watch out for, that may trigger lip eczema:

  • Cigarette smoke
  • Using lip products, such as lipsticks containing certain chemicals
  • Eating certain foods that may cause allergic reactions
  • Dry or cold weather 
  • Getting an upper respiratory infection
  • Fragrances or chemicals in soaps or beauty products
  • Coming into contact with pollen or pet dander
  • Prolonged use of face mask

Internal factors such as stress, changes in hormone levels, and an unhealthy gut can also cause lip eczema as well. Be sure to seek medical advice from your dermatologist to get an accurate diagnosis.

4 Ways to Improve Lip Dermatitis (Lip Eczema) 

The best way to prevent or improve lip eczema is to identify any causes and triggers and to avoid them where possible. Here are some ways to improve lip eczema if you are experiencing any of the symptoms:

1. Use a non-fragrance lip balm

One of the most common pieces of advice from Dermatologists is to avoid lip balms made with fragrances due to their drying properties. They may add cosmetic appeal to the product but are irritating to the skin barrier, causing more dryness and irritation.

Furthermore, fragrances are one of the biggest causes of allergic contact dermatitis (ACD) -otherwise known as rashes.

2. Avoid wet wipes

Methylchloroisothiazolinone/methylisothiazolinone (MCI/MI) is a combination preservative used in personal care and household products such as wet wipes and is a common cause of ACD.

Instead, use wet towels or a gentle cleanser at home. Reduce your usage of wet wipes.

3. Avoid lip smacking/licking

Lip smacking/licking are common habits for those with dry, chapped lips, which makes the lip problem worse instead of moisturising them. Although there is temporary relief, after the moisture evaporates, it actually causes more dryness or even skin inflammation around the lips due to saliva from repetitive lip licking.

4. Avoid make up, lipstick, and unlabeled creams to allow your lips to heal

One of the best ways to improve lip dermatitis is to avoid your triggers when possible. These include any known allergens, as well as sensitivities to chemicals. Make up, lipstick, and certain creams may contain ingredients that are causing your lips to flare up.

Even after eliminating these triggers, it can take some time for the rashes to clear up.


Lip eczema usually arises after contact with irritants or allergens, although in rare cases, it can result from infection.

Various treatment methods, home remedies, and lifestyle modifications can help relieve your symptoms. If avoiding triggers does not fix your lip eczema condition, seek medical advice from a dermatologist for a diagnosis and the right treatment for you.

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