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Something to smile about - Taking care of your lips

March 2011

dry lipsWhen did you last think about your lips? Our poor lips are one of the most ignored parts of our bodies, an area we only consider either when something goes wrong or perhaps, for women, when they are applying lipstick.

The most common cause of problems with lips is dryness . Lips are covered with skin, in many ways similar to the rest of our bodies, but unlike most of our skin, the skin on the lips does not produce a good quantity of natural oil to protect them. When lips are dry and cracked, they really don’t look nice even if they cause no pain or discomfort. But more often, dry lips can be painful when you smile or talk, or cracks can present tingling and other unpleasant reactions when you eat or drink. Really deep cracks can be a source of infection. When you consider how important lips are in so many of our everyday activities, it really is odd that we don’t treat them with more importance.

Weather can be a common cause of lip problems; severe cold can dry lips, so of course can strong wind. Many people don’t realize that lips can also become sun burned; an area where you really don’t want to develop a glowing tan.

However, another main problem for lips is general dehydration. Many of us do not drink enough, and if we are lacking water, our lips will be one of the first areas to show this. Vitamin deficiencies can cause also lip problems, so can poorly fitting dentures, general skin disorders and allergic reactions.

Occasionally dry lips can indicate a more serious problem, diabetes for instance can be a cause of pain in the lips; so can other medical problems and diseases such as Sjogren’s Syndrome which can result in seriously cracked lips.

Angular cheilitis is another condition that affects lips. It is caused by the fungus candida which is also associated with thrush. The condition causes the corner of the mouth to become sore and inflamed, sometimes with deep cracks and even splits.

But for more of us, cracked lips are caused by a simple problem that is equally simple to solve. Dehydration of course means drinking more water; cold, wind and sunburn can all be prevented from causing damage by applying lip balm, or special lip creams or ointments which are available from any pharmacy or large supermarket. Lip balms can come unflavoured which are probably the best to treat dry lips but they can also be obtained in a variety of flavours and tints; some include additional properties such as aloe vera or vitamin E to help add moisture to the lips. Petroleum jelly can be used to protect against harsh conditions and some say rubbing a cucumber into the lips keeps them moist and soft.

One habit you need to avoid is licking your lips. It is funny how many of us do this quite regularly and quite unconsciously! Any saliva left on your lips will evaporate and only contribute to drying the lips.

If you moisturize and protect your lips and still have problems, then you do need to consult a doctor in case it is an indication of a more serious problem.
Lips, like all parts of our bodies, deserve a bit of care and attention; nice lips will give you something to smile about!


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