What Your Lips Say About Your Health

  • The look and feel of your lips can indicate health issues like nutritional deficiencies.
  • Lips can even reveal poor habits, including smoking and not flossing enough.
  • Here’s what eight common lip issues mean and how to keep your lips soft and supple.

Did you know your lips can tell you a lot about your health? For instance, problems like dryness and discoloration can be signs of deeper health issues. But getting informed is a great way to protect your pout.

Keep reading to learn about eight common lip issues — we’ll explore what each one means and how to treat it. Plus, we’ll talk about preventing problems in the first place.

Dry and Chapped

When your lips lack moisture, they can dry out. So, Bustle says basic dehydration and drying weather are common causes of chapped lips. If your lips are dry and chapped, then it may be time to drink a glass of water to help tackle the issue.

You can also reach for some lip balm to help support healing. However, resist the urge to lick your lips. The source says saliva can further dry out your lips.

Cracked Corners

Officially called angular cheilitis, cracked corners are another common lip issue. Good Housekeeping says drooling could be the culprit. When saliva pools in the corners of your mouth, the source says, “bacteria can accumulate around your mouth and cause an infection.”

The source suggests talking to your dermatologist about oral anti-yeast medications. Additionally, Prevention has a couple of ideas to avoid cracked corners in the future: use more pillows to prop yourself up when you sleep or get a night guard.

Swollen

If you’re experiencing minor swelling, then your lips may be alerting you to an allergy. For example, you could be allergic to a new lip cosmetic or something you just ate. Try cutting out whatever you think could be the culprit to see if you can resolve the issue.

But if it doesn’t go away, call your dermatologist to discuss solutions. And Good Housekeeping recommends seeking immediate medical help “if you have a swollen tongue, burning lips, hives on your skin, or an itchy throat.”

Cold Sores

Cold sores can be unsightly and uncomfortable. And they can also tell you something about your health. According to Prevention, cold sores tend to develop when you’re stressed out or run down. Stress can weaken the immune system, so the source says cold sores and colds can go hand in hand.

“Once you feel the tell-tale tingling of a cold sore coming,” Bustle says, “talk to your doc about a medication to suppress it or a topical cream to heal it.” If you regularly experience cold sores, then you may want to exercise and sleep more to help manage stress.

Blue Discoloration

While extremely cold temperatures can turn lips blue, bluish discoloration can also signal a serious health issue. According to Healthline, “blue lips can be an indicator of decreased oxygen in the blood.”

When oxygen levels are low, the source says blood is dark red or purple. That deeper color can give lips a bluish tint. If your lips turn blue and warming up doesn’t make a difference, then the source recommends seeking immediate medical help.

Cracked All-Over

Are your lips so dry that you get cracked lips instead of merely chapped lips? Then you may have a nutrient deficiency, according to Prevention. For example, you may need more iron, zinc, vitamin B3, or vitamin B6.

If you think you might have a nutrient deficiency, then reach out to your doctor. They may order a blood test to get to the bottom of the issue. Should you have a deficiency, your doctor may recommend changes to your diet or a supplement.

Wrinkles

Lip wrinkles, also called lipstick lines, are vertical lines that develop on lips. Healthline says aging skin produces less collagen and oil, which can cause chronic dryness and deep lines. Since lipstick can settle into the lines, unfortunately, lip wrinkles aren’t easy to conceal.

In addition to natural aging, the source says smoking can also cause lip wrinkles. So, consider lip wrinkles another reason to quit smoking. If lip wrinkles bother you, then talk to a dermatologist about treatments that might help.

White or Pale

Blue might be the first color that springs to mind when you think about lip discoloration, but pale pink or white lips can also indicate health issues. For instance, Good Housekeeping says paleness can indicate you’re not getting enough sun.

The source suggests taking more walks to combat the issue — of course, don’t forget the sunscreen! If you’re experiencing paleness elsewhere, then call your doctor to discuss the possibility of more serious conditions like anemia.

Taking Care of Your Lips

While lip problems can be annoying, there is good news. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) says self-care can typically heal common issues like dry and chapped lips within a few weeks. However, the source recommends calling a dermatologist if the problem persists.

You can also take steps to keep your lips soft and supple in the future: using particular lips balms, breaking poor habits, and making dietary changes. Here are a few ways you can take care of your lips.

Use Certain Lip Balms

Not all lip balms are created equal. In fact, some contain ingredients that can make the issue worse. Steer clear of lip balms that contain silicone, fragrances, or salicylic acid. HowStuffWorks says lip balms with those ingredients can “dry out your lips even more.”

Instead, look for lip balms made from petroleum jelly or beeswax. The source says, “These seal in moisture and won’t evaporate as quickly as thinner balms or glosses.” They also suggest exfoliating your lips once a week to prevent buildup and make lip balms more effective.

Break Poor Habits

If you pick, bite, or lick your lips, then do your utmost to overcome the urge. While it can take willpower to resist, HowStuffWorks says all three habits can make the situation worse. And don’t skip flossing. The source says dental infections can cause cracked lips.

Similarly, UPMC HealthBeat cautions against mouth breathing. The source says mouth breathing is drying and often goes hand in hand with drooling. And lip health is another reason to quit smoking. Quitting can be challenging, so talk to your doctor to help find support and resources.

Drink Water, Eat Healthy

Since dehydration and nutritional deficiencies can cause dry and chapped lips, it also helps to tackle the issue from the inside out. UPMC HealthBeat recommends drinking eight glasses of water per day to “stay properly hydrated.”

And as previously mentioned, deficiencies in iron, zinc, or vitamins B3 and B6 can also cause unhealthy lips. Prevention says salmon, eggs, and leafy greens are rich in those nutrients. So, it may help to include them in your diet. Be sure to talk to a doctor before overhauling your diet, though.

Katie Ormsby

Katie Ormsby

Katie is a writer based in the Pacific Northwest. She has a degree in journalism and political science from the University of Washington. In her free time, Katie loves spending time with family, reading, and going to the movies and theater. She also enjoys getting out in the fresh air to explore parks.

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