Eczema on the lips — also known as lip dermatitis or eczematous cheilitis — causes redness, drying, and scaling of the lips. Common triggers include stress and the use of certain cosmetics. Home remedies and medical treatments can help.
Eczema is a group of skin conditions that can cause itchy rashes, cracked skin, and painful blisters. People with eczema usually experience flare-ups that alternate with periods of remission throughout their life.
Although genetic factors may be responsible for some cases of eczema on the lips, other cases result from environmental factors, such as irritating substances in lip products.
This article looks at the causes, symptoms, and treatment of eczema on the lips.
- Irritant contact cheilitis: This occurs due to external irritation, such as lip licking, cosmetics, and other environmental factors.
- Allergic contact cheilitis: This is an allergic reaction to lip products, dental materials, toothpaste, or medication.
- Angular cheilitis: Angular cheilitis develops due to an infection with either bacteria or fungi, such as Candida. A person may get the infection because lip licking, dentures, braces, or other factors cause saliva to build up in the corners of their mouth. Angular cheilitis is common among people with diabetes.
The symptoms of lip eczema can occur on one or both of the lips. They can also affect the skin inside the mouth and that surrounding it.
The symptoms of eczema on the lips may include:
- a rash on or around the lips
- dryness or flakiness
- split or scaly skin
Eczema on the lips is not the same as dry lips. People with lip eczema may have dry lips, but their lips are typically severely chapped. They may also be inflamed and scaly.
Various factors can trigger lip eczema in different people. People may find that keeping a note of when the symptoms occur helps them determine their triggers.
- certain lip products, such as specific chemicals in lipsticks and chapsticks
- fragrances, soaps, household cleaners, and fabrics
- dry skin, which cold, dry climates can make worse
- specific foods
- cigarette smoke
- respiratory infections
- changes in hormone levels
People with atopic dermatitis may develop eczema symptoms on or around their lips.
Lip eczema often arises following contact with substances that cause irritation or an allergic reaction. Eczema is not generally a contagious condition.
However, angular cheilitis is contagious because of the infection that causes it.
People who experience symptoms of eczema on their skin should consult a doctor or dermatologist for a diagnosis and treatment. These professionals can also help identify possible allergens.
Risk factors for eczema on the lips may include:
- a family history of eczema or allergies
- a job or activities involving irritating substances
- using new products relating to the mouth, such as lipstick or toothpaste
- sensitivity to cold or hot climates
- having a cold or the flu
- changes in hormone levels, especially in females
To diagnose eczema on the lips, a doctor will need to examine the person with symptoms. The doctor will typically carry out a skin exam, and, in some cases, they may recommend a skin biopsy to help rule out other conditions. They should be able to carry this out during the original appointment.
A skin biopsy is a simple and quick procedure during which the doctor will numb and remove a small amount of skin. An analysis of the sample can confirm the presence of eczema and its type.
A doctor may also ask the person what foods they have recently eaten and how long they have had the symptoms, among other questions.
Treatment options for eczema on the lips may include the following medications and home remedies:
- medicated creams, including corticosteroids
- regular moisturizing
- lip balms
- antifungal creams for angular cheilitis
The National Eczema Association recommends the natural remedies below to relieve eczema symptoms in general. People should ensure that any natural remedies requiring a topical application to the lips are edible, in case of accidental consumption.
- coconut oil
- sunflower seed oil
- vitamin D
- apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar can burn, so people should test for skin sensitivity by applying only a small quantity the first time they use it.
In some cases, people can use a combination of natural remedies. However, it is always best to talk with a doctor and do a skin patch test before using any new products to avoid further skin irritation.
Although these treatments may be effective for relieving the symptoms of eczema, they are neither a cure nor a preventive method.
The best way to prevent eczema symptoms is to identify any causes and triggers and avoid them where possible. An allergist can identify possible allergies that may be the underlying cause of eczema, while a doctor can advise on preventive measures and treatment options.
People can take certain steps to minimize the risk of lip eczema. These include:
- identifying allergies and avoiding allergens, which may include cosmetics or foods
- carrying out a skin patch test before using any new topical products
- switching to natural products containing fewer chemicals and fragrances
- practicing stress management techniques, as stress is a common trigger for eczema
- avoiding cigarette smoke
- removing bacteria from the skin by washing the hands and face regularly
- getting treatment for underlying health problems
- following the recommendations of a doctor or dermatologist
Below, we answer some common questions about eczema on the lip.
How does it spread?
Eczema is not contagious, so it cannot spread from person to person. It can, however, spread on the body. How this happens depends on the type of eczema.
Contact dermatitis, for example, will spread if the source of irritation comes into contact with other body parts. Sometimes, eczema may seem to spread, but it can develop in many different places independently.
How long does it take to heal?
Various factors can influence how long lip eczema takes to heal, such as its severity and the treatment a person uses. There is no cure for eczema, but a person can keep it under control. If possible, it is best to consult a dermatologist, who can determine a treatment plan.
People may mistake the symptoms of other conditions for eczema. The following conditions, for instance, can produce similar symptoms:
- cold sores
- canker sores
- chapped lips
A doctor can provide an accurate diagnosis and recommend effective treatments.
Eczema on the lips is a skin condition that causes redness, drying, and scaling of the lips.
Lip eczema usually arises after contact with irritants or allergens, although it can result from infection in some cases.
Various treatment methods and home remedies can relieve the symptoms. A person can contact a doctor for a diagnosis and effective treatment.