Eczema on the lips, also called lip dermatitis or eczematous cheilitis, causes a characteristic redness, drying, and scaling of the lips.

Eczema refers to a group of skin conditions that can cause itchy rashes, cracked skin, and painful blisters. People with eczema usually experience periods of flare-ups and remission throughout their life.

People may get eczema on their lips due to genetics or as a result of environmental factors, such as irritating substances in lip products or habitual licking of the lips.

In this article, we look at the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for eczema on the lips.

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Eczema on the lips can occur because of an allergic reaction.

There are several different types of eczema on the lips, including the following:

  • Irritant contact cheilitis occurs as a result of external irritation, such as lip licking, cosmetics, and environmental factors.
  • Allergic contact cheilitis is an allergic reaction to lip products, dental materials, toothpaste, or medication.
  • Angular cheilitis develops due to a fungal infection, usually Candida, or a bacterial infection. A person may get the infection because lip licking, dentures or braces, or other factors cause saliva to build up in the corners of their mouth. Angular cheilitis is common in people with diabetes.

The symptoms of lip eczema can occur on one or both of the lips and can also affect the skin inside and surrounding the mouth.

The symptoms of eczema on the lips may include:

  • a red rash on or around the lips
  • dryness or flakiness
  • split or scaly skin
  • itching
  • burning
  • pain
  • inflammation

Different factors can trigger lip eczema in different people. It may help to note when the symptoms occur to try to determine what is causing lip eczema.

Factors that may trigger lip eczema include:

  • 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
  • pollens
  • respiratory infections
  • stress
  • sweating
  • changes in hormone levels

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People with sensitive skin can be prone to eczema on the lips.
Image credit: James Heilman, MD, 2014.

People with atopic dermatitis may develop eczema symptoms on or around their lips.

In many cases, lip eczema 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 infection causes it.

People who experience symptoms of eczema on their skin should visit a doctor or dermatologist for diagnosis, treatment, and help with the identification of possible allergens.

Risk factors for eczema on the lips may include:

  • a family history of eczema or allergies
  • stress
  • 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 women

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 recommend 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.

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 best to always talk to a doctor and do a skin patch test before using any new products to avoid further skin irritation.

While 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 is to identify any causes and triggers and to 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 reduce their risk of developing lip eczema by:

  • identifying allergies and avoiding allergens, which may include cosmetics or foods
  • doing a skin patch test before using any new topical products
  • switching to natural products containing fewer chemicals and fragrances
  • lowering stress levels, as this 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

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People may mistake chapped lips for eczema.

People may mistake the symptoms of other conditions for eczema. Similar symptoms may also be indicative of the following:

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 a person's symptoms. See a doctor for a diagnosis to decide on the right treatment method.