Risk: Lips have no melanin, which makes them more susceptible to sun damage, including skin cancer, caused by ultraviolet exposure. *Photo supplied
Risk: Lips have no melanin, which makes them more susceptible to sun damage, including skin cancer, caused by ultraviolet exposure. *Photo supplied

Lips take a lot of abuse, but they lack the protection that the rest of our skin enjoys. 

They have no oil or sweat glands, and they’re constantly exposed to irritants, such as the tip of the tongue, food and drinks, environmental pollutants and weather. To make matters worse, our lips are often overlooked as part of our skin care regimen. Read on to find out how to manage some of the most common lip problems.

UV protection

Lips have no melanin, which makes them more susceptible to sun damage including skin cancer caused by ultraviolet (UV) exposure. The sun’s UV rays can also impact the production of collagen on your lips, which can result in the formation of wrinkles on and around the area.

It is important to keep lips soft, smooth and hydrated to protect them from sun damage. 

The application of a lip balm with SPF 15 or higher and continually drinking water can help protect against UV rays. Also, keep in mind that UV rays can penetrate through a cloudy sky so use lip balm every day and try to reapply every two hours. 

Look for a lip product that has a base of beeswax, petroleum jelly or paraffin. These products will seal moisture and stay on your lips longer than thinner balms and glosses. 

Chapped lips

If your lips become dry and start to peel, use some sugar and olive oil to gently exfoliate the accumulated dead skin cells. The instinct to lick your lips makes the chapping worse, as saliva dehydrates the skin further. Instead, moisturize your lips with a balm. That barrier will also help seal deep cracks and splits from infection and irritation.

Cracks

Cracking at the side of the mouth is a condition called angular cheilitis. It’s caused by frequent or persistent saliva touching the skin outside the mouth. This can occur because of a poor seal of your lips at the angles of your mouth, braces, ill-fitting dentures or because you frequently lick the area causing a bacterial or fungal infection. While the angular cheilitis is active, you can apply an over-the-counter antifungal cream, such as clotrimazole (to treat the fungus), then a one per cent topical hydrocortisone ointment (to reduce redness and inflammation) an hour later. You can do this two to three times per day. 

If the condition does not clear, see your physician for a prescription strength product. 

Vitamin B deficiency has also been associated with this condition so taking a Vitamin B supplement can also help with healing and prevention.

Cold sores

Cold sores are caused when there is a reactivation of the herpes simplex virus (HSV). Once you have contracted the virus it never leaves your body and there is no cure. 

Most cold sores will go away on their own. Topical creams or ointments such as Zovirax (or Virasorb) and Abreva, which are available with or without a prescription, can reduce pain, itching and healing time. They are most effective if used when symptoms first occur. 

Other products like Anbesol for Cold Sores and Campho-Phenique will help to dry the cold sore once the blister has formed.

Oral antiviral medicines, which are available by prescription only, may be used when the first symptoms, such as burning or itching, begin. 

These medicines have little effect after the sore develops. Oral antivirals may also be taken daily to prevent recurring cold sores, especially in people who have frequent and painful outbreaks. Lysine, either taken by mouth or applied topically, can also help to heal and even prevent outbreaks.

My best advice to keep a perky pucker is to get serious about your lip health and incorporate taking care of this fragile area into your daily routine just as you do your skin. 

Stephanie Simons is the head pharmacist at Lindo’s Pharmacy in Devonshire. For helpful information, visit Lindo’s at www.lindos.bm.