You're not alone if you have this, especially during the colder months. It's called “angular cheilitis” or “perleche.”
Green notes that it can affect people of all ages. It's likely to occur in the winter because the lack of humidity in the air can harm your lip barrier. And if cracking occurs, the healing process can be tricky, says Karen.
An infection of fungi or yeast from too much saliva typically causes it.
When your lips feel dry, you probably subconsciously begin to lick them in order to make them feel moisturized, but that saliva actually does the opposite — drying out your lips and breaking down the skin, says Karen.And while it's less common, bacteria like staphylococcus can also cause this.
It can happen if you're not using a beeswax- or petroleum-based balm.
Green says that these balms work as protectants, keeping excess moisture and yeast or fungi at bay.
The cracking can be mild, severe and even chronic.
Green says that if you have eczema, you might be more susceptible to this. Same goes for braces, various orthodontic devices and old age. “When you age, the creases at the corner of your mouth become more pronounced with wrinkles, which makes it easier to develop chronic angular cheilitis,” explains Karen.
Things that make it worse include excessive licking of your lips, scented lip balms, and acne creams.
“Licking your lips too much is the worst thing you can do,” explains Karen. Try to avoid fragrant lip balms. Acne creams can be detrimental too. “The benzoyl peroxide and alcohol in acne-fighting products is just drying the skin out and making it worse,” she says.
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Protectants like Vaseline or Aquaphor can typically treat it, but sometimes it can be more serious, causing you to opt for an anti-fungal or steroid cream.
“You need to keep the lips moisturized with Aquaphor or Vaseline to prevent more cracking,” says Green. A topical anti-fungal cream or steroid cream like Cortisone can work. Karen says diaper rash ointment can also help. Be sure to check with a doctor before trying out any of these methods, however.
But if these treatments don't work, seek advice from a dermatologist.
“But if it’s not getting better and there is any yellow discharge or crust, it could be a bacterial infection which requires antibiotics,” Karen says. You might even have dermatitis, which is an allergy to food, comestics and toothpaste, or perhaps a lack of vitamin B.