Do you find your lips itchy and often dry? Are you reaching out for your lip balm more often than usual? It could mean you have eczema on your lips. Eczematous cheilitis or lip dermatitis may cause redness, dryness, scaling, and inflammation, leaving the lips dry and uncomfortable (1). Keep reading to know more about this condition, its causes, symptoms, and treatment options.
In This Article
What Is Eczematous Cheilitis
Eczematous cheilitis is an inflammatory skin condition that affects the lips and causes scaling, redness, and dryness. It can be of two types (2):
- Endogenous: This type of eczematous dermatitis is caused by endogenous factors like gene mutation or loss of plasticity. Atopic dermatitis is a common example of endogenous eczematous cheilitis.
- Exogenous: This is caused by factors outside the body. Exogenous eczematous cheilitis is of two types: irritant and allergic. Irritant contact cheilitis is caused due to lip licking, cosmetics, foods, and other environmental issues. Allergic contact cheilitis is caused by allergens that may be present in dental products, medications, food, and lip products. Keep scrolling to learn the most common risk factors of eczematous cheilitis.
Causes And Risk Factors
- Allergic Reactions
Allergens found in lipsticks, oral hygiene products like toothpaste, foods, ointment bases, fragrances, preservatives, antioxidants, and dyes may trigger eczematous cheilitis. Objects like dental materials, musical or occupational instruments, metals, leather objects that come in contact with your lips may also cause allergic reactions (3).
Some medications like topical antibiotics, virostatic agents, disinfectants, and local anesthetics may also cause allergic reactions and irritate the lips.
- Gene Mutation
Eczema is caused due to a mutation to a gene called filaggrin that is responsible for skin cell maturity and forming tough corneocytes (dead skin). A mutation in this gene causes skin barrier dysfunction, leading to water loss, scaling, itching, and dryness (4).
- Skin Deterioration
Loss of lip plasticity (lip thinning) and delayed hypersensitivity may also cause eczematous cheilitis. In addition, the condition reduces the number of beta-defenses (skin’s primary defense system) in the skin, which makes it prone to infections caused by viruses, bacteria, and fungi (2), (4).
- Family History
If you have a history of eczema in your family, you may also develop the condition.
Eczema on the lips may also be caused as a reaction to other conditions like atopic cheilitis, irritant contact cheilitis, and allergic cheilitis. Here are some of the symptoms to look out for.
- Erythema (redness)
- Fissuring (splits or cracks with and without bleeding)
In a few cases, you may also notice lip discoloration. Scratching the affected area continuously may also lead to the thickening of the skin. If you notice any of these symptoms on your lips, consult a dermatologist. There are a few treatment options that your doctor may recommend,
Treatment for eczema focuses on hydration and anti-inflammatory medication to calm flare-ups. It mainly centers around maintaining a daily skin moisturizing regimen paired with a fragrance-free ointment. The doctor may recommend (4):
- Topical ointments
- Topical anti-inflammatory medications like steroids
- Steroid-free products like pimecrolimus, tacrolimus, or Eucrisa
- Oral antihistamines
- Diluted bleach baths or intranasal mupirocin
If you have a history of allergies, the doctor might do a patch or allergy test to identify potential triggers. They may ask you to stay away from harsh detergents, soaps, and products that may contain allergens like artificial dyes, fragrances, and preservatives.
The doctor may recommend a prick test. To do it, they may put a drop of allergen solution on your arm and prick the skin to let it enter. They will check the area after half an hour for any adverse reactions.
Here are some preventative measures you can take to minimize the eczematous flare-ups on the lips.
- Do a patch test before using any product to avoid allergic reactions.
- Apply a lip balm or moisturizer to your lips to soothe dryness.
- Do not scratch or rub your lips.
- Do not put any random objects in your mouth. They may contain allergens and bacteria that may worsen the symptoms.
- Do not pull the dry flakes from your lips.
Although eczema cannot be cured, you can manage the symptoms and avoid flare-ups. Knowing what triggers your symptoms goes a long way in preventing the condition. Follow the tips discussed in the article, consult a doctor, and follow the prescribed treatment religiously to manage eczematous cheilitis and maintain a healthy pout.
Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.
- Dermatology of the lips: inflammatory diseases
- Differential Diagnosis of Cheilitis – How to Classify Cheilitis?
- Isolated lip dermatitis (atopic cheilitis) successfully treated with topical tacrolimus 0.03%