14 Remedies For Angular Cheilitis, Stages, Causes, & Prevention

Smoking, nutrient deficiencies, crooked teeth, and dentures are some of the causes of this issue.

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Thomas Connelly, DDS
By Shaheen Naser

Every year, roughly two million people are affected by angular cheilitis! This condition is widespread around the world. Red and irritated areas on the edges of the lips are a sign of angular cheilitis. These spots not only create annoyance, but they also induce discomfort and make laughing challenging. If you want to be free from this issue, try the remedies and recommendations discussed in this article. You will notice a difference in your condition in a short period. Continue reading to learn more.

What Is Angular Cheilitis?

Angular cheilitis is a medical condition that causes red, inflamed patches on any or both the corners of your mouth where your upper and lower lips meet. It is also referred to as perleche and angular stomatitis.

Dr. Anna Chacon, MD, FAAD, says, “Angular cheilitis usually isn’t serious. The condition often goes away about two weeks after starting treatment. Severe angular cheilitis can result in scarring or weak, thin skin if it isn’t treated. Also, it can come back after treatment.”

Angular cheilitis usually progresses in four stages – and they are discussed below.

Stages And Symptoms Of Angular Cheilitis

The four stages and the associated symptoms of angular cheilitis are:

Stage 1 – Minor Angular Cheilitis

In the first stage of angular cheilitis, you will notice:

  • Slight flakiness in the corners of your mouth
  • A tightness in the corners of your mouth that is accompanied by discomfort when you try and open your mouth

Stage 2 – Mild Angular Cheilitis

You may observe redness on the corners of your mouth and a slight increase in the discomfort.

Stage 3 – Severe Angular Cheilitis

Even simple activities like opening your mouth in any way become painful. Other symptoms of Stage 3 include the appearance of evident lesions at the corners of your mouth. Treatments become ineffective in stage 3 of angular cheilitis.

Stage 4 – Chronic Angular Cheilitis

Once angular cheilitis becomes chronic, you will notice it disappearing and reappearing frequently. The skin around the corners of your lips may:

  • Become dry
  • Crack
  • Pain

If you are wondering what causes this troublesome ailment, scroll down to find out.

Causes And Risk Factors For Angular Cheilitis

There is always a probability for saliva to get trapped in the corners of your lips and build up. When it dries, the skin in that area is at risk of cracking. As a reflex, you may lick your lips to soothe the irritation. The repetitive exposure to saliva can cause accumulation of moisture and warmth in the corners of your mouth, creating the perfect condition for fungal growth and infections.

As this condition is not infectious, it is completely safe to kiss. But, Dr. Angela Casey, Board-Certified Dermatologist, cautions, “Kissing may exacerbate symptoms as the increased saliva and friction around the mouth can feed into the inflammation and skin cracking that is seen in angular cheilitis.”

The major cause of angular cheilitis is a fungal infection caused by Candida fungus. Certain bacteria strains can also cause this infection.

In case your doctor is unable to detect the cause of your condition, the infection is referred to as idiopathic angular cheilitis.

There are also some factors that can increase your risk of developing angular cheilitis. They are:

  • Having braces
  • Wearing dentures
  • Licking your lips often
  • Having crooked teeth
  • Sagging skin around your mouth from aging or weight loss
  • Sucking your thumb
  • Smoking
  • Deficiency in nutrients like vitamin B and iron

Most often, people get confused between angular cheilitis and a cold sore. To put your confusions to rest, the following section reveals a few major differences between the two.

Angular Cheilitis Vs. Cold Sore

Angular Cheilitis

  • It appears without a forewarning.
  • It usually appears as one large blister.
  • It does not cause other symptoms, like fever or a headache, like cold sores.
  • It usually occurs around the corners of your mouth.

Cold Sores

  • They occur in a cycle, and before their onset, you may feel a tingling or burning sensation in the affected area.
  • They occur in tiny clusters.
  • These sores may also cause other symptoms like fever, headache, or swollen lymph nodes.
  • They can occur anywhere around your mouth.

Given how unsightly angular cheilitis can end up looking, it is best if you avail treatment quickly before the infection turns chronic. The following are some amazing natural remedies that can help you tackle angular cheilitis overnight.

Home Remedies To Cure Angular Cheilitis Overnight

    1. Essential Oils
    2. Baking Soda
    3. Garlic
    4. Honey
    5. Jojoba Oil
    6. Petroleum Jelly
    7. Lemon
    8. Yogurt
    9. Coconut Oil
    10. Aloe Vera
    11. Apple Cider Vinegar
    12. Neem Oil
    13. Olive Oil
    14. Salt Water

1. Essential Oils

a. Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil for angular cheilitis

Shutterstock

You Will Need
  • 2-3 drops of tea tree oil
  • 2 teaspoons of coconut oil
  • Cotton ball
What You Have To Do
  1. Add two to three drops of tea tree oil to two teaspoons of coconut oil and mix well.
  2. Apply this mixture over the corners of your mouth.
  3. Repeat after 3 hours.
Why This Works

Tea tree oil possesses antifungal properties that can help eliminate fungal growth, while its anti-inflammatory properties reduce the inflammation and pain that may surface with angular cheilitis (1).

Stylecraze Trivia
During World War II, Australian soldiers carried tea tree oil in their kits to treat skin infections and wounds.

b. Lavender Oil

Lavender oil for treating angular cheilitis

Shutterstock

You Will Need
  • 2-3 drops of lavender oil
  • 2 teaspoons of coconut oil
  • Cotton ball
What You Have To Do
  1. Mix lavender oil with coconut oil.
  2. Dip a cotton ball into this mixture.
  3. Apply it all over the affected area.
  4. Repeat after 3 or 4 hours.
Why This Works

Lavender oil exhibits antifungal activities that help in combating angular cheilitis easily (2). This essential oil is also anti-inflammatory and analgesic and can provide relief from inflammation and itchiness (3).

2. Baking Soda

Baking soda for healing angular cheilitis

Shutterstock

You Will Need
  • 1 tablespoon of baking soda
  • Water
  • A clean cloth
  • Moisturizer
What You Have To Do
  1. Mix a tablespoon of baking soda with a little water to form a thick paste.
  2. Apply the paste to the affected areas.
  3. Allow it to sit for about 5 minutes and rinse it off.
  4. Dry your mouth with a clean towel and follow up with a moisturizer.
  5. Repeat this once again after 3 to 4 hours.
Why This Works

Baking soda has natural antiseptic properties that can help in eliminating fungal and bacterial infections like angular cheilitis (4).

3. Garlic

Garlic for curing angular cheilitis

Shutterstock

You Will Need
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • Moisturizer
What You Have To Do
  1. Take two garlic cloves and crush them.
  2. Apply the garlic paste directly to the affected area and leave it on for 5 to 10 minutes.
  3. Rinse the mixture off your skin.
  4. Moisturize the area.
  5. Repeat after every 4 hours.
Why This Works

Garlic contains a compound called allicin that exhibits antifungal activity (5). The topical application of garlic is great for treating angular cheilitis as well as the itching and inflammation associated with it (6).

4. Honey

Honey for angular cheilitis

Shutterstock

You Will Need

1 teaspoon of honey

What You Have To Do
  1. Apply honey to the affected areas around your mouth.
  2. Leave it on for 15 to 30 minutes.
  3. Rinse the honey off and pat your skin dry.
  4. Repeat twice after every 3 or 4 hours.
Why This Works

Honey is a great remedy for angular cheilitis due to its antifungal and antiseptic properties (7).

5. Jojoba Oil

Jojoba oil for angular cheilitis

Shutterstock

You Will Need

A few drops of jojoba oil

What You Have To Do
  1. Apply a few drops of jojoba oil directly to the affected area.
  2. Leave it on for 20 to 30 minutes before rinsing it off with water.
  3. Repeat thrice.
Why This Works

Jojoba oil is highly moisturizing and can protect your lips from drying and chapping and inflammation (8).

6. Petroleum Jelly (Vaseline)

Petroleum jelly for angular cheilitis

Shutterstock

You Will Need

Petroleum jelly (as required)

What You Have To Do
  1. Take a little petroleum jelly and apply it to the affected skin.
  2. Reapply as and when necessary.
Why This Works

The powerful emollient activities of petroleum jelly can help in keeping the affected area moisturized. This helps in speeding up the healing of angular cheilitis (9).

Fun Fact
American explorer Robert Peary is believed to have taken Vaseline to the north pole to protect his skin from chapping and equipment from rusting.

7. Lemon

Lemon cure for angular cheilitis

Shutterstock

You Will Need
  • ½ lemon
  • 1 glass of water
  • Honey (as required)
What You Have To Do
  1. Add the juice of half a lemon to a glass of water.
  2. Mix well and add some honey to it.
  3. Drink it using a straw.
Why This Works

Drinking lemon juice 2 to 3 times following the onset of angular cheilitis can help you recover faster from it. The presence of vitamin C in lemon makes it a natural immunity booster that helps in healing your condition (10).

8. Yogurt

Yogurt for angular cheilitis

Shutterstock

You Will Need

1-2 teaspoons of plain yogurt

What You Have To Do
  1. Apply some probiotic yogurt to the affected corners of your mouth.
  2. Leave it on overnight.
  3. You can also consume a small bowl of yogurt.
Why This Works

Probiotic yogurt is made up of live cultures that are beneficial in the treatment of angular cheilitis upon topical application as well as consumption. It helps in getting rid of inflammation and keeps your skin moisturized (11).

9. Coconut Oil

Coconut oil for angular cheilitis

Shutterstock

You Will Need

1-2 teaspoons of cold-pressed coconut oil

What You Have To Do
  1. Apply coconut oil directly to the affected areas.
  2. Leave it on for 30 to 40 minutes before rinsing it off.
  3. Reapply as needed.
Why This Works

Coconut oil exhibits two significant properties with respect to the treatment of angular cheilitis. One, its antifungal nature that can fight the fungal growth on your mouth, and two, its moisturizing nature that prevents further damage to your lips (12), (13).

10. Aloe Vera

Aloe vera cure for angular cheilitis

Shutterstock

You Will Need

1-2 teaspoons of freshly extracted aloe vera gel

What You Have To Do
  1. Refrigerate two teaspoons of aloe vera gel.
  2. Apply the cold gel to the affected skin.
  3. Leave it on for 20 to 30 minutes before washing it off.
  4. Repeat every 3 or 4 hours.
Why This Works

Aloe vera gel is quite popular for its healing nature. It helps in soothing irritated skin and prevents further infection with its natural antifungal activities (14).

11. Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar for angular cheilitis

Shutterstock

You Will Need
What You Have To Do
  1. Mix a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar with three-fourths cup of water.
  2. Soak a cotton ball in this solution and apply it to the affected areas.
  3. Leave it on for 15 to 20 minutes.
  4. Rinse it off your skin.
  5. Repeat once after 4 to 5 hours.
Why This Works

Apple cider vinegar exhibits powerful antibacterial and antifungal activities, both of which are great for eliminating the pathogens responsible for causing angular cheilitis. The anti-inflammatory nature of ACV soothes your irritated skin (15).

12. Neem Oil

Neem oil for angular cheilitis

Shutterstock

You Will Need

2-3 drops of neem oil

What You Have To Do
  1. Take a few drops of neem oil and apply it directly to the affected skin.
  2. Leave it on for 30 to 40 minutes.
  3. Rinse it off with water and pat your skin dry.
  4. Repeat 2 to 3 times at regular intervals.
Why This Works

Neem oil is quite useful for treating skin conditions like angular cheilitis owing to its antifungal activities.

It also soothes the inflammation and pain that usually accompany this fungal condition (16).

13. Olive Oil

Olive oil for angular cheilitis

Shutterstock

You Will Need

1 teaspoon of cold pressed olive oil

What You Have To Do
  1. Take a teaspoon of cold pressed olive oil and gently spread it over the corners of your lips.
  2. Allow it to work on your skin for 20 to 30 minutes before rinsing it off.
  3. Repeat thrice at regular intervals.
Why This Works

Olive oil is another wonderful option for treating your condition. It moisturizes the affected area, fights fungal infections, and also soothes inflammation (17), (18).

14. Salt Water

Salt water for angular cheilitis

Shutterstock

You Will Need
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • ¾ cup of slightly warm water
  • A clean washcloth or cotton balls
What You Have To Do
  1. Add half a teaspoon of table salt to three-fourths cup of slightly warm water.
  2. Mix well and soak a clean washcloth or cotton ball in it.
  3. Place the soaked cotton ball/washcloth on the affected corners of your lips.
  4. Let it stay put for 10 to 15 minutes.
  5. Rinse the salt water off your lips.
  6. Repeat this process thrice at regular intervals.
Why This Works

Although this remedy might burn initially, it is worth a try. The natural antiseptic properties of salt can help reduce the infection and prevent it from progressing.

If these remedies don’t work or you see no improvement in your condition, consult a dermatologist for treatment. Dr. Anna Chacon says, “Your doctor may prescribe topical antifungals such as clotrimazole, nystatin, or econazole. They may also add topical steroids, such as Mycostatin, triamcinolone, iodoquinol, or hydrocortisone. Always consult your dermatologist before deciding on a treatment or medication.”

While treating angular cheilitis is quite easy, preventing its recurrence is difficult. If you wish to fight this condition from recurring every now and then, you might want to give the following tips a shot.

Prevention Tips

  • Follow a healthy diet and avoid eating junk food.
  • Protect your lips from pollution and direct exposure to the sun and rain.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking enough water.
  • Sleep well.
  • Maintain good oral hygiene.
  • Reduce the use of cosmetics on your lips.
  • Always apply sunscreen.
  • Keep your lips moisturized and exfoliated.

Infographic: Other Differences Between Angular Cheilitis And Cold Sores

Angular cheilitis and cold sores share certain similarities in appearance, position, and symptoms. However, getting the proper treatment and remedy for either condition depends on identifying it correctly. Learn how else the two conditions differ from each other from the infographic below.

other differences between angular cheilitis and cold sores [infographic]

Illustration: StyleCraze Design Team

Angular cheilitis is a painful and irritable condition that gives you a terrible time even opening your mouth. As a result, even eating or talking becomes challenging. If not treated quickly, what started as minor angular cheilitis could gradually progress into a chronic condition. Home remedies with essential oils like tea tree oil and lavender oil, baking soda, garlic, honey, coconut oil, aloe vera, etc., can help treat this fungal infection, thanks to their anti-fungal and antiseptic properties. Similarly, yogurt, petroleum jelly, and jojoba oil aid in keeping the affected area moisturized, thereby preventing fungal growth and inflammation.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take for angular cheilitis to heal?

If you do not avail treatment on time, angular cheilitis can take anywhere between a couple of weeks to even a few months to heal completely.

What cream to use for angular cheilitis?

A combination of antibacterial and antifungal topical treatments is often recommended medically for the treatment of angular cheilitis. Viaderm is one such ointment.

Is it good to put Vaseline on your lips?

Yes, it is a great idea to use Vaseline on the lips for treating dry and chapped lips as it has exceptional emollient properties.

What vitamin deficiency causes angular cheilitis?

Deficiencies in B vitamins like B2 (riboflavin) and iron cause angular cheilitis.

Is angular cheilitis contagious?

Fortunately, angular cheilitis is not contagious. Although it may spread to the other corner of your lips, it cannot spread to other body parts or other individuals.

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author
Shaheen holds a postgraduate degree in Human Genetics and Molecular Biology from Bharathiar University. She is a Geneticist with proficiency... more

Dr. Thomas Connelly

(DDS)
Practicing in Beverly Hills and Manhattan, with experience that spans more than 21 years and several Northeastern states, Dr. Thomas... more

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