There they are, right in front of the sun and the wind and everybody. And are they busy! We use them for communication – both verbal and nonverbal – and to take on nutrition. We purse them to concentrate and broaden them when we are pleased. What we put them through is pretty demanding, even if we don’t play the trumpet or the oboe. With all we call on them to do, let’s think for a minute about giving them at least a little care.
First, it’s important to recognize that our lips are unlike any other tissue. The skin on them is thinner. (The visible blood vessels are what make them reddish.) Like skin elsewhere, they are the last to get the body’s nutrients and hydration. And they have no oil glands for the protection that skin enjoys naturally elsewhere. So, a little special attention is justified, and probably long overdue.
Exposed to the Threats
Sun and wind expose the lips to dehydration and take their toll many ways. Like other exposed surfaces, the lips absorb UV radiation from sunlight with all the hazards it brings of skin cancer, the most common form of the dread disease. Lip balm with a sunscreen of 30 SPF or greater should be standard equipment, knowing what we know now.
An inflammation called angular cheilitis can occur at the corners of the mouth, particularly if a person has a habit of licking the lips. That appears at the top of most lists of no-nos when it comes to healthy lips. Saliva makes lips even more prone to dehydration, and it increases the friction on them, so it’s a good habit to break.
Now, in winter, the dry, cool air takes over where the summer sun left off. Chapped lips offer openings for bacteria, fungus, and viruses, resulting in cold sores, dermatitis, or Candida. So, there’s really no time of year to take a break from lip care.
Don’t and Do’s
Keeping lips healthy calls for doing a few easy things and not doing some others. As we mentioned, licking the lips is out. It often is prompted by lips that are dry anyway, and it makes them even drier, faster. Biting or picking at the lips is many times prompted by peeling, or some damage already on the lips, and it is to be avoided. Even touching the lips unnecessarily can result in damage over time.
Top of the list of things to do that support lip health is lip balm or another moisturizer. The best thing about lip balm is that it can be handy throughout the day, because at home, simple petroleum jelly does a great job of moisturizing and holding in the body’s own hydration.
Speaking of which, having a bottle of water with you all day is one of the best things you can do to care for your lips. Staying well hydrated from the inside out is an important part of the picture because, remember, your lips are last in line to get it.
At Global Family Medicine, we’re here to care for your whole self and your whole family. Call us at 843-815-6468.