What can I put on my lips to help them heal?
September 16, 2009 10:18 AM   Subscribe

What can I put on my lips to help them heal?

After a bout with Stevens-Johnson syndrome, the skin on my lips blistered off. Since then, they've been a bloody mess.

About once a day, the scab will get so thick that it will crack when I eat, talk, or laugh, and then the scab falls off and I get blood on everything until another scab forms. This can't be a good thing; it would take forever for a wound to heal if I picked to scab off every day, and that's effectively what I'm doing to my lips. If this were anywhere else, I'd use a hydrocolloid bandage like Tegaderm or Duodoerm, or maybe a liquid bandage, but there's no way I'm going to be able to get a bandage to stay on my lips, and liquid bandages are basically superglue, which is probably not the best thing to put on my lips.

I've tried the usual stuff people put on their lips, like vaseline, aquaphor, chapstick, burt's, etc., and those don't seem to help. Any ideas?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I can't recommend any bandages; I know it's not always obvious but your diet has a significant effect on the healing process. More leafy greens (kale, spinach, collard greens), fruits etc., I can't recommend how much to eat since I don't hear of many people overeating vegetables to the point of bad health?
posted by fairykarma at 10:30 AM on September 16, 2009

Thick vaseline (or similar). Continuously keep them soft so they'll stop cracking and get a chance to heal. :)

If in doubt... just put a bit more on.
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 10:34 AM on September 16, 2009

Are the scabs getting thinner at all? I have problems a lot with chapped lips (and, okay, I admit to being a notoriously terrible scab-picker), and even though my lips are bleeding and the scabs is falling or being picked off, eventually the scabs start to get a bit thinner or cover a smaller area, and go away completely after a week or two. Since your lips probably have only started healing in the past week or so, give it a little more time. You could apply some vaseline or shea butter to soothe the pain when it gets really bad, but I'd stay away from commercial chapsticks.

Also, I'm so so glad you got to the hospital after that last post and are on the mend.
posted by booknerd at 10:36 AM on September 16, 2009

For terribly wounded lips I've used . . . Desitin. BUT ONLY AT NIGHT. Cuz, having white lips is just weird. So, maybe treating them at night will have an effect on your daytime. Also, I THINK a major ingredient is cod liver oil (correct me if I'm wrong). So, maybe getting some of those gel tab things of those, pricking it with a pin and smearing the cod liver oil on your lips during the day time.
posted by Sassyfras at 10:40 AM on September 16, 2009

You may still be in an active phase of the autoimmune response, which is why your lips aren't healing.
Are you being treated with corticosteroids?
Avoid waxy products such as carmex or chapstick, and stick with the petroleum jelly/blistex types to keep your lips moist until they heal.
Good luck.
IANYD, but i have seen/treated this in the past.
posted by OHenryPacey at 10:44 AM on September 16, 2009

What about vitamin e oil, or, alternating with aloe or lip balm with shea butter? It might also help to place a warm washcloth to put a little moisture there first, before you apply whatever you're applying. Changing your environmental stuff for a few days may be worth considering. Can you take a few liquid meals through a straw at the corner of your mouth when the scab forms so you're not moving around so much, or communicate electronically for a day to let the healing process get underway? Hope you feel better soon.
posted by *s at 10:48 AM on September 16, 2009

Stay away from anything with *cone in it, which is most commercial balms. I'd probably use Neosporin, maybe switching between ointment and cream format (obviously, using a q-tip or other sterile medium to transfer from tube to mouth) so you don't get a huge petroleum buildup.

During really nasty colds, I have used lotion (usually Cetaphil or Aveeno) instead of balm or ointment to keep the scabs softer and the dry spots more flexible so they won't crack.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:52 AM on September 16, 2009

I second something thick like a big layer of vaseline smeared all over and then worn overnight. Try not to rub your lips on your pillow or anything in the night. It should still be there in the morning. My lips haven't been as bad as yours, but doing this regularly helps mine heal a LOT.
posted by brainmouse at 10:53 AM on September 16, 2009

I've certainly had serious chapping at times, though never anything quite as bad as what you describe. I'll give you what I know anyway, though -- perhaps it may help. Lots of the commercial lip balms I've tried actually seem to irritate my lips. Chapstick and Blistex have been particularly unpleasant for me; Burt's Bees also makes my lips act up. I've had great luck with:

- Straight-up cocoa butter (it's a little hard to spread on your lips, but it melts as it warms)
- Badger's Cocoa Butter Lip Balm (not too fond of their other flavors -- some of them irritate my lips)

I actually also use topical Vitamin E sometimes too, but it sounds like that might not be a great idea -- apparently, it can cause contact dermatitis in some people, which is the last thing you need.
posted by ourobouros at 10:53 AM on September 16, 2009

honey is supposed to heal skin well, it certainly softens, I use it when I have mild chapped lips.
posted by runincircles at 11:00 AM on September 16, 2009

I've never used it, but I've heard rave reviews for pure lanolin.
posted by mercredi at 11:03 AM on September 16, 2009

Last winter my lips went through a phase where the skin just started peeling off in clumps leaving them a raw, bloody misery. Neosporin, although it tastes awful, really helped. When you're basically dealing with an open wound, that's the way to to. I used the ointment sometimes, and sometimes the cream underneath a thick layer of aquaphor ointment. Once the rawness healed up a touch and it was back to peeling, a mixed together hydracortisone cream and neosporin cream under the layer of aquaphor. That tastes even worse, but it did eventually heal them.
posted by mostlymartha at 11:12 AM on September 16, 2009

You might try A&D (diaper rash ointment---lanolin & petrolatum & vitamins, I think). And, it seems like this would be a good question to ask your doctor/advice nurse!
posted by leahwrenn at 12:03 PM on September 16, 2009

Neosporin, just the plain old ointment, not the lip stuff. I normally don't care for petroleum-based emollients, but I think in your case this is going to be the best possible thing. There's less potential for reactions than with stuff like cocoa butter, lanolin, vitamin E, &c. Instead of a very thick layer, put on a moderate layer and reapply frequently.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:08 PM on September 16, 2009

Many years ago I took a job in the Great Basin area in the middle of winter... my lips went raw from the low humidity and wind. Nothing seemed to work until I tried Vaseline lip therapy (which is not Vaseline but petroleum jelly or something equivalent). I think that or petroleum jelly would do the job. Just try to keep it on and not lick it or rub it off.
posted by crapmatic at 12:16 PM on September 16, 2009

Polysporin (my healing unguent of choice for all bodyparts) makes a lip balm now; I'd try that.
posted by Billegible at 12:35 PM on September 16, 2009

Neosporin makes a Lip Treatment product meant specifically for lips. It doesn't have antibiotics, but it does have a pain reliever. I use the stuff and love it. Plus, it doesn't taste bad and should keep your lips moist enough to heal without cracking.
posted by geeky at 12:52 PM on September 16, 2009

Chapstick works best for me when I get chapped lips so bad I get a scab. Applying cold chapstick would be awful, so put it in your pocket and let it really warm up. Chapstick is so thick, it stays on your lips much longer than vaseline.
posted by theora55 at 1:11 PM on September 16, 2009

Chapstick and Burt's Bees, or anything similar that relies mostly on wax, are occlusives that will merely cover your lips. That might protect them somewhat, but that won't help them heal.

Your best bet (as some folks have mentioned) is something with petroleum jelly (Aquaphor, Vaseline -- which IS petroleum jelly) or something with essential fatty acids. Hemp oil, shea butter, cocoa butter, avocado oil, etc. Just be careful not to get something with added fragrance, etc., as something like mint or citrus extracts could really irritate you even more.

Slather that stuff on, keep slathering it, and good luck!
posted by Madamina at 2:21 PM on September 16, 2009

The Neosporin lip treatment has worked for me in the past during painfully dry/cracked/bloody lip periods (and I would like to note that I'm generally very much a "all natural" sort of person, but this was the only thing I found that worked for me). Vaseline also helps -- it feels gloopy and gross, but I wore it at night for years and didn't mind it. (While it's still a weird processed petroleum product, I like that other than that, it's pretty pure -- no fragrances or anything else). Wearing this stuff at night should help during the day.

(I would also second diet/boosting the immune system. I've found that I need to do both when I get cracks in the corners of my lips -- but that's a little bit different of a case.)
posted by darksong at 3:23 PM on September 16, 2009

This month's Prevention magazine suggests applying olive oil to chapped lips. As a daily lipstick wearer, I haven't needed the advice yet so I can't vouch for its effectiveness.

/not an importer or seller of olive oil, nor a subscriber to Prevention
posted by workerant at 3:40 PM on September 16, 2009

Vaseline, straight out of the jar, slathered on. And keep slathering it on; it is very important you keep your lips moist to stop the splitting.

You will be amazed how much of the stuf you go through. Just keep a tub with you and replae as needed.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:47 PM on September 16, 2009

I use (Vaseline intensive care) lotion on my chapped lips -- I've found that it speeds healing and because it's not shiny, I can slather it on and I don't look like a sideshow attraction if I have to see other people. Like someone upthread, I found that the various chapped-lip remedies out there all made the problem worse rather than better, but lotion works a treat -- although it can sting a lot.
posted by obliquicity at 7:20 PM on September 16, 2009

No experience with this problem, but nipple cream (Lansinoh is a standard brand) comes to mind.
posted by lakeroon at 8:45 PM on September 16, 2009

Best answer: Yikes. And pretty much none of these people are recommending anything with any knowledge of what Stevens-Johnson syndrome is. Speak with your dermatologist or whoever's managing it.
posted by gramcracker at 9:15 PM on September 16, 2009

I would try aloe-vera gel - it speeds healing, soothes and moisturizes. It forms a bit of an antibacterial barrier when it dries, sort of like a natural bandage.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:33 AM on September 17, 2009

I don't know about your extreme case, but for my moderately chapped lips, I have been very happy with Desert Essence lip balm. The shea butter one is especially "slippery".

FWIW, I was never completely satisfied with Chapstick, then found Blistex worked pretty well. But now Desert Essence blows them both away.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 11:58 AM on September 17, 2009

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