No curry for me thanks...just pass the vaseline...
July 22, 2011 7:05 PM   Subscribe

My lips are chapped. But not just, "oh, that's annoying" chapped. They're covered in red patches and the skin keeps peeling off. Nothing I try works. Halp!

I've looked at this question, and I've tried most of the products recommended (Vaseline Lip Therapy, Blistex, Chapstick, specific products that are medicated lip balm, etc.). But nothing seems to help.

Right now is a pretty typical flare-up: two massive, swollen, angry-looking, bright red, circular patches that extend from the edge of the bottom lip into the inside (past the part where my lips touch) and a similar patch on the middle of the top lip. They are about the size of my pinky fingernail. It hurts when I eat anything spicy, acidic, rough in texture, or where my lips have to come in contact with the food for more than a second. The skin peels off daily, and often is orange in colour (which seems really weird now that I'm typing it).

I do have SLE, but currently don't take any medication for it. I've had SLE for years, but the problem with my lips started about a year ago and comes and goes in cycles - four bad months, a few good weeks, five bad months, etc. There are no environmental or lifestyle changes in that time, and my stress level does not affect it whatsoever (right now I'm on summer vacation, secured my dream job for this school year, and am really enjoying life...but my lips are a total mess).

In case it matters: I'm female, in my late 20's, and in the San Francisco Bay Area. I've also googled the hell out of "chapped" "raw" "lips" etc. and haven't come up with anything other than "use x product, it's normal, just deal with it." But it hurts. A lot. And it looks horrible. And I'd like to be able to eat/drink normally. I don't want to just deal with this.

So. Anyone had something like this? Any suggestions for what I could try? Thanks hivemind!
posted by guster4lovers to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What's SLE? And are you sure they're not sunburned? I get sunburned lips a lot -- are you trying a lipbalm with SPF? I know it hurts...:(
posted by sweetkid at 7:09 PM on July 22, 2011

Sorry - Lupus. Skin problems are a feature of Lupus, but generally it's more like cold sores.

I don't spend much time in the sun - I'm a teacher and I spend most of my time inside. I guess it is possible though...
posted by guster4lovers at 7:13 PM on July 22, 2011

From the sound if it you've passed the point where over the counter products are going to be any help. You could have a virus, or a bacterial infection. It's doctor time.
posted by contessa at 7:13 PM on July 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

Have you tried Aquafore? It's like vaseline in that it creates a protective barrier, but it's also like moisturizer because it seeps into the skin. There are no harsh chemicals in it, and people use it on their babies' skin.
posted by katypickle at 7:14 PM on July 22, 2011

I'd go to a dermatologist. This seems pretty extreme, not just chapped lips.

That said, I was on an Accutane-type drug for six months and found that plain old unscented Vaseline (or generic equivalent) worked best for my very dry, chapped lips caused by the drug. Before going to sleep, put tons of it on. And I filled an empty Carmex jar with vaseline and carried it with me.

But seriously, get this checked out.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 7:14 PM on July 22, 2011

Get thee to a doctor. YMMV, but my mother had a patch on her lower lip that sounds similar to yours. It turned out to be skin cancer. She too had ignored it for some time.

Better to be safe than sorry.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 7:16 PM on July 22, 2011

One of my coworkers has lupus and she recently got patches on her face/lips that looked a lot like what you've described. Unfortunately, I don't know what she did to get rid of them, but maybe it's related.
posted by grapesaresour at 7:21 PM on July 22, 2011

This website has some good suggestions. There is a link to a PDF at the bottom of that page that give some specific suggestions for products to try.
posted by goggie at 7:21 PM on July 22, 2011

It is generally a treatment for oral herpes, but have you tried taking zinc tablets? A L-lysine supplement might also help- it is supposed to help with cell regeneration and the immune system.

And, while I am thinking of supplements, I get terrible nosebleeds in the summer, and taking Vitamin E helps my skin not to crack so much.
posted by LyndsayMW at 7:24 PM on July 22, 2011

as others have said, I might be a good idea to go to the doctor, but to answer your question: Avène does a great one (though I don't know if you can find that in your area). I don't remember the exact name but I think they only do one anyways. I has "cold" in the name I think. Was super effective when I was younger and kept having bleeding and cracking lips because of the quebec winter. oh here it is
posted by kitsuloukos at 7:28 PM on July 22, 2011

I don't suppose it could be a yeast infection, could it? Candida out of control can mess up some skin and sticks around until you do something about it. And it doesn't respond to other stuff. Obviously the doctor will know better but often when somebody gets a topical yeast infection (or I guess an internal one too) due to a course of antibiotics, they'll prescribe Diflucan to knock it out. Ask me how I know! OK, actually, don't (mine wasn't on the lips). Plus people say to apply/eat yogurt and starve the yeast by not eating anything with any kind of sugar or made from grains etc. Good luck, you poor thing.
posted by Askr at 7:30 PM on July 22, 2011

Ask your rheum doc. Or a dermatologist. IANAD.

That being said, lanolin. Lanolin. Lanolin. It's essentially sheep skin oil culled from shorn wool. So, if you have a bad reaction to wool don't try this. They sell lanolin in grocery stores in sterile form for nursing mothers to put on their sore and chapped nipples. It's thick like Vaseline. Granted, you can probably order it cheaper from Amazon...
posted by ticketmaster10 at 7:44 PM on July 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh! Hi! You're just like me! For as long as I remember, I have had extremely rough lips with constantly peeling patches of skin, including big red blotchy spots when I'm overly eager to bite them off, and bloody scabs on some mornings. Multiply that times a hundred because of Accutane. Several dermatologist couldn't offer any relief.

Like you, I thought that nothing would work, and had resigned myself to forever-horrible looking lips, and assumed that I'd just be one of those people who will never get to wear lipstick or lipgloss without it looking terrible.

Well, after someone on AskMe recommended Paula Begoun's website, I read up on what she had to say about chapped lips and decided to try her advice for a couple of days (summary: keep them covered with something, anything at all times). I grabbed the nearest of my approximately two dozen different chapsticks around the house, which happened to be this one made by Nivea. It took about a day (until all the dead pieces peeled off) to end up with great-looking lips. Seriously. Like magic. I never thought I'd say that, but I love my lips!

Apparently I was lucky when I picked that product, because when I needed to replace it and bought a six-pack of a variety I thought might work even better (A Kiss of Recovery, which is marketed for healing lips), I went right back to horribly chapped lips by the end of the day, despite religiously applying it. I ended up buying the entire inventory of A Kiss of Smoothness at the local drugstore, and now I have sticks of it everywhere – bedside table, purses, car, most coat pockets, and in every room. I apply it all the time, and my lips look and feel great!

It's not a permanent solution since they go right back to peeling if, for instance, I'm too lazy to put something on them after brushing my teeth as I'm headed to bed (I'd recommend something more heavy-duty overnight, like Neosporin's white petrolatum lip treatment), but as long as I keep using the Kiss of Smoothness chapstick, they look and feel fantastic.

I've even been thinking about purchasing some lipstick one of these days.
posted by halogen at 7:45 PM on July 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

I do think you should see a doctor as well. That sounds well beyond chapped lips, honestly.

But I was going to say for really chapped lips I use Vitamin E capsules (break open the capsule and spread it on) and lanolin (the kind in tubes for use by breastfeeding mothers). Both are really really sticky and help coat and protect chapped areas/peeling skin better than anything else I've used. Just in case that might help you.
posted by flex at 7:46 PM on July 22, 2011

It sounds like you have a form of cheilitis, not merely chapped lips.
posted by wondermouse at 7:47 PM on July 22, 2011

Yes, see a doctor - this could definitely be auto-immune related, a secondary infection or an allergy.

Are any of the lip balms you are using tinted lip balms? Sometimes whatever is used to make a red tint in some of those lip balms irritates the HELL out of my lips and makes them sore, cracked and peeling. Cheaper drugstore tinted lipbalms were the culprit in my case; the expensive Fresh Sugar lip balms worked fine. Right now I am using a very nice (untinted and yummily pina-colada flavored) organic Northridge Gardens brand lip balm. Aquaphor also works well for me.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 8:04 PM on July 22, 2011

I agree with others that it sounds like something more severe is going on, but regardless, this is what works for me. I get dry peeling lips and have worked out that it's a combination of not drinking enough water and my bad habit of chewing my lips. So now I try to drink more and I also use a miracle balm known in Australia as Lucas Pawpaw ointment (seriously, you find it in every girl's handbag here.) It's not sticky or flavored and very light but it's recommended for rashes, burns, stings, nappy rash etc and since I started using it my lips are a million times better. See if you can find it online.
posted by Jubey at 8:10 PM on July 22, 2011

I have SLE and the same lip problem. Go to a dermatologist and get prescription strength steroidal cream (I have desonide ointment) as well as bactroban. They will help a lot. There's nothing to get alarmed about, it just sucks. But nothing over the counter is going to do it - so save your money. I've tried them all.

Also, change your toothpaste. Biotene (for dry mouths) or something all natural - the others all have some drying agent that makes it worse. Message me if you like - but go to a derm, the others won't be much help.
posted by crankyrogalsky at 8:30 PM on July 22, 2011

Aquaphor helps me, as well as Neosporin Lip Treatment (or any other lip balm with pramoxine - it's a painkiller.) Biotene is also wonderful, both the toothpaste and mouthwash.
posted by IndigoRain at 9:41 PM on July 22, 2011

I'm on calcium/magnesium/zinc supplements.

Looked at the pictures of candida - it doesn't look anything like that. Crankyrogalsky is probably right - just another fun bonus of having SLE.

It is really reassuring that there's (probably) nothing more wrong with me then there already is. I will follow up with my people though.

Thanks everyone! I appreciate all the answers and sympathy. :-)
posted by guster4lovers at 12:31 AM on July 23, 2011

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