Fix my lips
November 13, 2017 12:35 PM   Subscribe

Getting over the mouth-breathing part of a bad cold or upper respiratory infection or whatever. What’s your magic cure for lips beyond chapped? I’m talking crinkly and cracked, look and feel burned, bleeding at the edges nightmare-lips. I’m on day two of constantly applying Vitamin E and it’s not working (yet), what with the bleeding and all.
posted by OrangeVelour to Health & Fitness (53 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Vaseline! Always have a protective layer of petroleum jelly on your lips, especially while you are sleeping. You can get a big jar of it and decant it into smaller containers to carry with you like lip balm.

You can also make a lip scrub out of sugar and some kind of oil (olive, avocado, almond). Mix the sugar and oil until you have a spreadable consistency. You can scrub your lips with it in the shower, since it can be a little messy to use it over the sink. If your lips are bleeding I'd hold off on using the scrub until they have had a chance to heal a bit.

Hope you feel better.
posted by Lycaste at 12:48 PM on November 13, 2017 [10 favorites]

Blistex Medicated Lip Ointment. Accept no substitutes.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:50 PM on November 13, 2017 [4 favorites]

Bacon grease. Absorbs readily, similar lipid profile to your natural lip oil. You won't develop a tolerance for it like most petroleum or plant-based products, which leads to more cracking when you try to wean off.
posted by fritillary at 12:57 PM on November 13, 2017

Yeah pretty much pure vaseline. Really nothing works better. Fwiw, the medicated stuff referenced above actually makes things worse for me. Actually anything that’s not pure Vaseline makes things worse for me.

Signed, a lifetime of harsh winters with cracked and bleeding lips.
posted by ohio at 1:02 PM on November 13, 2017 [8 favorites]

posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat at 1:05 PM on November 13, 2017

I want to strongly second the bacon grease suggestion. It's the only thing that actually heals my lips when they are like that. I also have luck with olive oil, but bacon grease is better.
posted by OrangeDisk at 1:05 PM on November 13, 2017

I love Carmex. The mentholy stuff helps numb the pain of cracked lips.
posted by stillmoving at 1:05 PM on November 13, 2017 [4 favorites]

Nipple cream with lanolin
posted by KateViolet at 1:06 PM on November 13, 2017 [7 favorites]

Blistex medicated doesn't work for me either - makes my lips white and doesn't absorb well. Everyone is different, though - YMMV!

My go-to is Aquafor lip balm. It's thick, stays put, keeps my lips hydrated and doesn't have medicated stuff in it. I used to use Carmex, but the tin is the only one that works for me and they leak in the hot summers where I live.
posted by onecircleaday at 1:07 PM on November 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

Aquaphor (and Neosporin occasionally).

Also make sure to eat plenty of foods with vitamin E/oils/fats (a decent diet tends to speed up the healing for me).
posted by typecloud at 1:09 PM on November 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Aquaphor, and run a humidifier.
posted by jacobdezoet at 1:12 PM on November 13, 2017 [4 favorites]

Vaseline is good. Avoid drying out your face and mouth with harsh soaps.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 1:13 PM on November 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

Whatever you go with, the thickest layer you can stand while you sleep is the answer. I choose Carmex but I'm likely switching to the nipple cream suggestion this winter.
posted by I'm Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today! at 1:19 PM on November 13, 2017

Avoid medicated products. I'd recommend this Malin & Goetz lip moisturiser. Yes it's expensive, I get it from nordstroms as they do free postage. It's the only thing that will keep my lips from falling apart as a chronic mouth breather in winter.
posted by wwax at 1:26 PM on November 13, 2017

When my lips get like that, I have to gently exfoliate my lips first. Otherwise, the crusty, cracked lip skin just seems to interfere with absorbing anything. Your lips may be different.

I pour some sugar into my hand, and add jojoba or olive oil until it forms a paste. I rub that (again, gently!) all over my lips, and sit with it on for 10 minutes. Then, I rinse it off without soap and smear on more jojoba oil and go to sleep like a grease-monster.

With all the bacon grease recommendations, I might try this with bacon grease this winter.
posted by Guess What at 1:26 PM on November 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Boroleum works well for me.
posted by slateyness at 1:31 PM on November 13, 2017

My doctor recommended Cortibalm and it's the best remedy I've ever tried. That link goes to their website but you can buy it on Amazon and many other places too.
posted by beyond_pink at 1:31 PM on November 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

You can also brush your lips with your toothbrush while you're brushing, for some exfoliation.

I prefer Aquaphor, the regular stuff not the lip-specific stuff. I also use it on my nose when I'm in that horrid raw-faced stage of a cold. Tip: squeeze a dollop on the back of your hand, close the tube and put it away, then stick your finger in the dollop and apply, to keep from contaminating the tube with dirty fingers.
posted by Lyn Never at 1:32 PM on November 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Coconut oil might work? It really helps the chapped nose/upper lip area that I get from too much nose-blowing and has been good for regular chapped lips, I just haven't tried for the seriously bad cases. (I will try bacon grease if I get this winter!) That level of chapped lips is so awful, hope you heal quickly!
posted by john_snow at 1:39 PM on November 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

For the level of chapped you are now, I would use a warm damp washcloth to soften the dry-crusty surface, then apply Vaseline to help the moisture stay in.

Once they heal up a bit, Burt's Bees Beeswax Lip Balm is my favorite. It's not as oily as most lip balms and feels like it stays on better. The other stuff slides right off. You want the kind that says Beeswax Lip Balm with Vitamin E & Peppermint. Burt's Bees makes other kinds of lip balm that are tinted, flavored, etc. and they are not nearly as good as the beeswax kind.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 1:54 PM on November 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

ThePinkSuperhero has it. Blistex (in the white tube, not the stick!) has some magical component that heals the broken skin faster, actually quickly heals it where it's really open and bleeding. It's great and cheap!!

Then use some type of grease or vaseline over it for protection, if your skin with the Blistex feels like it dries out, or if you still have to expose it to water (runny nose, sneezing etc.) or cold weather/wind.
posted by Mariemma at 1:58 PM on November 13, 2017

Another vote for Aquaphor, it's a bit less goopy and more healing than Vaseline. We use it on chapped lips, noses, hands, everywhere as soon as the furnace kicks in each year.
posted by Knicke at 1:59 PM on November 13, 2017

I also use olive oil in a pinch.
posted by greta simone at 2:06 PM on November 13, 2017

aquaphor is what my dermatologist recommended when i was on a medication that caused horrific chapped, bleeding lips for months on end. it's definitely the best option.
posted by vogon_poet at 2:08 PM on November 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Vitamin E oil is actually super awesome. Just put a layer of vaseline on top of that. At night, smear the vaseline on like you're wearing clown makeup--keep the area fully sealed in while you're sleeping. Always keep them fully lubed and just try to be patient.

Blistex and Carmex both have menthol, and while they feel really soothing, they'll dry you out and keep your lips thirsty. I grew up on Blistex and it took me months to work myself off it when I decided to transition to a non-"medicated" product.
posted by phunniemee at 2:09 PM on November 13, 2017

My dermatologist once said, when I asked her about my crazy dry lips, "Well, we sell something for that here in the office, but honestly, Aquaphor is a lot better." I swear by Aquaphor.

A friend of mine who's a nurse also recommended riboflavin supplements when I had lips so dry I had to put something on them literally every five minutes, and it actually did help my lips feel a lot better.
posted by holborne at 2:10 PM on November 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Vitamin A&D ointment was what I used when recovering from a 10-hour jaw surgery which left my lips swollen to nightmarish proportions, and it’s still my go-to in times of extreme winter chapping.
posted by oh yeah! at 2:10 PM on November 13, 2017

Elizabeth Arden 8 hour cream. The normal one, not the lip balm. It's a miracle worker.
posted by roolya_boolya at 2:11 PM on November 13, 2017

Will also agree that you should stay away from menthol. Ditto peppermint oil, which is awful for your skin, especially lips.
posted by holborne at 2:11 PM on November 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Can't tell where exactly you mean by "bleeding at the edges" but if you're prone to cracked corners to begin with, angular chelitis is linked to iron and vitamin B deficiencies. My winter lips got a lot better after I started eating a burger a day in college.
posted by yeahlikethat at 2:13 PM on November 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

Personally I think it's overkill, but anything with comfrey in it will heal your lips right up while you get your vitamins sorted out. Burt's Bee's chapstick has comfrey in it, for example. Don't use comfrey if you've got liver problems.
posted by aniola at 2:17 PM on November 13, 2017

Blistex Medicated Lip Ointment. Accept no substitutes.

Unless, like me, you are severely allergic to something Blistex uses and your lips get 10x worse, peely, painful and itchy, etc if you use it. See also Neosporin, which makes me break out in hives. At this point I would aim for something very simple, like Burt's Bees, or Vaseline, or similar, lest you get something you react badly too but keep using it for way too long under some "it has to get worse before it gets better" attitude, NOT THAT I'VE DONE THIS.

Also, drink way more water than you think you need to drink.
posted by olinerd at 2:23 PM on November 13, 2017

Vaseline. If you're not going to be around other people, or talking/eating/doing other mouthy stuff, then you should literally gob it on-- it'll soften your lips in 15 minutes. After that, work on a healing routine as suggested above.

I learned this because one day at the orthodontist, the doc didn't like the look of my super-cracked winter lips, and had his assistant apply some. By the time he was done changing my braces' rubber bands, my lips were supple. SUPPLE!
posted by Sunburnt at 2:41 PM on November 13, 2017

Nthing Aquaphor. It's magical.
posted by cooker girl at 3:07 PM on November 13, 2017

A tip that is not an ointment or unguent:

When you dry your face, pat it gently. Do. Not. Rub. Also don’t touch your lips with your hands unless you are applying an ointment.

For ointment, I use Eucerin or Vaseline when things get really bad, though I have rosacea so I need to be extremely vigilant about my face skin.
posted by bilabial at 3:11 PM on November 13, 2017

Slop some Desitin on! But only at night!! Unless you work at night and people will see you.
posted by Sassyfras at 3:26 PM on November 13, 2017

I have absolutely no other shmancy products, no routine and no reason to want nice lips apart from general comfort and a chronic mental illness that encourages picking and self harm to already existing flaws on my skin. Last year when my lip started to crack and bleed, a week into the bleeding I went and bought a tiny expensive tube of Agave Lip Mask from Bite at Sephora after reading about it on obscure makeup forums in the night.

In two days my lip had healed almost entirely from the bleeding. It's a teeny tube and you only put the tiniest bit on and it tastes good but is so sticky that you can't actually lick it off particularly fast. These days I put an even tinier amount on regularly and despite always failing to drink enough water and always having some other kind of dry irritated skin somewhere else my lips are nicer than they have ever been. I'm not even halfway through my tube and it's been a year.
posted by Mizu at 3:48 PM on November 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Try castor oil. Seriously!
posted by leslievictoria at 3:50 PM on November 13, 2017

Here's my similar question. After two visits with dermatologists it turned out that my lips were just extremely chapped. She told me the best thing to use was pure white petrolatum and the second best is Vaseline Lip Therapy.

For the first couple weeks I was using a steroid cream so it may be a good idea to see a dermatologist first.

I'm stil applying the VLT 6-10 times a day but it's the only thing I've found that helps at all.
posted by bendy at 3:51 PM on November 13, 2017

No Vaseline. I had a bout of chapped, shredded lips several years ago. A month of Vaseline did absolutely nothing. OTC Hydrocortisone cream cleared it up in three days.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 4:25 PM on November 13, 2017

If all of the above doesn't work, it could be a fungal infection. If that's the case, you can try Lotrimin. Good luck!
posted by Sunnyshe at 4:27 PM on November 13, 2017

I started using this sea buckthorn-based "lip mask" at night recently because my lips were getting shredded and it is doing gods work.
posted by thirdletter at 4:32 PM on November 13, 2017

Vaseline (petrolatum) is an excellent occlusive, which means that it traps any existing moisture in your skin and keeps it from evaporating, but also that if you apply it to very dry lips, they’ll stay dry. If you use Vaseline (or Aquaphor or anything else w a high percentage of petrolatum), apply to damp lips to keep the moisture in rather than dry ones. If I use a hydrating serum on my face, usually something w hyaluronic acid, I’ll put it on my lips too and then seal it in with an occlusive lip balm.

I like using lanolin (usually sold as nipple cream) or lanolin based balms like the Bite one mentioned above overnight because they are sticky and stay on longer than something slippery like Vaseline.

Carmex, Blistex, and other balms with camphor and menthol can feel good but can also irritate your lips and cause them to dry out. I’d skip in favor of more bland products at least until your lips are totally healed.
posted by insectosaurus at 4:48 PM on November 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm getting over a nasty cold with the same problem, and Aquaphor saved my lips and my nose. Aquaphor seems to absorb a bit more than vaseline, IME.

Drink lots of water and liquids, too - a lot of cold medicines are dehydrating in my experience. You need to rehydrate from within while treating the dry layers of skin on top.
posted by misskaz at 5:23 PM on November 13, 2017

I’ve recently developed a sensitivity on my lips to wax, likely beeswax since it’s in so many lip balms, and I had to switch away from those forever. Like other folks, I swear by Aquaphor — I have the little lip tubes all over the place and then a giant tube on the nightstand so I can glop some on at night. I also like the bite agave lip mask referenced above and in fact have it on right now. There’s a pretty red one that gives you a teeny bit of color.
posted by We'll all float on okay at 7:03 PM on November 13, 2017

I can't believe no one has mentioned Lucas Pawpaw cream. By day two of use, your lips will be almost healed. As I've said before, there's a reason pretty much every woman in Australia has a tube of it in her bag. Bonus, you can also use it for rashes, stings, bites, scrapes and nappy rash.
posted by Jubey at 7:07 PM on November 13, 2017

Beyond just a topical, which is well covered above, I totally second keeping hydrated. Also try a cool mist humidifier while sleeping.
posted by MandaSayGrr at 8:00 PM on November 13, 2017

I also came to say Pawpaw cream! So so good. I use it every time I have a cold or my lips start getting chapped or I have a burn or some weird dry patch etc...
posted by grapesaresour at 9:35 PM on November 13, 2017

Nthing Lucas's pawpaw. I can't remember where I heard about it, but that shit's magical.
posted by desuetude at 10:11 PM on November 13, 2017

Something like insectosaurus's solution is what works for me. First adding moisture to your lips, and then keeping it there. For extreme chapped lips I like to wet a cotton round and apply it to my lips for 5-10 minutes or so before using lip balm/vaseline/etc. (Sometimes I'll apply a lotion or serum to my lips first; anything with hyaluronic acid will help draw moisture into the skin.) I try to find balms with natural/very few ingredients as some others seem to irritate my skin and make the problem worse. (I love these from Alaffia.) And add one more vote for a humidifier.
posted by gennessee at 5:16 AM on November 14, 2017

My favorites, for years and years, have been the giant sticks of Palmer's cocoa butter. They are cheap, smell amazing, don't cause any allergic reactions in my sensitive skin, and in a pinch, also make fine hand lotion. My entire family has them squirreled away in every drawer, bag, and cubby so that we're never too far from one. The only downside is that you have to be a little careful reaching blindly for one in a desk drawer, given how much they look like a glue stick.
posted by hessie at 7:27 AM on November 14, 2017

okay, so:

petrolatum-based products like Vaseline, traditional Chapstick, and I think Blistex and its ilk (don't use it so can't check) create a SEAL over the skin. They are excellent for preventing things like windburn, and they can help keep you from getting worse, but they don't actually heal or moisturize.

Products with more natural oils (your vitamin e oils, shea butter, olive or coconut oil, the bacon grease several people have suggested) will absorb/moisturize/help heal.

I would say you need a multipart regimen:

--wash the area VERY GENTLY. Don't exfoliate with a sugar scrub when you are actually bleeding, just take a very warm wet washcloth and rub the lips VERY GENTLY to encourage the dead flakes off when they are ready to come off. DO NOT PICK, it feels good at the time but you will only prolong the agony.
--apply a HEALING/MOISTURIZING product. You've had several good suggestions. I will say that the Bite Agave Lip Mask that Mizu mentioned is freaking magical, PLUS if you go to Sephora you can ask for a sample and they will squeeze you out a dollop into a little pot that will frankly last several applications because you only need a tiny bit to cover your whole mouth. (Pro tip: there are several colors of this mask, you could potentially ask for a sample of each color. I think you can get up to 3 free samples per section of the store (makeup, skincare, fragrance) per visit. (I got a sample, tried it, and was so impressed I bought the full size the very next time I was there. It's amazing stuff.)
--if you feel you need it, you could apply the Vaseline or other occluding/shielding product OVER this, to seal in the good stuff while you sleep.
--Drink a lot of water. No, more than that.
--Run a humidifier in your room if you can.
--If you are prone to cold sores, this kind of trauma to the skin of the lips is a common trigger, so be alert for the sting/tingle of an emerging sore and be ready to jump on it with Abreva/Valtrex/your treatment of choice, because that just adds insult to injury.

Good luck!
posted by oblique red at 8:24 AM on November 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

I have chronically dry lips from upper respiratory infections, as does my entire goddamn eczema-suffering family.

Carmex, Blistex, and Vaseline are false gods, useful only for preventative maintenance. Aquaphor can help you get back to a good place when your lips start to burn and dry out, but once shit has gotten bad enough that you see blood or feel regular throbbing, it's of limited use, because the main thing in it is petrolatum (Vaseline), which seals in moisture. Which you don't have. There's a little glycerin, but everything else? Mineral oil? Lanolin? Sealants.

So yeah, once Shit Is Bad, you are past those, because you need to get moisturization into the lips, not just seal it out. Further, lips don't generate their own sebum, so sealing overnight won't really do much.

Instead, oblique-red's suggestions are where you want to go. The only variation I'd suggest is to put on two healing-moisturizing things -- first, something that gives you direct moisturizing, like a natural oil. My favorite is super-refined olive oil. You can buy it cosmetically or an extract that has the best stuff in it. In a pinch, you can just use whatever is in your kitchen cabinet.


And only when it's basically all dried in place and absorbed into your skin do you slather on the Bite Agave Lip Mask. And then let that basically dry, and then slather Vaseline on top of all that, so that your face is all shiny again, because while the Bite Agave is very good at staying in place, if you repeatedly lick your lips at night while sleeping, you'll get it all off. The Vaseline helps delay/prevent that.
posted by joyceanmachine at 9:13 AM on November 14, 2017

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