©2007 Publications International, Ltd. Cracked, chapped lips leave little to smile about.

If puckering is painful and pursing is too much to bear, you're probably suffering from chapped lips. Harsh winter weather, dry heated air indoors, and a habit of constantly licking your lips can all help dry out the skin of your lips by causing the moisture in them to evaporate. The result is rough, cracked, sensitive lips that leave you little to smile about.

Protecting your lips from chapping is not only important for appearance and comfort, but for health. Cold sores, bacterial infections, and other problems are more likely to strike lips that are already damaged by chapping. In this article, we'll recommend home remedies to avoid other people giving you lip about any chapping problems.

Here's what you can do to keep your lips soft and moist:

Don't lick your lips. It may make your lips feel better temporarily, but you'll be making matters worse. Licking your lips has the same drying effect as constantly washing your hands; the repeated exposure to water actually robs moisture from the skin, causing it to become dry.

Use a lip balm. Numerous products are available over the counter. Pick one that you like so you'll use it frequently. Most lip balms are waxy or greasy and work by sealing in moisture with a protective barrier. Plain old petroleum jelly works just fine, too.

Screen out the sun. The sun's ultraviolet rays can damage and dry the sensitive skin on your lips in the same way they can harm the skin on other parts of your body. Indeed, the lips are a common site for skin cancer, since they don't contain melanin, a pigment (coloring) that helps protect skin from ultraviolet rays. Certain skin cancers that appear on the lips may be more serious and more likely to spread, too, so if you'll be out in the sun, use a lip balm that contains sunscreen. Choose a product that has an SPF (sun protection factor) of 15 or higher.

Wear lipstick. OK, this advice may apply only to female readers. But dermatologists say older women are less likely than older men to have skin damage on their kissers, especially on the lower lips, and lipstick may be the reason. Lipstick appears to offer moderately effective protection against the sun's ultraviolet rays, and these days you can purchase lipstick that includes sunscreen, for even greater protection. Lipstick acts as a moisturizer, too.

©2007 Publications International, Ltd. Soothe chapped lips by wearing lipstick.

Check out your toothpaste. You might want to consider whether an allergy to your toothpaste or mouthwash could be to blame for the rough, red skin on your lips. Try switching brands of toothpaste and skipping the mouthwash for a few days to see if the problem clears. Also, rinse well after brushing.

Watch what passes between them. When lips are chapped, they're more sensitive, and certain foods can irritate them. Hold off on pepper, mustard, barbecue sauce, orange juice, and alcoholic beverages to give your lips a break as they heal.

Remembering these home remedies will keep you smiling about how your lips look.

For more information about chapped lips and how to combat them, try the following links:

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

Timothy Gower is a freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared in many publications, including Reader's Digest, Prevention, Men's Health, Better Homes and Gardens, The New York Times, and The Los Angeles Times. The author of four books, Gower is also a contributing editor for Health magazine.

Alice Lesch Kelly is a health writer based in Boston. Her work has been published in magazines such as Shape, Fit Pregnancy, Woman's Day, Reader's Digest, Eating Well, and Health. She is the co-author of three books on women's health.

Linnea Lundgren has more than 12 years experience researching, writing, and editing for newspapers and magazines. She is the author of four books, including Living Well With Allergies.

Michele Price Mann is a freelance writer who has written for such publications as Weight Watchers and Southern Living magazines. Formerly assistant health and fitness editor at Cooking Light magazine, her professional passion is learning and writing about health.

ABOUT THE CONSULTANTS:

Ivan Oransky, M.D., is the deputy editor of The Scientist. He is author or co-author of four books, including The Common Symptom Answer Guide, and has written for publications including the Boston Globe, The Lancet, and USA Today. He holds appointments as a clinical assistant professor of medicine and as adjunct professor of journalism at New York University.

David J. Hufford, Ph.D., is university professor and chair of the Medical Humanities Department at Pennsylvania State University's College of Medicine. He also is a professor in the departments of Neural and Behavioral Sciences and Family and Community Medicine. Dr. Hufford serves on the editorial boards of several journals, including Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine and Explore.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.