Can cold temperatures damage my lips?

If you're going to be out in the sun, combining a sunscreen with your lip balm can help prevent lip dryness.
If you're going to be out in the sun, combining a sunscreen with your lip balm can help prevent lip dryness.
© Allerton

For many people, cold temperatures mean the start of a season-long battle against dry, cracked lips. This isn't surprising: the skin in this area is some of the thinnest on the body, and lips have few oil glands to keep them moisturized [source: Taylor]. This means that cold weather and brutal winter winds can wreak havoc on your smile.

Several additional factors can worsen chapped lips, too, including exposure to sun or dry air, breathing with an open mouth, licking your lips, dehydration and applying irritating cosmetics to your skin [source: Gibson]. But there are steps you can take to protect yourself. First, if you lick your lips, stop. Although it can be a difficult habit to break, licking your lips can contribute significantly to dry, cracked skin. The saliva evaporates quickly, taking with it any moisture that was already on your lips and leaving them even drier, especially in winter air [source: Taylor].


Instead, provide needed moisture with a product that contains beeswax or petrolatum, which will help maintain your lips' hydration. If you plan to be exposed to the sun for a long period of time, help prevent dryness by using a sunscreen on your lips as well [source: MedlinePlus]. A lip balm with SPF in it could help address both of these issues at once.

If winter weather has left your home cool and dry, consider using a humidifier to increase the level of moisture in the air around you. This can be especially helpful if you run it overnight in your bedroom while you sleep [sources: Gibson, Readers Digest]. In the same vein, drinking plenty of fluids will keep your body hydrated overall, which also may benefit your lips [source: Gibson].

Although winter can present a challenge for your lips, a few lifestyle changes can help. For more information on taking care of your skin, visit the links on the next page.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles


  • Gibson, Lawrence. "Chapped Lips: What's the Best Remedy?" Mayo Clinic. October 4, 2008 (Accessed 10/6/09)
  • MedlinePlus. "Chapped Lips." November 16, 2008 (Accessed 10/6/09)
  • Readers Digest. "1,801 Home Remedies: Trustworthy Treatments for Everyday Health Problems." p. 114-115. (Accessed 10/6/09)
  • Taylor, Susan. "Fight the Freeze! How to Protect Lips in Winter." MSNBC. January 18, 2008 (Accessed 10/6/09)