Eczema on Your Lips

Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on August 09, 2021

How Do I Know if I Have Eczema on My Lips?

If you have eczema on your lips -- a condition that makes your skin red and irritated -- one or both of your lips and the skin surrounding them will be inflamed or cracked. Eczema on your lips is also called cheilitis. It might last only for a short time, or it could be a long-term issue. Your doctor will figure out if you have eczema on your lips by looking at them and asking you about your symptoms. If you have allergies, you’re more likely to get eczema on your lips. If your doctor thinks you might have an allergy, they can use a patch test to find out for sure.

What Causes Eczema on My Lips?

There are several causes of eczema on your lips. Here are some of them:

The environment. Sometimes, things in the environment that you come into contact with, like the wind, can irritate your lips. Also, if you're outdoors often and have fair skin, you could get eczema on your lips from the sun. If this happens, parts of your lips might feel like sandpaper. You’re most likely to get this condition if you’re between your 40s and late 80s. If your work involves a lot of outdoor time, like if you’re a farmer or fisherman, your risk will be higher.

Foods and other products. It’s also possible that a product you’re using, like your makeup, is causing eczema on your lips. Some lipsticks have ingredients, like nickel, that can irritate your lips. Oral health products, like mouthwash and toothpaste, can be irritants, too. Some ingredients, especially flavorings, can cause a reaction. If your lips are irritated after you eat a particular food, for example eggs or shellfish, you might be having an allergic reaction.

Behaviors. Your lips have a natural, oily film that helps them stay moist. When you lick your lips too often, you’re taking away that film, which causes your lips to become dry and cracked. Using tobacco can irritate your lips as well.

An underlying medical issue. If you’re not getting enough of a nutrient, like vitamin B12 or iron, that can affect your lips. Conditions that suppress your immune system, like diabetes or HIV, can also irritate your lips.

What Can Help My Lips Feel Better?

Don’t lick or suck on your lips. It might make you feel better for a moment, but it actually makes the problem worse. When your lips feel dry, use lip balm with petroleum jelly on them. This will seal in moisture and prevent cracks from getting worse. You might need to try a few different products to figure out what works for you.

If you realize a product you’re using is irritating your lips, stop using it. If your eczema is an allergic reaction, you can try a steroid cream. Ask your doctor to recommend one for you.

Before you spend time in the sun, put on lip balm with an SPF of 15 or more. If your lips get especially irritated in the winter, cover them with a scarf when you go out.

If a nutrient deficiency is causing your eczema, you might need to take supplements.

Take good care of your mouth and teeth. Brushing and flossing regularly helps your lips stay healthy and reduces irritation.

When Should I See a Doctor?

You might be able to treat eczema on your lips yourself if your case is mild. Sometimes, lip balms with petroleum jelly are enough. If those products don’t clear it up, it’s time to talk to your doctor. They can run tests to find out if you need cream, ointment, vitamin supplements, allergy medication, or a different type of treatment.

Show Sources


Mayo Clinic: “Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema).”

NCBI: “Cheilitis.”

NCBI: “Differential Diagnosis of Cheilitis -- How to Classify Cheilitis?”

American Contact Dermatitis Society: “Fresh Breath on Toothpaste: Peppermint as Cause of Cheilitis.”

NIDirect: “Sore or Dry Lips.”

Dignity Health: “Angular Cheilitis: The Cold Sore That Really Isn’t.”

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