Dry Skin Around the Mouth

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It can be very frustrating to experience dry skin around the mouth. This condition can manifest in several ways (including with red bumps and even broken skin), and can be extremely uncomfortable for an individual. Firstly, there are the aesthetic implications of struggling with dry skin around the mouth, as this condition can be embarrassing and can make an individual look sickly. Secondly, there’s the physical discomfort that can include itching, pain, and a sense of skin tightness, especially when eating. To better understand this common condition, let’s take a look at why dry skin around the mouth occurs, and some of the common ways to address this problem.

Causes of Dry Skin Around the Mouth

There are many reasons why dry skin may develop around the mouth. However, the main causes tend to fall into three main categories; exposure to certain chemicals, changes in the environment, and infection.

  • Chemical Exposure: There are many chemicals in everyday skin care and personal care products that can lead to the development of dry skin around the mouth. For example, most people don’t realize it, but things like fluoride, menthol and fragrance that are commonly formulated into toothpaste to improve its function and create a pleasant user experience. However, these same ingredients can easily lead to irritation and skin dryness, when used on a regular basis.

Exposing the area to these irritants twice a day (assuming the average individual brushes their teeth twice daily), can lead to constant inflammation and irritation. In addition to dry skin around the mouth, this type of irritation will often be associated with red patches of skin in the area (varying in hue intensity).

Lastly, dry skin around the mouth can manifest due to allergens. Even if your toothpaste is free of harsh chemicals, allergens from food or botanical extracts in skin care products can also cause an adverse reaction, which may manifest in red, dry skin around the mouth.

  • Environmental Factors:  In addition to chemical irritants, dry skin around the mouth may also be caused by environmental factors. For example, something as simple as a change in weather can drastically decrease humidity and lead to dry, itchy skin. This is a common problem for many individuals during winter, when the air loses some of its moisture content, and the constant running of indoor heaters decreases humidity even further.

Additionally, some consumers will suffer from dry skin around the mouth due to constant licking of the lips. Unfortunately, it’s a habit that some of us can pick up and not even realize we’re doing it. Sometimes it may be a response to dry lips, as a way to add a little bit of moisture and ease the discomfort. However, the benefits of this are short-lived, and constant licking of the lips can significantly exacerbate dryness.

Quick side note; if you’re licking your lips while eating food…Please, just use a napkin. In addition to potentially causing dry skin around the mouth, it also just looks weird; “Hey, I’ve got this tiny piece of food at the corner of my mouth, so let me use my tongue to try and grab it. I have this napkin in front of me that would make this much easier. But…I really like a challenge!”

  • Infection:  Although less common, some instances of dry skin around the mouth can be the result of infection from bacteria or fungus. This can often occur if the skin around the mouth is already compromised somehow – like temporary dryness that weakens the skin’s natural protective barrier, and thus makes it easier for bacteria and fungi to penetrate into the skin. Further, if you lick your lips often, you raise your risks of introducing bacteria onto the surface of the skin.

Treating Dry Skin Around the Mouth

The best treatment for dry skin around the mouth will often depend on the root cause of the problem. If the issue is the result of environmental factors, like cold weather, then an extra moisturizer may help. For example, a basic skin cream with ingredients like glycerin or aloe vera can significantly improve dryness.

However, it’s also important to note that when skin around the mouth is already dry, it’s a good idea to look for creams that have simpler formulas, as compromised skin may react more strongly to fragrance and coloring, thus making the problem worse.

If you suspect that dry skin around the mouth is the result of toothpaste or mouthwash, then it’s a good idea to try a new brand of these personal care products. However, it’s vital to first review the ingredient list of your current products, and look for substitute brands that don’t have common irritants like menthol or fragrance.

Lastly, there is the issue of allergies. If you’ve developed skin dryness around the mouth only recently, think of your skin care routine and what changes you’ve made in the last few weeks. Did you start using a new face cream? Did you try a new lipstick? Carefully analyzing the changes in your skin care routine can help you narrow down the culprit and better understand how your skin reacts to certain ingredients.

Of course, the best thing to do when suffering from dry skin around the mouth is to speak with a doctor who will often help you figure out the reasons for the problem faster.

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