What Causes Chronically Cracked Lips?

Filed Under: Healthy Skin, Q&As

Could you tell me what causes lips to chap? They peel 24 hours a day. My mother's, daughter's, and granddaughter's lips do the same thing, but mine are the worst. Doctors I've asked don’t have any suggestions.


Your problem with cracked and peeling lips most likely has to do with essential fatty acids. Although most of us get more than enough fat in our diet, very few of us get the high-quality essential fatty acids required for good health. These types of fats help maintain healthy skin and clean arteries, and help prevent cancer and numerous degenerative diseases.

There are two fatty acids that are considered essential—linoleic acid and linolenic acid. They are essential because your body can’t make them—you must consume them in your diet. It's possible that either (1) you’re not consuming enough essential fatty acids in your food; or (2) your body cannot properly convert the essential fatty acids into the prostaglandins and hormones necessary for healthy skin.

Remedy #1: Flaxseed Oil

The best source of both essential fatty acids is flaxseed oil, or as it's often called in this country, linseed oil.

Apply the oil directly to your lips or use it as an ingredient in oil, vinegar, and spice dressing, or blend 1 tablespoon with an ounce or so of skim milk or cottage cheese and add to a baked potato or other food.

Flaxseed oil goes rancid quickly. (For best quality, it should be used within three months after it's manufactured.) To retard spoilage, buy small containers and after opening, squeeze the bottle to remove as much air as possible, replace the cap and keep it in the refrigerator.

Remedy #2: Oils That Your Body Can Use Immediately

As I mentioned, another possible problem may be that you don’t have the ability to convert essential fatty acids into substances that can be used in the body. This could explain why cracked lips seem to run in the family.

In this case, you might benefit more from natural oils that your body can use without going through as many conversion steps. Try the following products one at a time to see which one works best for you. (Follow the dosage directions on the label.)

  • EPA—natural fish oil concentrate capsules
  • Evening primrose oil capsules—these are expensive, but if you're going to spend the money, make sure the label says they're of the Efamol variety.
  • Black currant seed oil capsules
  • Borage oil capsules

DISCLAIMER: The content of DrDavidWilliams.com is offered on an informational basis only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the guidance of a qualified health provider before making any adjustment to a medication or treatment you are currently using, and/or starting any new medication or treatment. All recommendations are "generally informational" and not specifically applicable to any individual's medical problems, concerns and/or needs.

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