Zocdoc Answers

Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors

"Why do I have a ring of dry skin around my lips?"

ZocdocAnswersWhy do I have a ring of dry skin around my lips?


Never encountered anything like this before. I have a dry skin ring around my lips. It goes around my whole mouth and nothing seems to help it go away. What is going on? What should I do?


This sounds most likely to be a case of severe chapping of the lips. This occurs when the lips and the skin immediately around the lips becomes dried out and irritated. Usually the cause of severe chapping of the lips is chronic irritation from repeated wetting and drying, usually from licking the involved areas. Severe chapping involves a vicious cycle where the lips become dry and irritated, leading to repeated licking to relieve the dry itching sensation. Although this works temporarily, the wetting actually removes protective oils from the skin and makes the dryness worse. Therefore, breaking the cycle of picking at and licking the lips is critical to getting them to heal up. This can sometimes be done with a good lip balm containing a cooling agent to relieve the itching and burning sensation. However, in more severe cases you may need prescription anti itch creams from your doctor. Therefore, I would suggest that you make an appointment to see your primary care doctor. They can examine your lips and confirm the diagnosis of chapping (and consider alternatives as well). Then, if they feel it is necessary, they can prescribe you something to help take away the uncomfortable sensation.

Zocdoc Answers is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.