Can Vitamin Deficiencies Cause Chapped Lips?

Chapped lips, also known as cheilitis, is a common condition marked by dryness, redness, and cracking of the lips

Several factors may cause chapped lips, including cold weather, sun exposure, and dehydration.

However, chapped lips can also be a sign of something more serious, including certain nutritional deficiencies.

This article examines which vitamin and mineral deficiencies can cause chapped lips.

Specific nutrient deficiencies

Deficiencies in various vitamins and minerals may contribute to chapped lips.


Iron is necessary for several bodily processes, including oxygen transportation, DNA synthesis, and red blood cell production. This mineral also plays a key role in skin health, wound healing, and inflammation regulation (2Trusted Source3Trusted Source).

Iron deficiency anemia may cause angular cheilitis, which is characterized by inflammation and dryness on one or both sides of your mouth (4Trusted Source).

A deficiency in this mineral may also cause pale skin, brittle nails, and fatigue (5Trusted Source).


Zinc is an essential mineral that’s vital to your health.

In fact, a deficiency in zinc may impair skin health, digestion, immune function, reproductive health, and growth and development (6Trusted Source).

It can also cause chapped lips, as well as dryness, irritation, and inflammation on the sides of your mouth (7Trusted Source).

Other symptoms of zinc deficiency include diarrhea, decreased immunity, skin ulcers, and hair loss (7Trusted Source).

B vitamins

B vitamins are a group of eight water-soluble vitamins involved in energy production and cell function. Animal and test-tube studies indicate that they also affect tissue repair and wound healing (8Trusted Source9Trusted Source10Trusted Source).

Chapped lips are a common symptom of deficiencies, especially in folate (vitamin B9), riboflavin (vitamin B2), and vitamins B6 and B12 (11Trusted Source12Trusted Source13Trusted Source14Trusted Source).

People with disorders that affect nutrient absorption — such as celiac disease, chronic gastritis, and Crohn’s disease — are especially susceptible to deficiencies (14Trusted Source).

Given that vitamin B12 is found primarily in animal products, vegans and vegetarians may also be at a higher risk of deficiency (15Trusted Source).

Furthermore, a deficiency in B vitamins may lead to dermatitis, depression, irritability, and fatigue (16Trusted Source).


Deficiencies in multiple nutrients, including iron, zinc, and B vitamins, can cause chapped lips.


Other causes of chapped lips

Aside from nutritional deficiencies, several other conditions may contribute to chapped lips.

Environmental conditions like sun damage and cold or windy weather can cause your lips to dry out and become chapped. Also, dehydration and excessive licking or picking at your lips are factors (17Trusted Source).

Chapped lips may indicate other serious health conditions as well.

For example, Crohn’s disease is an inflammatory bowel disorder that can cause dry lips, along with swelling or cracks in the corners of your mouth (18Trusted Source19Trusted Source).

Chapped lips may also be an early sign of thyroid problems, along with dry skin, weakness, and changes in weight (20Trusted Source21Trusted Source).

Angular cheilitis is another condition that causes inflammation, irritation, and dryness in the corners of your mouth. It can occur due to certain fungal or bacterial infections, or when saliva becomes trapped on the sides of your lips (14Trusted Source).


In addition to particular nutrient deficiencies, chapped lips may be caused by several other environmental and health conditions.

Treatments for chapped lips

In most cases, applying lip balm throughout the day is the easiest way to treat dry, chapped lips.

For lips that are very dry, peeling, or cracked, you can also opt for thicker ointments, such as petroleum jelly.

If you suspect you have a nutritional deficiency, talk to your healthcare provider to determine the best treatment option.

For some people, making simple dietary modifications and eating more foods rich in iron, zinc, or B vitamins may be sufficient. However, others may require a multivitamin or supplement to meet their needs.

Your healthcare provider can also evaluate whether any underlying conditions may be contributing to your chapped lips.


You can usually treat chapped lips with lip balms and ointments. In some cases, supplements or dietary changes may be necessary.

The bottom line

Chapped lips can be caused by deficiencies in certain nutrients, including iron, zinc, and B vitamins.

However, environmental factors and other health conditions may also play a role.

If you have chapped lips that don’t seem to heal with lip balms or ointments, consult a healthcare professional to determine whether you have any deficiencies.

Last medically reviewed on April 14, 2020


What Causes Chapped Lips and How to Treat Them

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Chapped, or cracked, lips is the term commonly used to describe dry lips. Chapped lips can be caused by several factors, that include:

  • weather
  • excessive licking of the lips
  • certain medications

Chapped lips are a common condition that only occurs for most people. But some people may develop a more severe form of chapped lips called cheilitis. Cheilitis can be caused by an infection, characterized by cracked skin at the corners of the lips.

You can usually treat dry lips with simple treatment and preventive measures. If your lips continue to be severely dry and cracked, you should consider make an appointment with a dermatologist.

Symptoms of chapped lips

You may experience any of the following symptoms on or around your lips:

  • dryness
  • flaking
  • scales
  • sores
  • swelling
  • cracks
  • bleeding
What causes chapped lips?

Lips don’t contain oil glands like other parts of the skin. This means lips are more susceptible to drying out and becoming chapped (cracked). Lack of moisture can make the problem worse, whether it’s weather-induced or related to a lack of self-care.

Little humidity in the air during the winter months is known to cause chapped lips. Frequent sun exposure in the summer can also worsen your condition.

Another common cause of chapped lips is habitual licking. Saliva from the tongue can further strip the lips of moisture, causing more dryness.

Risk factors for chapped lips

Everyone can get chapped lips, particularly if they have dry skin.

Taking certain medications can also increase your risk of developing chapped lips. Medications and supplements that can cause chapped lips include:

  • vitamin A
  • retinoids (Retin-A, Differin)
  • lithium (commonly used to treat bipolar disorder)
  • chemotherapy drugs

People who are dehydrated or malnourished are also more likely to have chapped lips than other people. Call your doctor if either of these are associated with your chapped lips—dehydration and malnutrition are both serious conditions that require immediate medical attention.

When to seek medical treatment


If the severe dryness and cracking doesn’t improve with self-care, you should see a dermatologist. Cheilitis is often to blame for severely chapped lips. This is a condition marked by cracked skin at the mouth corners and several cracks on your lips.

If you have this condition, your lips may:

  • be dark pink or red in color
  • have a lumpy texture
  • develop ulcers
  • have white plaques on the surface

Cheilitis is often attributed to infections and inflammatory diseases, such as Crohn’s disease. Dental trauma and excessive saliva production may also turn a regular case of chapped lips into cheilitis. Bacteria can enter through the cracks and cause infection. Adults and children who have orthodontic braces, wear dentures, or use pacifiers are all susceptible to developing cheilitis.

A dermatologist can determine whether your dry lips are simply chapped or if you have cheilitis.

Dehydration and malnutrition

Dry lips can also be caused by dehydration or malnutrition. Dehydration causes symptoms including:

  • lightheadedness
  • constipation
  • decreased urine production
  • dry mouth
  • headache

In severe cases, a person suffering from dehydration may experience low blood pressure, fever, rapid breathing, or a rapid heartbeat.

Malnutrition is characterized by many of the same symptoms as dehydration. Additional symptoms can include:

  • muscle weakness
  • decaying teeth
  • bloated stomach
  • bone fragility

Malnutrition can be caused by vitamin deficiencies, so those on limited diets (for example, vegetarians) need to make sure that they are getting enough of the vitamins they need.

People with alcohol addiction are also more susceptible to malnutrition due to vitamin deficiencies because excessive alcohol use can interfere with the body’s vitamin absorption. Older adults are also at higher risk for malnutrition because decreased appetite is common.

If you suspect you are dehydrated or malnourished, see your doctor right away.

How to treat and prevent chapped lips

Chapped lips can usually be treated at home. The first step is to make sure that your lips have enough moisture. This can be accomplished by:

  • applying lip balm throughout the day
  • drinking more water
  • using a humidifier at home
  • avoiding cold weather conditions or wrapping your mouth with a scarf

Sun exposure can also cause chapped lips, especially as you age. Apply a lip balm that contains a minimum SPF 15 before heading outdoors. The balm helps to moisturize the lips and the sunscreen minimizes further drying effects.

Last medically reviewed on December 11, 2017

This research is dedicated to Aliya


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