nutrition

Can Supplements Prevent Chapped Lips? Deficiencies to Watch Out For

Dr. Carla Montrond Correia ND, CNS

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Carla Montrond Correia ND, CNS

3 min read

focused photo on two lips

Chapped lips have a number of causes, including vitamin deficiencies. Read on to learn more about which deficiencies to watch out for.

Why do chapped lips happen?

We all know what chapped lips are like – the dryness, the cracking of the lips. It’s a common condition that’s also known as cheilitis, and it’s often caused by cold weather, sun exposure, or dehydration. In some cases, though, they can be a sign of vitamin deficiencies. Because lips lack the oil glands that other parts of your skin possess, they’re often more vulnerable to becoming chapped.

Symptoms of chapped lips

Some symptoms of chapped lips include:

  • Cracking/peeling skin
  • Mild pain
  • Swelling lips
  • Sores on your lips
  • Itching

Common nutrient deficiencies that cause dry lips

Iron deficiency

Iron is very important for the development of your skin and plays a key role in skin health. If you’re noticing painful cracks or fissures at the corner of your mouth, an iron deficiency may be the cause. It’s important, however, to check with a medical professional and to test your iron levels before incorporating an iron supplement into your routine; excess amounts of iron can be toxic. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) of iron is 8 mg for men and 18 mg for women.

Vitamin A deficiency

Vitamin A, especially that which you get from your diet, has a number of health benefits. However, studies have shown that too much vitamin A – administered through high amounts of retinoid therapy – can result in dry, chapped lips. The RDA is 900 mcg RAE (shorthand for retinol activity equivalents) for men and 700 mcg RAE for women.

Vitamin C deficiency

Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin that plays a vital role in healing wounds and supports the immune system. Your body neither produces it nor does a good job storing it, so you need to get it daily through food, supplements, or both. It’s also a major antioxidant, helping stimulate collagen synthesis and protecting against UV-induced photodamage. While having adequate vitamin C is vital for healthy skin, a deficiency can lead to negative outcomes, including chapped lips. The RDA for men and women is between 75 and 90mg.

Zinc deficiency

Zinc is an essential mineral in your body and it’s vitally important to your health. Six percent of all the zinc in your body is located in the skin, and skin is the third most zinc-abundant tissue in the body. Indeed, zinc is required for the synthesis of protein and collagen, which contributes to the healing of wounds and the promotion of healthy skin. There is also evidence to suggest that zinc has an antioxidant role and protects against ultraviolet radiation. So, if you want to take care of your skin, getting enough zinc is of paramount importance. A zinc deficiency can impair skin health and cause chapped lips. Consult with a medical professional to see if a zinc supplement can help with your chapped lips and other skin-related issues. The RDA of zinc is 11 mg for men and 8 mg for women.

B vitamins

Your B vitamins consist of eight water-soluble vitamins that assist with energy production and cell function. Studies involving animals also suggest that they support tissue repair and wound healing. If you’re deficient in B vitamins, you’ll probably notice it in how your lips feel. Chapped lips often occur due to deficiencies in vitamin B2, vitamins B6 and B12, folate (B9) and riboflavin (B12). Risk factors for vitamin B deficiencies include medications, older age, malabsorptive syndromes, chronic alcohol abuse, and vegetarian and vegan diets.

Natural remedies to combat chapped lips

A simple, natural way to combat chapped lips is to make sure your lips have enough moisture. To do this, it’s imperative that you stay hydrated by drinking enough water. You can also apply a good lip balm throughout the day, avoid cold weather conditions (or prepare for them more effectively, perhaps by using a scarf), and use a humidifier at home.

Another way to combat chapped lips is to check for any of the vitamin deficiencies enumerated above and make sure you’re getting the nutrients you need, whether through diet or supplements.

You're unique.
Your supplements should be too.

Take the quiz