Irritated, dry skin around the mouth is not only unpleasant, but unsightly. Flaking dry, itchy skin in such a visible location can erode anyone’s self-confidence. In severe cases the skin can become red, inflamed and even bleed. There are solutions for this problem- but first you have to identify the real cause.
Most cases of dry skin around the mouth are due to cold, dry weather. Many people habitually lick their lips, and in the winter months this habit can lead to chapped lips. If not corrected, the chapped lip problem can spread to the skin surrounding the mouth. The treatment for chapped lips and mouth skin is to apply a good wax-based lip balm frequently, and try to refrain from licking the lips. If possible, stay indoors until the weather improves, or wear a face-mask when you go outside during the winter.
This condition is more common in people with oily skin. It seems to flare up in response to stress and also the weather, being more common in the winter. It’s actually a fungus infection that most commonly affects the scalp. Sometimes it also affects the face, including the area around the mouth. If you have dandruff and also white or yellow flaky scales or crusts around your mouth and possibly on other areas of your body, you may have seborrheic dermatitis. Try applying an over-the-counter anti-fungal cream to the affected areas, and use a medicated dandruff shampoo.
Allergic reactions can cause dry, irritated patches of skin around the mouth. Allergic reactions are more likely to become red and inflamed early in the process, versus simple chapping that is dry and flaky and only becomes red and inflamed later, if the condition progresses. The sunscreen in some lip balms can break down when exposed to saliva and strongly irritate the skin around the lips. Some people experience reactions to eating citrus fruits that cause red, irritated skin around the mouth. Occasionally, a medication prescribed by a doctor will cause a reaction. Other people have allergies to components in toothpaste, mouthwash, lipstick or other cosmetics. Trial-and-error to identify the offending substance may be necessary. If the irritated, cracked skin gets infected, it may need to be treated with antibiotic creams to allow healing to occur.
Angular cheilitis is when the corners of the mouth dry, crack and bleed. This condition may occur when severe dry skin occurs all around the mouth due to any condition, or it may occur in isolation. When it occurs in isolation, it is often due to malnutrition. Inadequate intake of B vitamins and zinc commonly lead to recurrent bouts of angular cheilitis. Complicating the situation is that once the cracks form, they often become infected with bacteria or fungus. Applying antifungal or antibiotic cream to the cracks can speed healing.
Most likely, your dry skin around your mouth is simply due to the weather, and being careful to protect the mouth area from the weather using lip balm and a scarf or face mask will quickly clear up the condition. If it doesn’t respond to such simple measures, or it appears to be due to one of the other conditions listed, a doctor’s visit might be in order.