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Caring for Your Lips (Lip Care)
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Caring for Your Lips

Patrick Kenny, MDCM, FRCPC

The lips are often vulnerable to various infections and skin conditions. Conditions can range from excessive hair growth to malignant tumours, and like any other part of the body, need to be properly cared for. Below are some of the conditions that may affect your lips:

Cold Sores:

Cold sores (herpes labialis) are a painful and often recurrent condition caused by the herpes virus. Approximately one in three people with the herpes virus will show symptoms of the virus in the form of cold sores, and are often recurrent. Topical therapies are common, such as Denavir® and Zovirax®. Recently on the market, Valtrex® is a one day oral therapy that may be effective in controlling cold sores. For more information on cold sores, visit

Scaly Lips:

Lips can become dry and scaly in a condition called chelitis. It can be caused by drug reactions, or by atopic or contact dermatitis. For chronic drying and chapping, the use of an emollient solution, or the use of weak corticosteroids can help. Common causes of contact dermatitis or allergic reactions are various dental hygiene products, lip gloss, or other metal objects that come into contact with the lips. Licking of the lips also dehydrates the skin, causing further dryness and chapping.

Excessive hair growth:

Hirsutism is a condition where hair grows excessively. They are often genetic, but can be secondary to other more serious conditions. In hirsutism, the skin of the lips can produce hair, which can be embarrassing. Creams such as Vaniqa® have proven effective by inhibiting enzymes that are associated with hair growth. For more information on hirsutism, visit

Inflammatory Lesions:

Perioral dermatitis or inflammation of the lips are common, and can occur to both men and women of any age, but is most common in adult women. Symptoms include the formation of papules, blisters, and pustules. It has a large hereditary factor, and is often associated with sensitivity to atopic dermatitis, hay fever, or asthma. Hyper-reaction to cosmetic products or corticosteroids is also common. Therapy involves identifying and avoiding the causative agent if it is an allergic reaction, and using tetracycline or erythromycin to control the symptoms.

Actinic Keratoses:

These are precancerous lesions, also known as AKs. These lesions often slough and reform continuously, and have rough scaly surfaces. Topical treatment with Carac® and Aldara® (imiquimod 5% cream) is common, but treatment can also include cyrotherapy and photodynamic therapy.


  • Tumours can be identified by a physician. They can take many shapes and forms, but all of them should be taken seriously, and for some, immediate medical treatment will be required. The following are some of the tumours that can form on the lips:
  • Venous lakes are more common in the elderly. The tumour is a dark shade of purple, and can sometimes be confused with melanoma.
  • Rendu-Osler-Weber disease is a hereditary disease which can cause small vascular lesions on the lips. Frequent nose bleeding is also common for people with this condition.
  • Pyogenic granulomas are crusty tumours that frequently bleed. They are relatively small and are red. They are treated with excision, cyrotherapy, and electrodessication.

For more information on tumours, visit


actinic keratoses,   lip care,