Lip Licker's Dermatitis - featured image

Lip Licker's Dermatitis - Licking Your Lips To Death

Updated July 9, 2024

In Saturday morning cartoons, when someone or something licks their lips, it suggests two possibilities. They could be thinking about eating something delicious. Alternatively, they might be about to chase a road runner off a cliff. Thankfully, most of us don't have to worry about falling off of cliffs (hopefully). If you often lick your lips, either from habit or due to dryness, be careful. You might end up with lip licker's dermatitis. This condition is no laughing matter.

Lip licker's dermatitis is an inflammation caused by someone excessively licking their lips. Often, the licking starts as a natural reaction to having dry lips. However, lip licker's dermatitis causes the lips to feel even drier than before. Dry lips may be accompanied by chapped skin. They can also cause itchiness. There may even be some red skin around the edges. It can be quite uncomfortable to handle. This is especially true when dealing with bleeding or noticeable redness. It may even cause embarrassment.

Luckily for you, lip licker's dermatitis is common and relatively easy to treat.

In this article, we're going to explore all things having to do with lip licker's dermatitis. We'll explain what it is. We'll discuss why you might be experiencing it. Next, we'll guide you on how to relieve your symptoms. Finally, we'll provide advice on preventing recurrence.

Together we can... well... get it licked!

Dermeleve banner

What is lip licker's dermatitis?

Lip Licker's Dermatitis

"Lip licker's dermatitis" is a term for a common condition. It usually occurs when the skin around your lips gets inflamed. This happens due to excessive licking causing irritation. It's also frequently referred to as irritant contact cheilitis due to lip lickingsaliva-induced contact dermatitisirritant contact dermatitis due to salivalip licking eczema, and lip-lick cheilitis.

I know what you're thinking. Maybe someone should have spent more time finding a cure for it than coming up with different names for it.

No matter what you call it, the condition has two primary causes of keeping lips uncomfortable.

What happens if you lick your lips too much?

The causes of lip licker's dermatitis are pretty straightforward; it's all about licking your lips too frequently! Some people might unconsciously lick their lips when they're feeling anxious, nervous, or just plain bored. Other factors can heighten your risk of developing this condition. These include harsh weather conditions and allergies. Certain medications can also increase this risk..

Child With Lip Licker Dermatitis

The first cause is chemical irritation from certain substances. These include toothpaste and lip balm. They contain ingredients that can cause inflammation.. This irritation causing pain and itching on the lips and surrounding skin, is caused by ingredients like menthol and camphor, which are commonly found in some lip products. Certain people may also be sensitive to natural ingredients found in these products, like cinnamon and mint.

The second cause of this condition is physical irritation from the frequent licking of lips. This can lead to even more inflammation and pain, as saliva contains digestive enzymes that can further irritate the area. The constant moisture from your saliva can strip away your skin's natural oils that are part of the natural skin barrier function and cause chafing, eventually leading to redness, dryness, and even cracking. The erosive effect of the saliva as it consistently wets the lips and surrounding skin can cause a lesion and eventually may present perioral dermatitis, in which the skin appears inflamed, bumpy, red, and irritated.

Treatment for the first cause of this condition usually involves identifying and avoiding any products or activities that may be an allergen or causes irritation. This is usually done by trial and error.

For the second cause of lip licking, behavioral modification is often recommended. This includes consciously avoiding licking your lips and using a humidifier at night.

Who is at risk for lip licking eczema?

So who is most at risk for developing lip licker dermatitis? Well, pretty much anyone who licks their lips frequently is at risk for this condition.

This includes children, who may be more likely to lick their lips due to their developing immune systems and a lack of awareness of the consequences. Certain medical conditions, like atopic dermatitis, may also increase your risk of developing lip licker's dermatitis. Additionally, people who live in dry or cold climates may be more susceptible to developing this condition, as the lack of humidity in the air can dry out their skin even more and lead to habitual licking of skin surrounding the lips.

Signs and symptoms of lip licker's dermatitis

Symptom's of Lip Licker's Dermatitis

So, how can you tell if you're dealing with lip licker's dermatitis and not just a case of dry or chapped lips? Here are some common signs and symptoms to look out for:

  • Consistently dry, chapped lips

  • Redness around the lips

  • Cracking or peeling of the skin around the mouth

  • Discomfort or pain

  • Swelling around the lips

  • Bumps or blisters

If you're experiencing any of these symptoms, steps may be required to prevent further irritation and infection.

The good news is that lip licker's dermatitis is usually pretty easy to recognize - if you know what you're looking for. If you frequently lick your lips, notice any redness, dryness, or discomfort around your mouth, or are experiencing any of the above symptoms, there's a good chance you're dealing with this condition.

However, it's essential to note that not all cases of dry or chapped lips are caused by lip licker's dermatitis. Some people may be dealing with other conditions, such as cold sores, eczema, or fungal infections, which can present similar symptoms. If you're not sure what's causing your symptoms or they are not improving despite your best efforts, it's best to reach out to a healthcare professional who can diagnose and treat the condition.

Overall, it's vital to be aware of the symptoms and recognize when you may be dealing with lip licker's dermatitis. By catching it early, you can take steps to prevent further irritation and get your lips back to feeling healthy and happy.

Close, but no lip licker's dermatitis

Despite its prevalence and seeming simplicity in diagnosis, lip licker's dermatitis might actually be any one of numerous different skin conditions. 


Periorificial dermatitis, for example, is frequently not limited to the mouth region, but it might occasionally look like lip licker's dermatitis. Unlike lip licker's dermatitis, this disorder, which manifests as red, scaly, acne-like papules on the bottom area of the face, can be brought on not by licking the lips but by a number of things, including rosacea, nasal spray irritants, bacterial infections, fungal infections, as well as numerous irritants.

It's important to be seen by a dermatologist and receive a proper diagnosis to hasten effective treatment and the most effective way to remedy.

Prevention of lip licker's dermatitis

The best way to avoid dealing with lip licker's dermatitis is, of course, to prevent it from developing in the first place! With a name like lip-licker's dermatitis, the best strategy for prevention should be pretty clear- avoid licking your lips!

Easier said than done, but it's the most effective way to prevent lip licker's dermatitis. 

Here are some tips for maintaining the health and wellness of your lips.

Keep your lips moisturized:

When your lips are dry and chapped, it can be difficult to resist the urge to lick them. Use a high-quality balm at regular intervals to keep your lips and the skin around them soft and moist. 

Keep hydrated:

Keep your lips hydrated

Staying hydrated is key for keeping your lips healthy and preventing lip licker's dermatitis. Make sure you're drinking enough water throughout the day, and also try to avoid eating overly salty foods or sugary snacks.

Avoid harsh products:

When it comes to skincare products, make sure you're using gentle ones that won't irritate your delicate lip area. Avoid using products that contain fragrances and other harsh chemicals, as these can cause irritation and further damage the skin in your lip area.

Protect your lips from the elements:

Protect your lips

In harsh or dry weather conditions, like cold, dry winter air or hot, dry summer sun, it's essential to protect your lips from the elements. Use a scarf or a hat to cover your mouth when outside, particularly in the winter months.

Just like the rest of your skin, damage to the skin around the lips may be caused by sunburn and sun damage. Use a lip ointment with SPF protection, or wear a hat or scarf when you're spending time in the sun. Natural balms made with nourishing ingredients like beeswax, honey, and coconut oil may also help to soothe and protect the skin.

By following these tips for caring for your lips, you can help prevent dryness, chapping, and other issues that could lead to lip licker's dermatitis. Taking good care of your lips is essential for maintaining their health and appearance!

Try behavioral changes:

If you find yourself licking your lips frequently, even when your lips wouldn't normally need it, it may be helpful to identify the underlying cause of this behavior and work to address it. For example, if you're licking due to anxiety, try stress-reducing activities like deep breathing or meditation.

Meditation as behavior modification

Some may use lick licking as a self-soothing mechanism and may benefit from developing alternative strategies for self-soothing. These include deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, mindfulness meditation, listening to calming music or white noise, and using fidget toys or stress balls.

 Additionally, exploring improved techniques for managing anxiety, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), may be necessary to reduce lip licking.

Additionally, parents of kids who are prone to licking their lips may want to explain why this behavior is not helpful and help their children stop licking and develop better habits.

Treatment of lip licker's dermatitis

If you already are one or dealing with a lip licker, don't worry!

Saliva-induced contact dermatitis can be treated with a variety of options to relieve the symptoms.

Here are a few options:

Avoid irritants:

If you're experiencing lip licker's dermatitis, it's important to avoid anything that could make your condition worse. This includes any known allergen or ingredients in certain lipsticks, balms with fragrances or flavors, and other lip products that may develop further irritation for people in the delicate skin around their lips. If the condition is caused by repeated skin contact exposure to these irritants that can trigger the condition, such as toothpaste with menthol or camphor, avoiding these irritants is the most important treatment for lip licker's dermatitis.

Use an over-the-counter ointment:

Use a high-quality lip balm

Lip-lick cheilitis disrupts the normal skin barrier functionEmollients, such as petroleum jelly or thick ointment, can be used to keep the lips moist and help bolster and replenish this important function. Many drugstores carry ointments or balms specifically designed to treat dry, chapped lips. Look for products containing ingredients like petroleum jelly, beeswax, or shea butter.

Avoid corticosteroids:

It's important to be wary of any topical solution that contains corticosteroids. These are commonly found in both OTC and prescription-strength medications, often as hydrocortisone or cortisol. And while they may provide some temporary relief of symptoms, long-term use, and repeated exposure can result in serious side effects such as skin damage and even withdrawal symptoms


Dermeleve® is a steroid-free, fast-acting alternative to corticosteroids that can treat lip itch caused by irritant contact dermatitis due to saliva. Unlike topical steroids that can take days and even weeks to work, Dermeleve® starts working immediately, offering relief that can be felt within minutes and last for hours.

Due to its natural strontium mineral salts, note that applying Dermeleve® to open skin or severe cracks in the lips could result in momentary stinging. 

Use a humidifier:

Using a humidifier in your home can help increase the moisture in the air, which can help prevent dry lips. Additionally, adding moisture to the air can also help relieve congestion and other respiratory symptoms associated with dry air. Just be sure to clean your humidifier regularly to prevent the growth of bacteria and other harmful contaminants.

Consider behavioral changes:

If you're dealing with lip licker's dermatitis due to a specific behavior (like frequent licking), it may be helpful to work with a therapist or counselor to identify the underlying cause of the behavior and develop strategies to avoid it.

By taking these steps to treat your lip licker's dermatitis, you can help relieve your symptoms and get on the path to healing. However, it's important to note that some cases may require more medical intervention or a longer period of treatment. If your symptoms persist or get worse, speak with a healthcare professional for more personalized guidance.

Dermeleve banner


Happy Lips

Lip licker's dermatitis may seem like a small issue, but for those dealing with this condition, it can be a major source of discomfort and embarrassment. However, with proper prevention and treatment, it's a condition that can be easily managed.

If you're prone to frequent lip licking or are experiencing symptoms of lip licker's dermatitis, taking steps to prevent and treat the condition is essential. By avoiding lip-licking, moisturizing your lips regularly, and protecting them from the elements, you can keep your lips healthy and free from irritation.

And if you're already dealing with lip licker's dermatitis, don't worry - there are plenty of treatment options available that can help you get back to feeling your best. 

For fast, steroid-free relief from itching associated with the condition, be sure to give Dermeleve® a try!

Remember, taking care of your lips is just as important as taking care of the rest of your skin. By following the tips in this article, you can help prevent lip licker's dermatitis and keep your lips looking and feeling their best!

Remember, taking care of your lips is just as important as taking care of the rest of your skin. By following the tips in this article, you can help prevent lip licker's dermatitis and keep your lips looking and feeling their best!


Q: What is Lip Licker's Dermatitis?

A: Lip Licker's Dermatitis is a form of allergic contact dermatitis that is caused by the habitual behavior of licking the lips excessively. 

Q: How is Lip Licker's Dermatitis diagnosed?

A: Lip Licker's Dermatitis is diagnosed through visual examination of the skin by a dermatologist, taking into account the patient's history of lip-licking behavior and any associated symptoms.

Q: How is Lip Licker's Dermatitis treated?

A: Lip Licker's Dermatitis is treated by discontinuing the lip-licking habit, using gentle moisturizers to promote hydration of the lips; and in severe cases, with the guidance of a dermatologist, prescribing topical steroids or other medications to reduce inflammation.

Q: What are the common symptoms of Lip Licker's Dermatitis?

A: Common symptoms of Lip Licker's Dermatitis include redness, dryness, cracking, and peeling of the skin around the perimeter lips and corners of the mouth, along with a persistent itching sensation and rash.

Q: What is the best course of treatment for Lip Licker's Dermatitis?

A: The best course of treatment for Lip Licker's Dermatitis involves breaking the lip licking behavior cycle of wetting and drying of the lips. It's also important to keep the lips well-hydrated with non-irritating moisturizers, and seek medical dermatology advice for severe cases.

Q: What causes Lip Licker's Dermatitis?

A: Lip Licker's Dermatitis is caused by the constant exposure of the skin around the lips to saliva, which disrupts the skin barrier function and causes the skin to become irritated and inflamed.

Q: When should I seek medical help for Lip Licker's Dermatitis?

A: It is advisable to seek medical help for Lip Licker's Dermatitis if the symptoms persist despite home remedies, if there is severe skin irritation or cracking, or if the condition is affecting your daily life.

Back to blog