Lips sometimes need more moisture than the rest of the face because they contain no sebaceous glands – glands which secrete sebum, an oily substance that lubricates hair and skin, as well as providing some protection against bacteria. But lips have more melanin, a brown pigment which protects skin against sun.
Melanin can help protect lips from the sun, but not against the drying effects of wind and cold weather. When your lips feel dry, it is natural to lick them to moisturise them. Saliva, in fact, contains a lipase – an enzyme that can ‘dissolve’ fat. This removes any skin-provided sebum protection as well as any natural moisture. The lips then feel drier than ever and the sufferer, quite reasonably, licks them again – and so the drying process goes on.
If this is happening to you, you must make a conscious effort to stop licking your lips. This may be all you need to do, though regular use of a lip salve to moisturise your lips will help.
If your lips are especially dry, lip creams containing sunscreen agents, emollients or an antiseptic are available. Ask your pharmacist about Vitamin B Complex Tablets , as these may be particularly helpful to the elderly.