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Sore or dry lips

Dry or sore lips are a common problem, especially during hot or cold weather. There are things you can try yourself that may help.

Things you can try if you have sore or dry lips


  • use a lip balm containing petroleum jelly or beeswax – you can buy these at a pharmacy or supermarket

  • try a few different lip balms if one is not working for you – some people may be sensitive to some fragrances, dyes or cosmetic ingredients

  • wash your hands before applying lip balm

  • use a lip balm with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or more every 2 hours when outdoors

  • cover your lips with a scarf when you're outside in cold weather

  • drink plenty of water to avoid becoming dehydrated


  • do not pick or bite any flaky skin on your lips – this can slow down healing

  • do not keep licking dry or cracked lips – this can make them sore

  • do not share lip balms with other people – this can spread germs

A pharmacist can help with sore or dry lips

A pharmacist can advise you about:

  • the best treatments for dry or sore lips
  • if you need to see a GP

Non-urgent advice: See a GP if:

  • your lips are hot, painful and swollen – this could be a sign of infection

If your GP thinks you have an infected lip, they may prescribe an antibiotic or antifungal cream to treat the problem.


Coronavirus (COVID-19) update: how to contact a GP

It's still important to get help from a GP if you need it. To contact your GP surgery:

  • visit their website
  • use the NHS App
  • call them

Find out about using the NHS during COVID-19

Common causes of sore or dry lips

Sore or dry lips can be caused by many things.

Common causes include:

  • cold weather, dry air or wind
  • damage from the sun
  • dehydration
  • a lip injury
  • allergies

Sometimes they can be caused by a lack of vitamins and minerals.

If you have a small, fluid-filled blister on your lip, you may have a cold sore.

Most people with cold sores get a tingling, burning or itching feeling on their lip before the blister appears.

Page last reviewed: 23 December 2021
Next review due: 23 December 2024