A split lip refers to an open cut or sore on the lip. The skin of the lip is delicate and prone to cracking in cold and dry climates, which can easily lead to a split lip.
A split lip can be annoying and painful, and it may bleed or itch. Most cases of split lip are due to cheilitis, which is inflammation of the lips.
The use of mild home remedies may speed healing in some cases, but a doctor may sometimes need to prescribe stronger medications to prevent or treat infections.
Learn more about the causes and symptoms of a split lip in this article. We also cover prevention and treatment.
A split lip has many possible causes, including the following:
Choose or lick
The skin of the lips is sensitive and easy to irritate when touched constantly. People who frequently lick, bite or itch their lips can cause the skin to crack.
This irritation can make the person want to calm their lips by touching or licking the area again. This behavior can lead to a cycle of dry and chapped lips.
Breaking the habit using lip balm to soothe the lips can allow them to heal.
Cracked lips are also the result of other sources of irritation, such as cold or dry air or too much wind.
Changes in the weather can also cause cuts in the corners of the lips. A division in this part of the lips can cause a burning sensation and can make even simple actions, such as smiling or chewing, painful because they stretch the sore area.
Injuries are another common cause of a split lip. This may be more likely in people who practice contact sports, such as football or hockey, although anyone can suffer an injury.
Other injuries that can cause a split lip include:
- be hit in the mouth
- get a paper cut on the lip
- biting his lip
The skin of the lips may react to one or more ingredients in certain products, especially those that touch the lips or mouth, such as:
- hydrating creams
The researchers point out that these allergens are responsible for 22-34% of cases of cheilitis.
Anyone who notices symptoms such as inflammation, dryness or redness after using a new lip product should stop using it.
If symptoms persist, the person can talk to a dermatologist, who can evaluate certain skin allergies and help the person avoid products that can trigger symptoms.
The sun can also damage the sensitive skin of the lips and cause a split lip, although this usually only occurs after prolonged exposure.
Spending long hours in the sun without lip protection can cause inflammation, which can cause pain, dryness or cracking.
The body uses water to keep the skin hydrated. If a person does not have enough fluid in their body, they may begin to notice changes in their skin, such as dryness or cracking.
Mild symptoms of dehydration, such as chapped lips, may occur if a person does not regularly drink enough fluids during the day.
Dehydration can also occur after an illness that causes high fever, diarrhea or vomiting. These symptoms can cause the body to use or lose a lot of water, which leads to dehydration.
Although not as common as other causes, a vitamin or mineral deficiency may be responsible for some cases of split lip.
The 2013 research points out that a deficiency in certain B vitamins or iron can cause symptoms in the mouth, such as a split lip and inflammation.
Most of the time, a split lip will heal only over time. It is better to avoid licking lips or touching them during the healing process.
People can also try home remedies to speed healing, which include:
Saltwater can help keep the wound clean while it heals. Add a tablespoon of salt to a small cup of warm water. Soak a cotton swab or a cotton ball in the liquid and hold it on the split lip.
Doing this may sting a little when the solution reaches the open cut, but the pain should go away after a few minutes.
Baking Soda Paste
A sodium bicarbonate poultice can also help reduce symptoms such as pain or swelling. To make this anti-inflammatory mixture, mix a tablespoon of baking soda with enough water to form a paste, usually about a teaspoon.
Apply this paste on the lip. Let stand a few minutes before rinsing the paste with cold water. Repeat the process every few hours if necessary.
Applying an ice pack wrapped in a cloth over the affected area can numb the pain and reduce swelling, helping the person find relief.
Only apply the ice pack for approximately 10–15 minutes at a time.
Some of the steps a person can take to promote healing can also help prevent future split lips. These steps include:
- avoiding licking or touching sensitive lips
- wear lip protection when outside on the elements, especially in cold climates
- Avoid irritating foods, such as citrus or spicy.
- drink a lot of water
Some split lips may cause an infection, which may not heal with simple home remedies.
Doctors may recommend medicated ointments or humectants that contain an antibacterial ingredient to help kill bacteria and protect the cut while it heals.
If the division is due to an injury, it may be greater and need medical treatment, such as stitches.
A person should also consult a doctor if the split lip causes recurrent bleeding or is difficult to control or if there are signs of infection, such as swelling, redness, suppuration of pus and inflammation.
A split lip is a common but potentially annoying lesion. The cut may be smaller, but it may take time to heal, since people generally move their lips and mouth a lot every day.
In most cases, a split lip will generally respond well to home remedies. People who experience persistent bleeding or signs of infection should consult a doctor.