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Angular cheilitis is a skin infection that causes inflammation around the corners of the mouth, which leads to dryness, itching, fissures, and even painful sores. It is a fairly common condition that affects adults and kids alike.
Saliva tends to collect in the angled edges of the mouth. The warmth and humidity in these crevices are ideal for the proliferation of certain bacteria and fungi found naturally inside the oral cavity.
This microbial overgrowth results in an infection called angular cheilitis, which triggers an inflammatory response from the immune system. The body releases inflammatory substances to the site of infection to fight the pathogens.
The underlying tissue inflammation is responsible for the dryness, itching, fissures, and sores that characterize this condition.
Home Remedies for Angular Cheilitis
Here are some home remedies that can help minimize the skin irritation caused by angular cheilitis and promote skin healing:
1. Petroleum jelly
Petroleum jelly can be used to lubricate the dry patches around the mouth. Unlike regular moisturizers, it does not contain chemicals that will further irritate your already-sensitive skin.
Thanks to its thick consistency, petroleum jelly provides intensive hydration and forms a protective layer over the skin to prevent further damage as the wound heals. This helps relieve the irritation, speed up skin repair, and reduce the risk of secondary or recurrent infection. (1)
How to use:
- Mix 5 drops of tea tree oil in some petroleum jelly.
- Apply the mixture to the affected skin.
- Leave it on for about an hour so that it seeps into your skin.
- Wipe your lips clean and apply plain petroleum jelly.
Note: Do not lick your lips after putting on this remedy because intake of tea tree oil can have deleterious effects.
2. Coconut oil
Plus, coconut oil is credited with antimicrobial properties that help combat the underlying infection to accelerate recovery. (3)
How to use:
Moisturize the dry patches with organic extra virgin coconut oil multiple times a day. You can mix in a drop of tea tree oil for added benefits, but make sure not to lick the treated skin thereafter.
3. Aloe vera
Aloe vera is renowned for its skin-healing properties that can prove effective against angular cheilitis. The water-rich gel of this plant cools and hydrates dry, irritated skin.
Aloe vera’s antiseptic and antifungal effects help curb the fungal overgrowth responsible for the infection. It also works as an anti-inflammatory agent that relieves the pain, dryness, and itching associated with the condition.
How to use:
- Cut open an aloe vera leaf, scoop out its gel, and refrigerate the gel for at least 30 minutes.
- Gently massage the chilled gel onto the corners of your mouth.
- Let it dry for about 15–20 minutes before washing it off with cool water.
Honey is another ingredient with multiple therapeutic properties that can heal a variety of skin ailments, including angular cheilitis. A natural humectant, it imparts moisture to the skin and seals it in for prolonged hydration.
Additionally, honey exhibits antiseptic properties that help disinfect the skin for quick healing. It also helps curb the underlying inflammation to ease the pain, itching, and overall skin irritation.
How to use:
- Apply honey to the affected area. You can also mix it with some mashed cucumber for better results.
- Leave it on for 15 minutes before washing it off.
Self-Care Measures to Manage and Prevent Angular Cheilitis
Observing these measures can prevent and nip angular cheilitis in the bud:
1. Stay hydrated
Moisturize your skin regularly, and drink at least 10–12 glasses of water every day to hydrate it from within. Proper fluid intake also helps your body function better and boosts its infection-fighting abilities.
2. Stop licking your lips
Some people have a habit of licking their lips, which not only increases the chances of developing angular cheilitis but can also aggravate the condition once it develops.
Others do it to relieve the dryness on their lips, not realizing that it will only make it worse. So, it’s best to avoid this habit altogether.
3. Eat right
Consume a healthy diet that focuses on certain key nutrients, namely, iron, zinc, and vitamin B12, all of which can help your skin heal better and fight the infection.
Iron-rich foods include leafy greens, such as spinach, soybeans, and lentils, and red meats, such as lamb and beef. You can fulfill your zinc needs through green beans, asparagus, and Brussels sprouts.
Meanwhile, the best dietary sources for vitamin B12 include cheese, beef, lamb, and oily seafood like tuna and mackerel.
4. Avoid cosmetics
Don’t apply any makeup on your lips or the affected skin until the infection subsides. Cosmetics usually contain chemicals that can irritate the skin.
5. Regulate your blood sugar
People with diabetes or prediabetes should keep their blood glucose levels under control to reduce the risk of angular cheilitis. Poorly managed diabetes can compromise your immunity and make you prone to contracting infections.
6. Maintain proper dental hygiene
Brush your teeth twice a day. If you wear dentures, clean them every night after you take them out. Proper cleaning involves brushing them with a denture-care product and then leaving them soaked in water or a denture-cleansing liquid overnight.
Most-Asked Questions About Angular Cheilitis
Is angular cheilitis communicable?
No, angular cheilitis does not spread from one person to another, nor can it spread to other areas of the body. However, it can spread to the other corner of your lips over time.
If angular cheilitis is not treated, can it become dangerous?
If you don’t take the right medication for angular cheilitis, it can get progressively worse. Delaying treatment in the hopes that the infection will resolve on its own is a mistake many people make, only to regret it later.
Prompt treatment, on the other hand, results in mild symptoms and speedy recovery without the risk of undue complications that may require invasive treatment.
Most cases of angular cheilitis respond quickly to treatment. The aforementioned remedies and self-care measures can further aid the skin healing process, but they are not replacements for your doctor-prescribed treatment.
See your dermatologist if you have recurrent lip irritation, painful cracking, or fissuring in the corners of your mouth despite following the necessary care.