Can Vitamin Deficiency Cause Chronic Chapped Lips?

Erin Coleman, R.D., L.D.
woman with dry, chapped lips

Chronic chapped lips are nobody's cup of tea, and sometimes no matter how hard you try dry skin (including the area around your mouth and lips) happens. While moisturizers are available to help ease discomfort you may feel from chapped lips, getting the right amount of essential vitamins and minerals in your diet daily may help prevent this troublesome problem from happening.

Symptoms of Chapped Lips

If you experience chapped lips from a nutrient deficiency, your lips may feel dry, crusty or cracked -- especially near the corners of your mouth. Your lips will probably feel rough, swollen or sore. Open sores may develop in cracked areas where the skin is broken.

Deficiencies That Cause Dry Lips

B vitamins are the main culprit when it comes to chapped lips, but any nutrient deficiency causing dry skin can be problematic. These may include vitamin C, vitamin A, zinc, biotin, vitamin B3, vitamin B12, and vitamin B6.

Biotin (Vitamin B7) Deficiency

B vitamin deficiencies (especially biotin) can cause problems for your lips. For example, the University of Maryland Medical Center says getting too little biotin can cause dry scaly skin and cracks in the corners of your mouth. To help prevent this unpleasant side effect from happening, make sure you meet daily recommendations (adequate intake levels) for biotin, which are 30 micrograms for adult men and women, and 35 micrograms daily for breastfeeding women.

Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Vitamin B12 deficiency, which is perhaps more common than biotin deficiency, is also a cause of chapped and cracked lips (also known as cheilitis), says a 2016 study published in BMC Oral Health. Older adults, vegan dieters, and people who don't properly absorb vitamin B12 have higher risks for developing B12 deficiency. That's why it's important to eat foods rich in vitamin B12 and have your blood levels checked if chronic chapped lips are causing problems for you. Adult men and women need at least 2.4 micrograms of B12 daily.

Iron Deficiency

Another nutrient deficiency that can lead to dry, cracked lips in the corners of your mouth is lack of iron, says a 2017 study published in the Indian Journal of Dental Research. Getting plenty of iron in your diet (or from a multivitamin supplement) gives you the best chance at avoiding dry skin and lips and helps prevent iron deficiency anemia-related fatigue. Men and women older than age 50 should aim for 8 milligrams of iron daily, and women of childbearing age need 18 grams per day.

Preventing Nutrient Deficiencies

The best way to prevent dry skin and cracked lips due to nutrient deficiencies is to eat a well-balanced diet packed with fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean protein foods, and healthy fats. Take a daily multivitamin supplement if your doctor recommends it. The Institute of Medicine provides recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) and adequate intake levels (AIs) you can use as a dosage guide to ensure you're meeting daily nutritional needs.

Treating Chapped Lips

While it's no secret that vitamin deficiencies (especially in B vitamins) can lead to dry skin and chapped lips, sometimes dry weather is the culprit. To treat dry chapped lips, use a daily lip balm or moisturizer. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends choosing a lip balm with a 30 sun protection factor (SPF) as a way to keep lips healthy and lower your risk for skin cancer.

Can Vitamin Deficiency Cause Chronic Chapped Lips?