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General characteristics

General characteristics

The lips of the mouth perform several functions including help with forming words and noises, introducing food to the mouth, prevent us from dribbling out saliva and act as highly sensitive sensory apparatus. They are richly supplied with blood vessels, nerves, muscles and lymph vessels but contain no sweat or sebaceous glands. The skin on the lips is very thin compared to other parts of the body, only one twentieth of a millimetre thick, 2-3 cell layers thick compared to the usual 16 layers of the skin of the face. This thinness of covering, together with its rich blood and nerve supply make the lips effective sensory apparatus, capable of detecting subtle changes in the environment.

 The inner surface of the lips contain secretory glands which help to moisten and lubricate the mouth and food. These inner surfaces also absorb substances readily.

Interestingly, the appearance and condition of the lips are fairly reliable indicators of an individuals overall health. For example dry or cracked lips can be a symptom of dehydration, allergies, blood glucose imbalances, an infection, nutritional deficiencies and poor diet, candida or yeast overgrowth or simply from being in cold weather or smoking. In younger children, skin on and around the lips can become dry and chapped due to excessive licking, perhaps when they are nervous or have a runny nose. Pale lips can indicate anaemia and low iron levels whilst a blue or purple tinge to the lips can indicate a more serious lack of oxygen which could point to heart or lung disease. Swollen lips can be an indicator of an inflammatory condition in the bowels, poor elimination via the bowel and constipation.

Diet and lifestyle

Diet and lifestyle

Foods rich in vitamin A, such as dark green leaves, carrots and apricots, contain substances that are used in the body for skin renewal and repair and help prevent dryness of the skin.

Foods rich in vitamin C can also help with skin and tissue repair by promoting collagen production and is an antioxidant. Food sources include citrus fruits, berries, broccoli and dark green leaves.

Vitamin E is considered by manya powerful antioxidant which helps to protect against against damage from free radicals. Free radicals are cell disrupting molecules which result form normal metabolic processes in the body but also from environmental toxins and things like cigarette smoke. Antioxidants neutralise the free radicals damaging actions and help prevent damage to tissues. Food sources rich in vitamin A include whole grains, oils and fats, nuts and seeds.

Ensure you are eating enough foods containing B vitamins such as whole grains and legumes.

Fatty acids are also important for healthy lips as they promote the renewal of skin cells and help prevent damage from oxidation.  Good sources are walnuts and other sources of omega 3 oils such as oily fish, eggs, nuts and seeds.

Make sure you drink enough water to stay properly hydrated.

Don't smoke.

Useful herbs

Useful herbs

Natural cold pressed, unprocessed oils such as olive and coconut oil (make sure it is coconut oil suitable for consumption, solid at cold temperatures, liquid when warm) can be applied to the lips to soften them and help decrease dryness.

Shea butter can also be effective.

If lips are cracked and sore try rubbing some manuka honey on the lips follwed by one of the oils mentioned above.

Natural healing

Natural healing

Avoid frequent licking or 'chewing' of the lips as saliva contains an enzyme (amylase, a digestive enzyme that breaks down starch into sugar) which can irritate the delicate lip tissue. If this happens with children, try applying something thick such as Shea butter on the lips which is quite sticky and is not easily licked off.
Try breaking open a vitamin E capsule and applying the oil to the lips.
If you wear lipstick, try a more natural brand as many leading brand lipsticks contain lead and other skin irritants.
Avoid using lip balms that contain irritating chemicals. Make your own from coconut oil, olive oil, beeswax or honey for example.


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