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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 yourself


  • 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 – you may be sensitive to some fragrances or ingredients

  • wash your hands before applying lip balm

  • use a lip balm with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher during hot weather

  • 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 will tell you about the best treatments for dry or sore lips and if you need to see your GP.

Contact your GP if your lips are hot, painful, red and swollen. This could be a sign of infection.

Your GP may prescribe an antibiotic or antifungal cream if you have an infected lip.

Cold sores

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.

Cold sores should start to heal within 10 days, but are contagious and may be irritating or painful while they heal.

A pharmacist can recommend:

  • creams to ease pain and irritation
  • antiviral creams to speed up healing time
  • cold sore patches to protect the skin while it heals

Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE

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This project has received funding from the Government of Ireland’s Sláintecare Integration Fund 2019 under Grant Agreement Number 123.

Page last reviewed: 5 April 2021
Next review due: 5 April 2024