Accutane may seem like a miracle for acne sufferers, but there are some side effects, and among the most annoying is dry lips.
It happens to everyone who takes Accutane or its generic form called isotretinoin. In fact, if a patient doesn’t complain of dryness of the lips, then the prescribing acne doctor has to wonder if the patient is taking Accutane at the right dose.
The important thing to know is that once you finish your course of medication, the dry lips will go away.
But what can you do in the meantime to minimize this side effect?
How Accutane Causes Dry Lips
Accutane decreases oil production from skin oil glands, which helps acne. This decreased oil production means all of the mucous membranes in your body become dry.
All medical jargon aside: The result is that Accutane causes dry, chapped lips.
What You Can Do to Minimize Dry Lips
Your regular lip balm might do the job, but sticky ointments work best to help prevent cracking when used multiple times per day.
There are also specialty products made just for the dryness caused by Accutane that include hydrocortisone, which reduces the inflammation and helps make lips easier to treat.
If your lips need additional TLC and an extra helping of moisture, try a lip mask. Lip masks work like sheet masks for your face except for your lips. Some are made to be used while you sleep so you wake up with supple, moisturized lips, while others are applied for a shorter period.
These lip masks use a lot of the same ingredients used in other skincare products designed to hydrate and moisturize.
What to Look for in a Lip Moisturizer
When you’re looking for a lip moisturizer, it’s best to avoid the following ingredients
- Vitamin E can cause allergic reactions, and a study found that 33% of those who used vitamin E on their skin developed contact dermatitis. Vitamin E might be listed on the label as natural vitamin E oil, tocopherol or tocopheryl acetate.
- Castor oil contains ricinoleic acid, which can be an allergen, possibly even the main one that actually causes chapped and inflamed lips.
- Beeswax. The problem is the propolis that’s mixed in with beeswax. Propolis is made by bees from tree and plant resins to fill in the spaces in their hives. A study showed that it’s a contact sensitizer, with reactions including cheilitis (inflammation of the lips) and peeling lips.
- Lanolin. It is a waxy substance secreted by the oil glands of sheep. It has highly emollient properties and prevents water loss. However, many people are allergic, which can cause more problems than it solves.
- Fragrances and flavorings. These can just add to your problems by irritating your lips. The ones to watch out for are peppermint, menthol, camphor, eucalyptus and limonene; it’s best to avoid them altogether.
- Some lip sunscreens. These can do more harm than good. Avoid chemical sunscreens in favor of those made with minerals. Lip sunscreens containing oxybenzone (also known as benzophenone-3), octinoxate, avobenzone, octisalate and octocrylene should be avoided. Choose lip balms with ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide.
Also, avoid using products like mineral oil or petroleum jelly—they can actually be drying because they lock out air and moisture and lock in any irritants already on your lips.
More Tips to Help Dry Lips
Lip balms, moisturizers and masks are all great, but there are additional things you can do to keep your lips from becoming even more chapped:
- Drink plenty of water. It makes sense that chapped lips are dry lips, so stay hydrated.
- Do not lick, bite or pick at your lips. When you lick your lips, the saliva dries and makes your lips even more chapped. Biting or picking at your lips irritates them. It’s tempting to peel off the dry skin, but don’t.
- Use a humidifier. It helps, especially at night, and especially if you breathe through your mouth.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What causes my lips to be dry when taking Accutane?
A: Decreased oil production in the skin.
Q: Does everyone get dry lips from Accutane or is something wrong?
A: Nothing is wrong! Everyone gets dry lips from Accutane.
Q: Will my lips still be dry like this when I stop taking Accutane?
A: No. Once you stop taking the drug, this side effect will go away.
Q: What can I do about my dry lips?
A: You can use lip balms and masks, and doctors recommend drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated. Don’t lick, bite or pick at your lips. For really irritated lips, look for a lip balm that contains hydrocortisone.
Q: Are there ingredients in some lip treatments that can make things worse?
A: Yes! You want to avoid ingredients that irritate and those that can lock out air and moisture and seal in irritants.