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3 Surprising Foods & Drinks That Are Making Your Lips Dry

Alexandra Engler
mbg Beauty Director
By Alexandra Engler
mbg Beauty Director
Alexandra Engler is the Beauty Director. Previously she worked at Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com.
Image by puhhha / iStock
February 16, 2022

There are a lot of root causes of dry skin, that range from lifestyle habits and irritating topical products to skin conditions. But the lips, in particular, can be a very finicky area. The skin on the lips is much thinner than the rest of the face—making them more delicate. Not only that, but they get a lot of physical wear from picking, licking, talking, and what you're consuming. 

Yes, drinks and foods can dry out the skin on the lips. The most surprising culprits? Well, they are very common items, in fact. Here, sneaky nutritional causes of dry lips: 

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1.

Spicy & hot foods

Ask anyone with an inflammatory skin condition like rosacea, and they'll likely confirm that spicy and hot foods can cause flare-ups, chapped skin, and dryness. Since lips are touching the foods, too, it only becomes more obvious. A chemical in certain spicy foods called capsaicin is a common skin irritant and has been linked to inflammation and skin barrier disruption. Both of these can lead to dry skin if you're susceptible. Additionally, you might be more prone to licking the lips when eating spicy foods, thus dehydrating the skin further. 

2.

Coffee 

Coffee, notably when served hot, can dehydrate the lips. "Pay attention to your lips. If I notice my lips starting to get dry, that tells me I'm pushing the coffee more than I should," says gastroenterologist Will Bulsiewicz, M.D., MSCI, on the mindbodygreen podcast

Just like exposing the skin elsewhere on the body to scalding hot water can weaken the barrier by disrupting your natural lipids, the same can be true for the lips when you're drinking piping hot coffee. Additionally, coffee is a diuretic—so it can be dehydrating when drunk in excess. Moderate coffee drinking likely won't have this effect. So just take it as a cue that you might have overdone it if your lips start to feel tight or chapped. 

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3.

Lack of B12

Sometimes it's not what you're eating but what you're not eating. Notably, foods that contain vitamin B12. B vitamins have been shown to promote healthy skin and support wound healing, and when you lack these vitamins, it can lead to dry lips. "Vitamin B12 deficiency specifically can lead to a condition that leads to dry, cracked lips with difficulty healing," says Michelle Henry, M.D., founder of Skin & Aesthetics Surgery of Manhattan. Foods high in the vitamin are beef, liver, poultry, fish, yogurt, and eggs. Visit your medical practitioner if you suspect you have a deficiency. 

The takeaway. 

The lips can become dehydrated pretty quickly—and from a myriad of causes, foods and drinks included. We by no means think you should stop consuming these if they are your favorites (I personally have no intention of giving up coffee or hot sauce), but if your lips are a bit irritated after the fact, now you know why. All you have to do is keep your favorite lip balm handy. 

Alexandra Engler
Alexandra Engler
mbg Beauty Director

Alexandra Engler is the Beauty Director at mindbodygreen. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department. She has worked at many top publications and brands including Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com. In her current role, she covers all the latest trends and updates in the clean and natural beauty space, as well as travel, financial wellness, and parenting. She has reported on the intricacies of product formulations, the diversification of the beauty industry, and and in-depth look on how to treat acne from the inside, out (after a decade-long struggle with the skin condition herself). She lives in Brooklyn, New York.