If your lips are looking flaky, it might just be a case of chapped lips. It’s pretty rare for psoriasis to break out on your lips. But if you have the signs of a psoriasis rash (scaly plaque or a burning sensation) it’s a good idea to get it checked out by a doctor or dermatologist.
Can you get psoriasis on your lips?
Although it’s rare, it’s possible to get a psoriasis rash on your lips.
Psoriasis is a chronic skin disease that affects 7.5 million people in the U.S. alone. There’s no proven cause, but your immune system and your genetics both seem to have something to do with psoriasis. It often shows up as red, scaly plaques on your skin.
Usually, those plaques show up on your knees, elbows, or chest. But no part of your body is truly immune. That includes the area around your eyes, your cheeks, your genitals, and yep, even your lips.
The rashes are usually thick and whitish-silver, but can come with thick red patches as well. On darker skin, it can appear more purple in color. Sometimes, those patches can crack and bleed.
Psoriasis can be uncomfortable anywhere on your body. When it’s on your lips, it may affect the way you talk or eat.
Can it be treated?
First, the bad news: There’s no cure for psoriasis.
Now, the good news: There are effective and safe treatments for managing your symptoms.
There are a few different treatments your doctor might explore with you, according to Dr. Orit Markowitz, Board-Certified Dermatologist.
For example, they may explore topical anti-inflammatory creams, such as corticosteroids. “Corticosteroids control the inflammatory responses in the body,” she explains. “Steroids come in different strengths from strong and super-potent to weak and less potent.” Your doctor will decide what kind you need.
If you have psoriasis, you might also be prescribed systemic immunossupressants. “These lower the immune response that is telling your system to ‘attack’ the skin,” Markowitz says, “and they work on the entire body.”
Other treatments could include:
- Retinoids. These are topical treatments that help reduce skin cell production.
- Biologics. This is a class of medications (including brands like Humira) that alters your immune system. They’re a popular treatment today because they’re both effective and generally considered safe.
- PDE4 Inhibitors. Markowitz explains that this is a newer type of drug that works by lowering inflammation. A common brand is Otezla.
- Light therapy. “Harnessed sunlight with UVA and narrowband UVB are natural treatments for psoriasis,” says Markowitz. This can also be combined with other treatments.
- Cyclosporine & methotrexate. These work by suppressing your immune system. Markowitz says they aren’t used very often anymore because they can cause serious side effects.
There are also some home remedies that can help you manage the appearance of your symptoms.
Try a topical treatment
“The best remedies for chronically psoriatic lips are over-the-counter (OTC) hydrocortisone ointment and [hydrating] ointments,” Markowitz says.
In addition, you’ll want to avoid using any scrubs (like a sugar scrub) on your face because these could aggravate your skin. And unhappy skin would make your symptoms worse.
Say no to scrubs
“Psoriatic patients are tempted to use scrubs and exfoliants,” says Markowitz, “but this will further damage their already damaged skin and irritate their psoriasis, possibly causing a flare-up.”
You should also avoid most things that cover up your psoriatic lips. Makeup or lipstick aren’t great ideas — at least not every day while you’re experiencing a flare-up.
“Lips are sensitive, just like most of the skin in and around the face, so it’s important to treat it carefully,” Markowitz says.
Slather on some SPF
Markowitz also recommends using moisturizing products that have SPF. “It’s important to keep the affected lip area protected from the sun,” she says. Look for OTC products with the National Psoriasis Foundation’s Seal of Recognition program.
Minimize your makeup
If you do use makeup, do so sparingly, “so as to not further irritate or infect the lips,” Markowitz says. “I always recommend keeping the lips moist, especially under makeup.”
“If you must use a coverup,” she continues, “try to avoid cosmetics that contain fragrance and drying ingredients. Makeup that is not easily absorbed into the skin, such as water or sweat resistant ones, will most likely work better here.”
Can I prevent psoriasis on my lips?
A psoriasis flare-up can usually be traced to a specific trigger. If you can figure out what’s setting off your rashes, it might be possible to avoid it.
Here are some of the most common triggers for psoriasis:
- increased stress
- air pollution
- certain medications
- drinking alcohol
- smoking cigarettes
If you’re not sure what’s triggering your psoriasis, you can try keeping a log of your symptoms to see if you can make any connections.
When to talk to doc
In general, if this is the first time you’re noticing red, flaky lips, give your doc a call. They’ll be able to diagnose whether it’s a psoriasis rash. It’s also important to reach out if your symptoms are getting worse.
“If you start to notice symptoms such as pain, swelling, tenderness, stiff muscles and joints, or a noticeable change in the appearance of your nails,” says Markowitz, call your doctor.
Never try a new treatment — including OTC ones — without checking with your doctor either.
Could it be something else?
The short answer: Yes.
Psoriasis on lips is pretty rare. Here are some more common things that can cause a rash on your lips:
- Eczema. This can also cause redness, drying and scaling of one or both lips. It can also affect the skin inside and around your mouth.
- Chapped lips. It’s common and can cause cracking, but chapped lips will usually get better with simple treatments. Applying lip balm, using a humidifier, and drinking more water should do the trick.
- Cheilitis. A condition that causes red, dry, scaling, and itchy lips. There’s a few different types of cheilitis but they all involve inflammation and could reoccur even after they’ve cleared up.
- Cold sores. These usually begin with pain or burning first. Then you’ll see fluid-filled blisters emerge along the lip line.
Here are a few examples of what psoriasis and other causes may look like on lips.
Remember, it’s always best to see a doctor for a diagnosis. That way you’ll know what kinds of treatments will work best for you.
Psoriasis on your lips is possible but it’s rare. If you do have psoriasis on your lips, they’ll likely be red, inflamed, cracked, or covered in whitish scales.
Just remember that there’s other conditions that could be causing your cracked lips. Your doctor is the one who can truly diagnose psoriasis. They’ll also be able to recommend the most effective, safe treatments for you.
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