How to treat dry chapped lips after chemotherapy

Suffering from dry lips triggered by cancer treatment? You might want to think twice before slathering on your usual lip balm. Many contain essential oils, fragrance and other hidden ingredients that could actually be making the problem worse. 

Having gone through leukaemia myself, I know only too well the impact cancer treatment can have on your body. During my own therapy, my skin – including my lips – became extremely sensitive and sore. Even many natural ranges caused my skin to flare up, and so my sister Sarah stepped in and began using her extensive skin knowledge and expertise to formulate her own innovative plant-powered oils (that now make up our award-winning collection). They totally transformed my fragile complexion and, in turn, my mood and mindset. As my skin started to feel more balanced and soothed, so did I.

By Sarah London founders

Skincare may seem like an after-thought when you're faced with cancer treatment; but when the weeks are filled with chemo cycles, fatigue and pain, it's incredible how much comfort it can bring – and not just to a sore complexion.

Here, we take a look at the cause of chemo-induced dry lips, in particular, and the best products to treat them with...

Why does cancer treatment cause dry chapped lips?

Various treatments for cancer – including chemotherapy and radiation therapy – can damage saliva glands, leading to a dry mouth condition called 'xerostomia' or 'chemo mouth.' Depending on the cancer treatment received, this can sometimes linger for several months or years.

Along with dental problems, mouth sores and issues talking, chewing and tasting, the condition can cause dry chapped lips which are often made worse as cancer treatment takes its toll on skin cells, too.

Lip balm ingredients to avoid during cancer treatment

Fragrance and essential oils can be particularly irritating to sensitive skin during or after chemotherapy. And lip balms are big culprits since many are loaded with strong flavours like peppermint, camphor or menthol to make lips tingle or appear plumper. It's best to steer clear of these. 

How to treat dry lips after chemotherapy

The outermost layer of skin – the stratum corneum – is much thinner on our lips (3-4 layers versus 15-16 layers in other areas) – another reason they're more prone to becoming dry and rough.

Opt for plant-powered ingredients that both hydrate AND protect. While petroleum jelly lip balm formulas can do the latter, they offer little in the way of nourishment. (Petroleum jelly is known as an 'occlusive' ingredient but not an 'emollient' one). Beeswax, on the other hand, does both these things. You'll find it alongside other expertly-selected oils in our best-selling unscented By Sarah London Lip and Hand Balm.

By Sarah London Lip and hand balm

Working as an intensive treatment that can be applied throughout the day, the remedy balm instantly smoothes away flaky patches while soothing soreness and quenching dryness. As Organic Virgin Coconut Oil locks in moisture, Organic Apricot Oil softens thanks to its natural Vitamin A content.

Our Lip and Hand Balm works wonders for other areas of dry skin, too. Use it to care for swollen painful cuticles and cracked nails following your cancer treatment or to condition brow hair as it starts to regrow.

By Sarah London Lip and hand balm

A little pot of magic? We think so! Here's what some By Sarah London fans have to say...

"Truly brilliant balm, which is not only the best lip balm I have ever had but, more importantly has worked wonders on my daughter's super chapped lips and a very sore facial eczema breakout. Zero irritation, when everything else we had tried from organic natural brands had stung or burned. Her raw patches have healed and dried and are well on the way to being completely back to normal - within just a few days of starting use! Won't be without this in future." - Jessica - Feefo review

"I use this as a lip balm. It’s far & away the best lip treatment I have ever tried. I have always suffered from cracked dry lips, but this product has completely transformed them. A repeat purchase!" - Anon - Feefo review

"Oh my, this lip balm is the best I have ever used! It is so moisturising and stays on the lips for ages, and my lips are no longer dry and flaky. The balm is also great for dry patches of skin and for my cuticles. A great multi-tasking product." - Anon - Feefo review

Please note: You should always seek medical assistance if you experience any new rashes, peeling or redness following cancer treatment. 


Written by: Lauren, Co-Founder, By Sarah London.

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