A Scientific Approach to Healing Exfoliative Cheilitis (Flaky Lips)

Reading about how to heal exfoliative cheilitis, you’re likely to come across these two characteristics: “uncommon” and “no known cause” – two things no patient ever wants to hear. Fortunately for those dealing with exfoliative cheilitis, however, there are ways to combat and subdue the symptoms associated with the chronic condition.

You are probably reading this for a reason – maybe you or someone you know is suffering from exfoliative cheilitis, so a detailed explanation of what exactly the disease consists is likely not needed. For those of you who have happened across this article and are simply interested in learning, however, a brief description of exfoliative cheilitis can be defined as a debilitating inflammation of the vermilion (red) part of the lips, usually causing them to develop a painful, crust-like quality. Why this happens is the result of an accelerated growth and death rate of keratin, a protein produced by our body that acts as the key defensive ingredient in protecting our skin from any form of damage.

In other words, as a result of the body producing too much protective keratin, it then must shed the excess cells at an equal pace, usually in the form of painful scaling or shedding, causing your lips to maintain in a state of constant irritation. Fun stuff!

So what, then, can you do to help fend off exfoliative cheilitis? Well anecdotal solutions are certainly plentiful, but we figured that we would try to put together something a little more universal. Below are some science-backed, easy-to-try solutions to hopefully get your lips back to their healthy, moisturized self:


I know, the name sounds like something out of the Walking Dead, but the reporting of Glycerin Borax as a safe medical antiseptic goes as far back as the early 19th century. It has been found particularly effective in treating various skin and oral conditions, ranging from psoriasis, to chapped lips, to mouth ulcers.

Evidence of healing exfoliative cheilitis:

In 2016, a study conducted by the Faculty of Dentistry of Chulalongkorn University in Thailand found Glycerin Borax particularly effective in treating a 19-year old female diagnosed with exfoliative cheilitis. While the study was admittedly small in nature, over the course of one year using glycerin borax to treat her scaly and peeling lips, a “gradual improvement was observed until returning to normal”.


 For those looking for a more natural solution, the English Marigold flower may be for you. While the Marigold can be used to treat anything from ear infections to promoting menstruation (quite a range, right?), one of its primary uses is in treating skin inflammation.

Evidence of healing exfoliative cheilitis:

In a 2009 case report conducted by the Department of Biosciences and Oral Diagnosis out of Brazil’s Sãn Paulo State University focusing on an eighteen-year-old man diagnosed with exfoliative cheilitis, a daily dosage of ointment made from Marigold extract was found to be effective in treating the dry scaling patches on the subject’s lips. The subject’s lips showed almost no signs of irritation by the end of the study.


 Have you ever gotten a dental implant, or even a filling due to a cavity? Oddly enough, they may be connected, or even the cause of your exfoliative cheilitis.

Evidence of healing exfoliative cheilitis:

In an enlightening study conducted by Italian dermatologists out of IRCCS Galeazzi Hospital in Milan, a 41-year-old woman was examined in trying to understand the relation between dental metals and skin irritation. What the conductors found was a eerily narrow time gap between the subject getting mercury-containing fillings and a titanium dental implant and suddenly being diagnosed with exfoliative cheilitis. This connection was made stronger when the scientists then conducted a patch test on the women to see what materials her body was allergic to. The results showed that the woman was allergic to a large majority of metals typically used in dental fillings and implants. Long story short, all of this led the conductors of the study to conclude that exfoliative cheilitis may in-fact be an allergic reaction to certain metals, the majority of which are used in dental work.


As mentioned before, these three solutions are included because have either been proved in a clinical setting, or at least scientifically examined in some capacity. Just because it hasn’t been shown in an organized study, however, doesn’t necessarily mean it doesn’t work. For a much more expansive list of potential solutions, including personal stories and more scientifically explored options, you can check out such blogs as Functional Medicine, the Daniel Miller Blog, and the self-titled Exfoliative Cheilitis Blog.

Have a suggestion? Did something not listed here work for you or someone you know? Throw it down in the comments below!


1 comment

  • Hello,

    How can I buy glycerin borax? Is it on the internet anywhere? Thank you very much. randyrbnj@gmail.com



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