Cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy can have a number of side effects. While nausea and hair loss are some of the more well known, cancer treatment can also affect your lips, making them dry, cracked and uncomfortable.
In this post, we take a look at the best lip balms to help soothe and moisturise your lips and make you feel more confident.
Why does cancer treatment cause dry and cracked lips?
Dry, cracked and painful lips are a common side effect of some cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
Chemotherapy works by using a combination of chemicals to target fast-growing cancer cells. However, the chemicals in the treatment can also damage other fast-growing cells, including skin cells which are constantly growing and renewing themselves.
This can result in dry, scaly and cracked skin on your lips, which is susceptible to bleeding and blistering, and it can also make it harder for them to heal and repair.
Meanwhile, radiation therapy to the head and neck exposes the skin to radiation, which can leave your lips feeling dry, sore and flaky.
In addition, radiation and chemotherapy can affect the production of saliva and natural oils, leading to a dry mouth and lips.
As well as being uncomfortable and frustrating, dry and cracked lips caused by cancer treatment can also affect self-esteem and confidence, and many people find that it makes them feel self-conscious and embarrassed.
The good news is, there are some great products out there that can help to restore lip moisture levels and make things much more comfortable.
The best lip balms for dry and cracked lips
A good lip balm can make all the difference when you’re dealing with the effects of cancer treatment, and should form part of your chemo care package.
It’s important to choose a lip balm that’s gentle and hydrating. It’s best to opt for one that’s made from natural ingredients and oils, and avoid any strong flavours, such as peppermint or menthol which can sting sore, irritated lips.
Remember to apply your lip balm regularly, including first thing in the morning and last thing at night. It can help to keep a spare or two in key places, such as by the bed and in the car, so that you have one handy at all times!
Here’s the lowdown on our top five moisture boosting lip balms:
This luxurious lip balm is unscented and contains a range of soothing natural ingredients and oils to help protect and hydrate your lips, including olea europaea fruit oil, ricinus communis seed oil and helianthus annuus seed oil.
It’s perfect for dry, sensitive and flaky lips, and it comes in a handy tin – perfect for popping in your bag for an instant moisture boost when you’re on the go!
Simply apply to your lips as and when you need to.
“Nice lip balm, good texture and feels moisturising without being sticky. I like that it’s unscented as it feels gentle on the skin.” Live Better With community member
The Badger Balm lavender and orange lip care stick offers effective heavy-duty hydration to help soothe and protect dry and cracked lips, leaving them feeling smooth and glossy.
The subtle lavender and orange flavour and fragrance offers pleasant, calming and long-lasting relief to sore and chapped lips.
The lip care stick contains a range of natural, organic ingredients, including extra Virgin olive oil, golden yellow beeswax, castor bean oil, and essential oils of sweet orange, lavender and sicilian blood orange.
“Love this lip balm. Really moisturises beautifully. The scent is gorgeous. Really recommend it.” Live Better With community member
Many people undergoing chemotherapy find that it makes them more sensitive to smells and tastes, and strong scents can trigger feelings of nausea (sickness).
The Badger Balm unscented lip care stick is free of added scents, colours, flavours and sweeteners, offering gentle and effective hydration – without any unwanted side effects.
It contains natural ingredients, including organic extra Virgin olive oil, beeswax, organic aloe, seabuckthorn and rosehip extracts, and is perfect for rehydrating sore and cracked lips.
“I've tried various lip balms and ointments, but this is the first one that has really been effective.” Live Better With community member
The Carum Hemp SOS Balm offers soothing relief for dry and cracked lips, while its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties help to heal and protect irritated skin.
Rich in hemp seed oil, an excellent moisturiser and emollient, this natural balm also contains nourishing shea butter, whole plant active hemp extract, olive fruit oil, rosemary extract and sunflower seed oil.
To use, simply apply a small amount to the affected area.
You can find out more about the benefits of hemp seed oil in our blog: ‘Can hemp seed oil help soothe your chemo skin?’
The Defiant Beauty lip balm was designed especially for cancer patients, by cancer survivor Jennifer Young.
This lip balm contains 100% natural ingredients, including sweet almond oil, beeswax, cocoa butter, calendula and Vitamin E.
It’s fragrance-free and offers gentle relief for sensitive skin that’s feeling the effects of chemotherapy.
Apply twice a day, from the start of your chemo treatment.
“I tried lots of different lip balms [...] My lips were sore and starting to crack. I’ve even used under my nose when chemo made my skin sore. Couldn’t be without this lip balm.” Live Better With community member
You can read the Live Better With Guide to Cancer and Skin Problems here. And for more confidence-boosting tips, see the Live Better With Guide to Feeling Confident with Cancer.
Cancer treatment can have a number of unpleasant side effects, including dry, sore and unsightly cracked lips. However, using the right lip balm can help to keep your lips feeling smoother, healthier and more supple, and can boost your self-esteem.
Have you suffered from dry and cracked lips during cancer treatment? Or are you looking for tips and advice? Why not join the Live Better With Cancer community forum.