How to get rid of those cuts on the corner of your mouth

Hilary Duff

Because they're painful in MANY ways

Beauty Crew Beauty Writer / July 30 2021

Anyone else blessed with those dreaded knicks around their mouth? You know, the ones that feel like paper cuts on either side of your mouth? Ouch, we know.

While they may seem like they're simple mouth sores or chapped lips, these painful patches at the corner of your mouth actually have a name. The condition is called angular cheilitis (pronounced key-litis) and it’s basically inflammation around the corners of the mouth which causes redness, swelling and yep, you guessed it, pain.

“[Angular cheilitis] is an inflammatory condition or dermatitis of the skin at the corners of the mouth," explains cosmetic physician Dr Phoebe Jones from Concept Cosmetic Medicine Sydney. "It can just appear red and dry or flaky, or more severely, the skin can become cracked and painful and become predisposed to infection.”

The good news? It’s actually a super common condition (especially in the winter months), so don’t freak out! And trust us, understanding what these cracks are and how to properly take care of them will make it all considerably less painful/scary.

What causes angular cheilitis?

Disclosure: Anyone can get it. While winter certainly doesn’t help (dry chapped lips make it easier for bacteria and viruses to invade your lips), there are other things that contribute to angular cheilitis. However, Dr Jones notes there is no one specific cause.

“There are certain conditions that predispose people to it more, such as eczema sufferers, elderly people, people who are immunocompromised," she shares. "Anything that weakens the immune system can lead to the condition. For example, asthma sufferers who use steroid inhalers are prone to this condition.” Apparently, antibiotics are also notorious for causing it. 

Dr Jones notes that the anatomy of your mouth also plays a large role in the occurrence of angular cheilitis. “People with a top lip that significantly protrudes over the lower lip are more prone to it, as well as people with deep marionette folds. Excessive saliva building up in the lip corners is also a contributing factor.”

What’s the best way to treat it?

Luckily, it’s not as hard to treat as it is to cope with. Dr Jones says you just need to figure out what’s causing it: “Try to identify the cause and rectify any contributing factors if possible”. If you're not quite sure how to do so, she has a few tips on where to start.

“First, cease any unnecessary medications or topical creams that could be irritating the skin,” she explains. Instead, Jones suggests frequently applying a fragrance-free ointment like Aquaphor Healing Ointment ($26.18 at iHerb) or Vaseline Petroleum Jelly ($4.49 at Chemist Warehouse) to help heal the area. She also recommends “cleaning the area gently twice a day with a fragrance-free wash, such as Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser ($11.99 at Chemist Warehouse) for sensitive skin.

Aquaphor Healing Ointment

Vaseline Petroleum Jelly

Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser

If these home remedies don’t work and it’s not getting better after a week or two, visit a dermatologist for some extra help. Most dermatologists will be able to diagnose angular cheilitis right away – so if you’re struggling to figure out what’s causing it, they’ll help suss it out.

From there, they can help prescribe further products or treatments that'll aid the issue, Dr Jones explains. “[For example], hyaluronic acid fillers in the marionettes and oral commissures can help if it’s an anatomical issue, as well as botulinum toxin in the depressor anguli oris muscle to kick up the corners of the lips," she confirms.

Main image credit: Getty Images

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