Why do I keep licking my lips? Is this habit due to lip dryness, chapping, nervousness or excitement? How do I stop it?
Meaning and Causes
This refers to is the act of ‘moving your tongue across the lips’. It could nervous or a sign of other health concerns. All medical practitioners agree that this is is a bad habit that will only worsen the condition of their lips and not improve it.
On why it occurs, there are many reasons why people end with this habit. Here are the most common reasons why it happens.
Dry or chapped lips
Because lips are very sensitive, they would respond quickly to changes in weather or temperatures. When you approach summers or when you experience adverse temperatures, your lips would dry up thus you will want to lick them to add moisture.
Remember, your lips have nearly no moisture glands in their dermis and this is the reason why, when exposed to cold, dry winds, they would become chapped or dry. All the factors that can dehydrate them can trigger this habit.
More factors or conditions that can lead dry or chapped lips include harsh cosmetics, indoor heating systems, sun exposure, smoking, alcoholism, extreme exercise, persistent and continuous breathing through your mouth and more.
Many people would tend to lick their lips after eating or drinking something sweet, and the flavor is still felt on them. This is habit that is commonly seen in young ones, but some adults have it too. This would last for a short while especially after the flavors diminish.
On the other hand, drinking or eating irritating foods and drinks can also lead to this habit too. When you experience any irritation or burning sensation, you may roll your tongue across the lips to relieve the sensation.
Another reason. It is more of a body language where some people will bite or lick their lips when they are nervous. The body interprets as a self-comforting signal.
This is a habit many people will do without being aware (compulsively) and they can do it anywhere anytime. To help stop this habit, one may need to seek services of a therapist to reverse the compulsive lip biting habit due to nervousness.
Sexual lip licking
As interpreted by many men, lip licking would be a gesture used by women to reveal their sexual interests. In such cases, this habit is intended to draw attention to their lips and may be an invitation for a kiss. The behavior would continue even during the love making for some individuals.
Some men or women will also lick their lips even without their knowledge when they meet new people. The action can be instant or take a few minutes.
You should take the time to understand your partner since this interpretation may not be the case in all scenarios.
Some individuals would lick their lips when they get excited. This would consciously but after some period, it would become a nervous habit that would be very difficult to avoid. It would require some habit reversal therapies for some victims to drop this habit.
Bumps, sores or injuries
Bumps, sores, and injuries can also lead to this habit. These bumps, rashes, sores or blisters on lips have different causes. They could erupt from infections or internal health conditions.
You would lick your lips following the presence of such bumps. The bumps may also itch or burn and thus increase the chances doing it again. In such cases, the habit would cease after such bumps or rashes have healed.
For persons, licking lips would mean a deep concentration or giving something or situation a deep thought.
You would see men and women rolling their tongue across their lips while responding to thought-provoking situations, and why they do that? It is because they are trying to come up with the best answer or a response towards the discussion. This kind of habit can become compulsive and become chronic after some time.
Is it related to lying?
If a man or a woman is asked a question and they pause, lick their lips and answer. Be careful, they may be lying. However, do not jump into a conclusion but you should take time to understand someone’s body language. It could be happening due to deep concentration we have already seen as someone tries to get the best answer.
There many other reasons why men and women would lick their lips, including underlying health conditions. In some cases, this habit can be a combination of two or more of the reasons we discussed. You should thus be very keen during interpretation of this habit from one person to the other.
Besides the obvious effects we are going to see, this is an awkward habit that can worsen the condition of your lips. Below are the common effects:
Lip licking dermatitis or eczema
To being with, if your lips are already chapped, dry and peeling, licking them will are exposed to saliva to their surface which will worsen these conditions as it creates a wetting and drying effect. Saliva is not a good moisturizer.
If you continue with this habit for a long time, you will end up with condition called lip lickers dermatitis also known as perioral dermatitis. It is due to excess saliva.
This dermatitis can occur in both children and adults and it may have symptoms such as crusting, peeling, fissures, papules, scaling, erythema and defined rings around lips. The rash can spread to inside your mouth and tongue.
To treat lip licking eczema, you can use emollients. However, this would provide a short relief. The symptoms would only disappear completely after the habit has been stopped. The treatment should also take care of resultant symptoms as well as deal with the underlying triggers.
Topical steroids, antibiotics, and more topical treatments may also be used to heal some of the resultant symptoms.
Also, treatment of lip licking dermatitis may involve the application of the natural home products such as aloe vera, drinking sufficient amount of water, olive oil, vitamin E, baking soda and shear butter among others.
Such products moisturize the lips and help in healing the damaged skin. They also contain antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties that would help to prevent any possible infection that may result.
You should also be careful while using them since some of the above natural home products may come with certain side effects. Stop their use if they worsen the symptoms you are already having.
How to stop lip licking
To stop this habit, you should first understand why and when it. Try to understand yourself and avoid stress and anxiety. They could be the cause. After your research, you can use the following tips to break this habit:
Apply bad-tasting products
Putting something having a bad taste on your lips would help you stop licking them. Try applying bad-tasting lip balms, and petroleum jelly. However, be careful, some of these products would also have drying effect or cause some irritation. Make sure your skin is not sensitive to substances you apply.
Change the task
If after your research, you discovered that you lick your lips while performing a specific task, then you can distract yourself. Do something else. These would involve chewing gums, sucking candy etc.
Application of cosmetics can also help in stopping this bad habit. Lipsticks usually don’t taste good and licking them would alter your look. If you keep the habit after applying lipstick, it will ruin your looks something you may not want to happen.
Hydrate your and skin
Since it majorly occurs due to chapped or dry lips. There are several factors and conditions that can lead this dryness, you should avoid them. Make sure you hydrate your skin by drinking sufficient amount of water daily, use natural moisturizers such as aloe vera, coconut oil and shea butter among others on your lips.
Protect yourself when going to the sun. Wear sunscreens when going to the sun. I mean to avoid any condition that would lead to dry them drying.
Deal with allergies and irritants
Try to identify substances and conditions you are allergic to. Also, avoid irritants that can affect your lips and emerge rashes over here. Remember rashes can also push you into this bad habit.
It can be challenging to stop the lip licking habit, especially if it is a compulsive reaction. In such cases, professional therapies would be required to permanently stop the habit.
There are many habit reversal therapists who can help you and give you ways to break way from this bad habit which as we have seen comes with mild to severe symptoms if it becomes chronic.