Everything You Should Know About Actinic Cheilitis

Actinic Cheilitis Treatment: What Is It?

Actinic cheilitis is a common skin condition which causes dryness and scaling of the lips. Other symptoms include redness, swelling, itching, pain and tenderness on the lips. The cause of actinic cheilitis may be viral infection like herpes simplex virus (HSV), Epstein Barr Virus (EBV) or human papillomavirus (HPV). The most common form of actinic cheilitis is HSV type 1. Other forms of actinic cheilitis are caused by other viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites.

The skin cells produce keratin which makes up the outer layer of our skin. Keratin produces a tough barrier around the surface of your body called your dermis. When the barrier is damaged, it allows moisture loss through evaporation from the skin. The damage to your dermis results in scaly patches on your face and lips.

These patches are called cheilitis.

What Are Some Symptoms Of Actinic Cheilitis?

There are several signs and symptoms of actinic cheilitis that may indicate its presence.

These may include:

pain and tenderness on the lips

dry, scaly patches on the lips

cracking of the skin on the lips

blistering or peeling skin on the lips

Burning, swelling and cracking may also be present.

How Is Actinic Cheilitis Diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will gather your medical history and give you a physical examination. This may include a visual inspection of the skin on the lips. Actinic cheilitis can usually be diagnosed by these signs and symptoms. In some cases, your doctor may scrape off a small sample of skin from the affected area to look at it under a microscope. This helps rule out other conditions which may appear similar to actinic cheilitis.

How Is Actinic Cheilitis Treated?

Treatment options for actinic cheilitis may include:

Aloe Vera


Immunosuppressant drugs

Antiviral drugs

Other anti-infective drugs

Lip balm containing petroleum jelly or other emollients

Lip balm with sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15

Sunscreen with SPF of at least 30 or higher

Vitamin A cream

Antibacterial or antifungal ointment

In some cases, no treatment may be required.

How Can I Prevent Actinic Cheilitis?

You can prevent actinic cheilitis by protecting lips from sun exposure. Wear sunglasses and a wide-brimmed hat when going into the sun. Apply broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF of at least 15 every two hours while in the sun. Wear protective clothing and apply sunscreen to any exposed skin.

How Can I Maintain A Healthy Level Of Actinic Cheilitis?

You can maintain a healthy level of actinic cheilitis by following sun safety tips and making healthy lifestyle choices. Getting enough rest and drinking plenty of water can also help prevent actinic cheilitis.

Everyone’s skin is different, so it is important to find the right treatment or prevention plan that works for you. If you are concerned about your actinic cheilitis, contact your doctor immediately.

Sources & references used in this article:

Chronic actinic cheilitis by S AYRES – Journal of the American Medical Association, 1923 – jamanetwork.com

Actinic cheilitis. Treatment with the carbon dioxide laser by BD Zelickson, RK Roenigk – Cancer, 1990 – Wiley Online Library

Microscopically proven cure of actinic cheilitis by CO2 laser by DC Whitaker – Lasers in surgery and medicine, 1987 – Wiley Online Library

Actinic cheilitis: clinicopathologic profile and association with degree of dysplasia by DJ de Santana Sarmento… – International journal …, 2014 – Wiley Online Library

Actinic cheilitis: a review of 152 cases by GE Kaugars, T Pillion, JA Svirsky, DG Page… – Oral Surgery, Oral …, 1999 – Elsevier

Actinic cheilitis: clinical and pathologic characteristics in 65 cases by A Markopoulos, E Albanidou‐Farmaki… – Oral diseases, 2004 – Wiley Online Library

Treatment of actinic cheilitis using photodynamic therapy with methylaminolevulinate: report of three cases by A Hauschild, S Lischner… – Dermatologic …, 2005 – Wiley Online Library

5‐aminolaevulinic acid patch‐photodynamic therapy in the treatment of actinic cheilitis by S Radakovic, A Tanew – … , Photoimmunology & Photomedicine, 2017 – Wiley Online Library