A READER ASKS: I’ve had problems all winter with dry, cracked lips which often feel very sore. I’ve switched to a moisturising lipstick and have tried several different types of lip balm, but nothing seems to make any difference. What would you recommend?

DR ROSEMARY SAYS: Winter weather can be unkind to any exposed skin as the combination of being outside in cold air then going into dry, heated indoor rooms can make it feel dehydrated. That is why it’s normal to feel you need to use more moisturiser at this time of year.

The skin of the lips is much thinner than that on the rest of the face and does not contain any oil-producing glands. This can make them very vulnerable to cracking and peeling.

Unfortunately, both lipsticks and lip balms can contain chemicals such as pigments, perfumes, lanolin and vitamin E that can cause allergic reactions. Some lips also react to almond, peppermint or coconut oils.

So, although you may like lipstick or balm that smells or tastes nice, it is better to use one that is unfragranced and as simple as possible, such as petroleum jelly.

Avoid wearing lipstick as much as possible, unless it is an old favourite that has never caused you problems before.

It can be difficult to avoid subconsciously biting loose skin on the lips, so it can be helpful to gently exfoliate this away before applying lip balm.

Covering your lips with a scarf when you are outside can help protect them from the harsh winter elements too.

Occasionally, persistent dryness and peeling can be due to a fungal infection, especially if the corners of the mouth are also cracked, so if the problem persists make sure you speak to a pharmacist or your GP.

● If you have a health question for Dr Leonard, email her in confidence at [email protected]. She regrets she cannot enter into personal correspondence or reply to everyone

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