Chronic Lip Licking: Exfoliative Cheilitis…

Chronic Lip Licking is often seen in children and is also referred to as Exfoliative Cheilitis, or Cheilitis Exfoliativa.  The patients develop an exfoliative dermatitis with sharp margins that rims the upper and lower lips…often looking like a clown face as shown in the picture above and below.  The sharp demarcations of the tongue margins are often impressive although similar results can be produced by sucking the upper lip with the lower lip and vice versa.  Saliva is irritating to skin, so chronic saliva exposure for any reason produces an inflammatory reaction.  It is a form of factitial dermatitis and may be seen in attention-seeking behavior or obsessive-compulsive disorders.  It affects both sexes equally.  Less pronounced forms may be seen in lip sucking, lip picking, lip biting and in patients that are mouth breathers.  The patients may complain of tingling, itching and dryness.  Depression and personality disorders have been reported to be associated with Exfoliative Cheilitis.

TREATMENT:  Treatment of any underlying psychological disorder is important and the patient needs to be made aware that it is the process of licking their lips that is the cause.  Moisturizing and use of lip balms is encouraged but results are varied.  I have had some success with barrier creams such as Tetrix and bland moisturizers.  There have been a few case reports of successful use of topical Tacrolimus.  Occasionally, due to tissue breakdown, secondary infections may occur requiring use of topical and at times oral antibiotics.  If you believe your child has this disorder please schedule an appointment with your dermatologist.  To read more about Chronic Lip Licking click HERE and HERE.