Q. I struggled with a condition called angular cheilitis for 60 years. From the time I was five years old until two years ago I had redness, irritation and cracks at the corners of my mouth.
When my family doctor tested my vitamin D level the result came back showing that I was highly deficient. My score was 12. I believe 20 is considered barely normal and 30 to 50 is optimal.
My doctor had me start taking 2,000 IU of the vitamin D3 and the first thing I noticed was that the corners of my mouth were no longer cracking and sore or bleeding. Since then I have continued to take 2,000 IUs and have had a flare-up only once, when I was traveling and neglected to take my pills.
I mentioned the connection between vitamin D and angular cheilitis on a recent visit to a dermatologist, and he dismissed what I told him, saying it was rare for vitamin D to help something like this. Perhaps I am a rare bird, but I swear that taking vitamin D has healed what was a lifelong problem for me.

A. Cracks in the corner of the mouth can be incredibly uncomfortable. These splits can crust over or bleed if they go deep enough. The medical terms for this condition include:

  • Angular cheilitis
  • Perleche
  • Cheilosis
  • Angular stomatitis

It is not entirely clear what causes these fissures to form, though nutritional deficiencies are sometimes blamed. Low levels of vitamin B2 (riboflavin) are sometimes suspected as a contributing factor. Ditto for zinc and iron. We have not heard of a link between low levels of vitamin D and angular cheilitis. We did find one fascinating study, however, demonstrating that a vitamin D ointment called calcipotriol (Dovonex) that is used to treat psoriasis worked extremely well to treat a somewhat similar condition called leukoplakia (white patches on gums or tongue).
Doctors also believe that a fungal infection (Candida albicans) may contribute to both angular cheilitis and leukoplakia. Bacteria may also play a role in the lesions in the corner of the mouth. That may be why Listerine with its high alcohol content and anti-fungal essential oils may help some people. Here are some other stories from visitors to this site:

“I used to suffer from these painful, raw cracks in corners of my mouth. My dentist suggested I use an inexpensive over-the-counter anti-fungus cream (such as athlete’s foot cream). Within a week the cracks healed, and I haven’t been bothered since.”

“I have had angular cheilitis for about a year and a half now. I went to my Dr. after 3 months of trying numerous things to heal my mouth. I told her that I thought it was angular cheilitis after researching it. She laughed at me and said that the last time she saw something like that, it was an allergy to some food. She gave me an antibiotic which did nothing and then another prescription (I don’t even remember what it was) that also did nothing. I was miserable.
“I went for my regular dental check up and told my dentist. She told me that it was angular cheilitis and gave me a prescription for nystatin and triamcinolone acetonide. It cleared it up right away. She also told me that many people that get this seem to be low in iron. I had already started taking a multivitamin with iron. The medication cleared it up but it continually comes back. I would really like to get rid of it for good. I take Vitamin B Complex every morning and a multivitamin with iron at night.
“I have tried all kinds of “remedies” including: apple cider vinegar on the corners of my mouth, Mentholatum on them, changing my toothbrush and my toothpaste, using moisturizer on my lips, cold sore medication, and anything else I’ve read. This condition is miserable and I would love to get rid of it permanently.”

“I had the same problem & found that each morning I could put rubbing alcohol on a tissue and blot each mouth corner and I still do this 1 or 2 times a week & have had no re-occurrence in the last 4-5 years.”


“Several decades ago, my grandmother suffered from cracked skin at the corners of her mouth. She was found to be deficient in riboflavin, as I recall.”

“I used to have this all the time until I started using the cracks as a indicator that I needed more Vit B – now if cracks start to develop I take one “balanced B” vitamin and by the next day the cracks are either gone or on their way out.”

“Suggestion: put on Listerine (or Vicks VapoRub – outside/external area) mouth wash several time a day on the craks. It is both antifungal and antibacterial. After a week or so the problem should be gone.”

“I tried many lip soothers, sticks, and balms, for months to heal chapped, cracked lips. I even got a prescription for Duke’s ‘Magic Mouthwash.’ Nothing completely healed my lips. I read your newspaper article about Mentholatum ointment and I tried it on my cracked, chapped, sore lower lip for about a week. It healed it and the lip looks and feels normal.”

“I asked my dentist to prescribe something after suffering for a couple of weeks with cracks in the corner or my mouth. I had been using Aquaphor a medicated salve. He prescribed an anti fungal cream. So the Listerine and Vicks sound like a good answer. I take a multi B vitamin every day so don’t think I have a deficiency.”

“I don’t have any immune problems and am a 31-yr-old healthy individual. I however occasionally suffer from angular cheilitis (I’ve had 3 episodes in the last 3 or 4 years). I think I am just prone to this type of fungal infection.
By sheer luck and experimentation I learned that applying old-fashioned amber Listerine to the affected area helps clear up the problem within a few days. I once got a prescription for anti-fungal cream from a doctor and Listerine even outperformed that!”

If you would like to learn more about vitamin D and the way to test for deficiency of this nutrient and optimal levels to take, we offer our Guide to Vitamin D Deficiency. It is available for download for $2. You may also find our Guide to Unique Uses of Vicks of value.
We would love to hear your story about tips for healing dry lips and angular cheilitis. You can comment below so others can benefit from your experience.

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  1. Wanda
    Shallotte, NC

    I’ve had this problem occasionally over the years, but in this last year it has been more frequent. I was reading this article to get some ideas of what it is & how to treat it. It was suggesting Listerine, etc. So, with that in mind the bottle of Germ-x hand sanitizer was glaring me in the face (I keep it on my desk, year round!). I put a little on a tissue & dabbed the corners & thought my hair was going to come off my head BUT it immediately stopped hurting, even looked better when I went to the restroom to cry (!).

    It is almost completely clear today! I put more on this morning & I will do another ‘dab’ this evening before I go home. Germ-x is 63% alcohol so maybe that is the common ingredient in all of these remedies. Whatever works, right? —Wanda, North Carolina

  2. R.J.

    Thanks to L.H.! I tried rubbing alcohol on an annoying sore that I’d had on the corner of my mouth for about six weeks and it was gone within a week. I did apply the rubbing alcohol a few times a day using either a q-tip or a cotton ball.

  3. Rosie

    I started having this problem a few years ago. For me, the cause is just a bit of normal skin aging and a slight angle down rather than up at the corners of my mouth. Drool then sits in the corners, probably mostly at night. That causes an infection due to the constant moisture.

    My Dermatologist knew what it was and gave me a bag of samples. One of the creams is a barrier cream. I dry the area and put this on at night and it gets a bit better. I also tried a little amount of dermal filler in the corners of my mouth. That did solve the moisture from pooling. Unfortunately, they aremexpensivemand considered cosmetic so you pay for it.

    I have put medicated powder on and that seems to help. I like,the drying-out ideas but…… OUCH! Doesn’t rubbing alcohol and Listering sting like heck??? (Vinegar dressing on a salad can send me through the roof.

    I have lapsed on my vitamin taking including a multi (for the B) and D so I’ll add them back in. Since I take GERD medication, it lessens absorption of some Vitamins and minerals so I have to take higher amounts.

    It could be a saliva pH thing too. (That would explain stomach problems and too much sugar making things worse.

    Good luck to all!

  4. Stephanie

    I’ve gotten this a few times and this last time was the worst! Kept bleeding and I could barely eat or even open my mouth for a month. I tried everything from that silver cream to yeast/anti fungal creams.

    On a whim, I bought “Smile’s PRID drawing salve” yesterday and it’s finally healing! It’s homeopathic and I finally have relief! Was $8 at CVS and can be used on other things like acne for “drawing out” infections of the skin.

  5. Harriet

    Had this condition for 4 yrs it started after dentist visit has been on going sinceDr said it was fungal. And I’ve been using nystain went to Dr today started allergy test as soon as I stop using cream it comes. back had gastric by pass 12 yrs ago forgot to tell him that have to go back in 3 was for results of test it is Grey annoying. And painful I think I’ll try the listerine andwet one wipes

  6. bette

    . thank all of you. I have the corner cracks. I went and got iron and B complect pills. I ate chicken livers. I got claritin, but have not taken it yet. The things that are working best are listerine
    and vix vapor rub. They both have anti- bacteria and anti fungal agents in them. You can feel them working right off. I have used the vix to get rid of toenail fungus.

  7. Girasole

    It seems there are as many reasons for angular cheilitis as there are blog posts.

    I began suffering with angular cheilitis after experiencing severe intestinal issues. I was originally diagnosed with chronic pancreatitis but that turned out to be an inaccurate diagnosis. I have a medicine cabinet filled with creams and oinments. The only product that would heal it was Terrasil. It would be gone for a while, but would return – always after an intestinal upset. I up’d my vitamin D and B-complex and started taking a prenatal multi to make sure that I was not deficient. Nothing seemed get rid of it until I started treating myself for leaky gut. Once I started taking L-Glutamine and eating a modified gluten free diet it went away – along with my intestinal issues.

    Of course, ALWAYS check with a doctor or nutritionalist before doing or taking anything. Perhaps there is some truth to the belief that everything begins in the gut.

  8. Clark

    I see a lot of you are saying you’re taking multi-vitamins or specific vitamins. The problem is, most of the over the counter brands of vitamins are made up of mostly “filler”. Your body doesn’t absorb the nutritional value that’s on the label because of the way the vitamins/minerals were processed.
    I have used a certain brand for years and since starting I never get sick. Not even a cold. I changed my eating habits and now I don’t have seasonal allergies anymore as well. I would suggest looking for higher quality nutritional supplements. :)

  9. Jen

    I have suffered from dry, redness, cracked lips for 7 or so years now. It will go away and then come back again, this year it was gone, I was feeling so much better. But it came back, again. I don’t feel the same, it’s hard for me to talk, smile and eat. I have tried medication in the past, nothing has worked, such as antibiotics…fungi cream, Vaseline…ect..I would like the best advice on how to treat this…

  10. Georgie

    I have suffered with angular cheilitus for some time. My doctor tested my blood back in March and noted I had a severe vit d deficiency. I was prescribed a supplement and I have not suffered with it since!

  11. Eric

    Vitamin d and its gone. Within 48 hours.

  12. Barbara Kallas

    I used to get cracks in the corners of my mouth. Very painful. I was told it was a vitamin b deficiency. Since I started taking vitamin b supplements I haven’t had even ONE crack.

  13. Beth
    United States

    It may be nutritional… I did as grandma said, 1T peanut butter (just ground nuts, NO additives) as long as I have my T of Peanut Butter per day, the problem stays away.

  14. Cathy

    My seven year old has had this condition for well over a year. Sometimes it seemed to get better, but would always return. A doctor told her to put Vaseline on it, but it just made it worse. Her dentist thought it was a vitamin or iron deficiency causing it, and this makes since since her diet is poor due to being a picky eater. On a whim, we decided to try putting coconut oil on it twice a day, after brushing. Read up on the many benefits of coconut oil being anti-viral, anti bacterial, ect… The lesions started healing right away. If she doesn’t apply it, however, it seems to return, so we make sure to reapply twice a day. It has now been perhaps 3 months doing this, and the lesions are 95% healed. Until she starts eating better, we’ll continue applying the oil. Please comment if this works for others, too.

    • Girasole

      My prob was directly related to intestinal issues. I started eating gluten free (mostly) and made sure to eat coconut and non-fat greek yogurt (easily sweetened with organic jams). My angular cheilitis and intestinal issues went away. Terrasil was the only ointment that I found to completly hear the lesions. I sure hope your daughter is doing better.

  15. Carol
    Birmingham uk

    Got cracks each side of mouth since an operation 12monthes ago on my colon I have been putting on cold sore cream with a cotton bud and the cracks have closed up but still red have not used lipstick for months ,but reading the comments about it iam going to try vodka on a cotton bud in the morning

  16. Alan

    Having the cracked lips at the corner of your mouth is a bacterial or yeast infection and has nothing to do with a vitamin deficiency. Wet Ones antibacterial wipes will clear up the issue.

    • Terry Graedon

      There are many possible causes for the cracked sores at the corners of the mouth. Infections are often implicated, but vitamin deficiencies can also be involved.

  17. BD

    I had these cracks and dabbing on the left side of my mouth and read a few people’s comments on here and it sounded just like what I had. I dabbed my mouth in the AM and right before bed with listerine and then I put neosporin on the area and within three days it is significantly better almost gone. Make sure to put neosporin on a couple times a day. This helped keep it lubricated so it doesn’t crack open again. Make sure not to pick at it either. I wanted to share this because I didnt know exactly how to treat it and started with lots of Chapstick and that wasn’t working. I hope this helps someone! :)

  18. marco

    Angular chelitis could be a joke, but it could also be a very serious affair.
    It could be linked to Candida, which in turn could be the result of a leaky gut. This condition, if not immediately diagnosed and treated, could in time degenerate, affecting many other organs such as the liver for example. Basically the gut’s main job is to seal toxins, bacteria, and food residues away from the blood stream. If it leaks, these will enter the blood stream and will trigger the immune defense system. With time, they will degenerate, handing some of the work to the liver!

    • Frita

      I have gotten Angular Cheilitis after taking anti-biotics. They are known to damage or reduce the flora in the mouth, causing the bacteria to run rampant or a virus to set in. Your dentist can give you a prescription for Nystatin liquid, which you swish in your mouth 3 times a day, along with Nystatin ointment $4, to apply on your effected lip area. Takes about 4 days to heal, but this really works.

  19. chris
    Hong Kong

    I had this for about 20 years. About 5 years ago for unrelated reasons I decided to give up all added sugar & white flour. Bingo it has not returned since. As an aside giving up sugar & white flour also cleared up a myriad of other health issues, the big one being frequent migraines but also minor annoyances you may associate with growing older like toe nail fungus, a big belly, blocked sinuses, lots of gunk in the corners of my eyes, wheezing when exercising, nighttime leg cramps, dandruff. Totally eliminating these two items means no packaged food items so I’ve also removed almost all food additives which no doubt has much to with it. Hard to do yes (at least initially), I need to spend more time on food preparation but boy I am fitter, slimmer and have more energy than when I was in my mid twenties (now 50).

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