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Antifungal Cream for Cracks in the Corners of the Mouth

One reader found that cracks in the corners of the mouth disappeared when treated with athletes' foot cream. Others find that changing toothpaste makes a difference.

Have you ever been troubled with cracks in the corners of the mouth? Many people have. When tracking down the cause of this condition (also called angular cheilitis or perlèche), you may wish to consider vitamin deficiency or an infection. Some people suffer repeated fungal infections that make the cracks in the corners of the mouth red and sore.

Athlete’s Foot Cream for Angular Cheilitis:

Q. I use over-the-counter athlete’s foot cream from the dollar store as an overnight remedy for cracks in the corners of the mouth. I finally figured this out for myself after many years of relying upon lip balm alone.

A. You are describing angular cheilitis (AKA perlèche). It is sometimes caused by moisture trapped in the corners of the mouth. This can lead to overgrowth of fungus. That’s why an antifungal cream for athlete’s foot can sometimes help this condition.

Deficiencies as a Cause:

This painful and unsightly condition can also be caused by nutritional deficiencies. You should be checked to see whether you are getting enough B vitamins, iron and zinc.

Barbara left this comment:

“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.”

Are You Inadvertently Causing the Cracks in the Corners of the Mouth?

Occasionally, people discover that they are using a product that contributes to symptoms of angular cheilitis. One reader wrote to us about toothpaste.

Q. Many years ago I had severely cracked corners of my mouth. It really made my mouth sore.

I discovered quite by accident that it was caused by an ingredient in the toothpaste I was using. When I changed brands the problem disappeared.

Many Causes of Angular Cheilitis:

A. Angular cheilitis (perlèche) is the term doctors give to painful cracks in the corners of the mouth. They can be triggered by a reaction to chemicals in sunscreen, cinnamon or toothpaste.

Betty reported:

“I tend to suffer from these cracks as well. Many toothpastes make my mouth burn, so I know I am sensitive to them. I now use just plain Colgate which seems to be ok. But I still occasionally get these cracks, so I have found that dabbing Listerine on them will clear them up quickly.”

Sherri noted:

“After having the cracks and roughness at the corners of my mouth for a while, my dermatologist told me to stop using toothpaste with a tartar control element. He suggested Arm & Hammer. He mentioned that lots of folks are allergic the tartar control ingredient. I followed his advice and no more cracks.”

Cindy found that toothpaste with SLS caused her problems:

“Have had ulcers in mouth, on & around lips for years. Seems like when one would just heal, another would appear somewhere else. Heard Dr. Oz casually mention that some people may be allergic to SLS (Sodium Laryl Sulfate) in toothpaste. I changed toothpaste – no more ulcers.

“Then I got to thinking about my years of complexion problems (80 yr old) – was using Neutrogena to cleanse face at the time (had tried many). Sure ’nuff its in most cleansing products! Like magic, first time ever, my skin completely cleared up when I limited my use to non-SLS products!! Used an older hand lotion with out checking and hands turned red, and became very swollen – yep, SLS.”

Mary agreed:

“Yes, toothpaste can make your mouth sore! Especially if you have a dry mouth, as in Sjogren’s Syndrome. I’ve experimented with various toothpastes and found that those that contain SLS (sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate) not only make my mouth sore/burning, but also cause the skin (mucosa?) inside my mouth to slough off in small white sheets. Another ingredient in toothpaste can also cause burning in my mouth: mint flavoring. Again, for me, this is due to my Sjogren’s Syndrome dry mouth.”

Coconut Oil Made a Difference:

This doesn’t work for everyone, of course.

We heard, however, from a mother who found a different approach to treating her daughter’s perlèche:

“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 sense since her diet is poor. She is a picky eater.

“On a whim, we decided to try putting coconut oil on it twice a day, after brushing. I’d read up on the many benefits of coconut oil being anti-viral, anti bacterial, etc…

“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.”

8/26/19 redirected to: https://www.peoplespharmacy.com/articles/do-you-need-advice-on-angular-cheilitis/

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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