Truth time! The explanations for why some people get cracks at the corners of their mouths and other people leave us dissatisfied. Dermatologists have lots of fancy terms for this condition. Angular cheilitis means irritation and inflammation at the corners of the mouth (labial commissures). Other names include perlèche (inflammation with fissures or cracks), cheilosis or angular stomatitis. Whatever the derms call it, sufferers may find it a challenging condition. What most people want to know is how to cure angular cheilitis and keep it away. This reader reports fast success with a combination of an antifungal and corticosteroid cream.
Cure Angular Cheilitis with Monistat and Hydrocortisone:
Q. I had cracked lips with sores at the corners of my mouth. My dermatologist recommended a 1:1 mixture of OTC hydrocortisone cream and Monistat cream.
I put a tiny dab of each on my finger and rubbed them together then applied to the sores and red areas around my lips. That worked great! The sores started healing in a few days.
A. The cause of the painful cracks at the corners of the mouth remains somewhat mysterious. Some experts blame a deficiency in B vitamins or minerals like zinc or iron for angular cheilitis. Others believe the fissures of perlèche are triggered by a yeast overgrowth.
Over-the-counter antifungal creams such as miconazole (Monistat) plus a topical hydrocortisone cream are standard treatments (Journal of the Canadian Dental Association, May 9, 2013). We’re glad this combination worked so well for you. Others report success with different approaches.
Here is another account from a reader:
Q. I saw my doctor because the corners of my mouth were cracked and extremely sore. Imagine my surprise when I read on the prescription label “diaper cream.”
As a former child-care provider, I am aware that lots of diaper rashes are caused by a fungal infection. The cream helped clear up my mouth within a few weeks.
My doctor also recommended a B-complex vitamin. Since starting it, I have had no further problems with the corners of my mouth.
A. A. There is no single explanation for those very painful cracks at the corners of the mouth. Doctors may blame them on yeast overgrowth or a vitamin deficiency. Antifungal creams such as miconazole are often effective. OTC hydrocortisone may also speed healing.
Aquaphor for Bleeding Cracks:
Q. My son had angular cheilitis for a couple of years. Sometimes it would get so bad that the corners of his mouth would bleed during the night.
I read about using Aquaphor, an over-the-counter lip balm, for this. It worked beautifully! My son was at the dentist recently when we noticed that he was getting it again and the dentist recommended Aquaphor. I told him we had several tubes at home. Once again, it did the job!
A. Sometimes these sores at the corners of the mouth are caused by yeast overgrowth. Sealing out moisture can help, and your lip moisturizer should do that. Aquaphor Lip Repair Ointment contains castor oil, shea butter and beeswax as well as vitamin E, vitamin C, magnesium and a chamomile compound, bisabolol, along with moisturizers.
Castor oil discourages the growth of yeast (Candida albicans) and some bacteria (BMC Research Notes, Dec. 1, 2017). Bisabolol also has antifungal activity (World Journal of Microbiology & Biotechnology, March 2017).
Another reader found that a change in diet provided a cure for angular cheilitis:
“Nothing worked for me until for unrelated reasons I completely cut added sugar from my diet. Then the symptoms just went away. Interestingly, over time my toenail fungus also disappeared – as did many other minor ailments.”
Reducing sugar in the diet may make skin less vulnerable to yeast infections.
Other Ways to Cure Angular Cheilitis:
Not all cases of perlèche or cheilosis are caused by a fungal infection. Sometimes a vitamin or mineral deficiency can be a contributing factor. Here are some anecdotes from readers:
Liz S. Offers this trial-and-error approach:
“Angular cheilitis (AC) has caused me persistent problems for about two years. I have tried many remedies and have finally found what works for me. I have tried everything from honey on my lips to probiotics to B supplements to D supplements. Everything helped a little for a little bit of time but the AC always came back.
“The raw local honey worked at first, then we went out of the country and I had like a 14 hour (dry air) flight. That left my lips in the worst condition ever. Plus I didn’t have access to local honey, so I thought what is honey high in. I purchased a B vitamin complex which did help, but it made me not be able to sleep (I later found out some of my B levels were too high because of the supplement).
“My doctor tested me for a D deficiency. I was extremely low with a level of 19. Vitamin D3 supplements helped somewhat, but my lips would still get bad on occasion. I started to mess around with different B vitamins that I didn’t have a high level while supplementing. As it turned out, vitamin B2 (riboflavin) helped a lot. I ran out and had to wait while some was being ordered, so I researched what foods are high in B2. Raw almonds, yogurt, and milk were all high. I’m not much of a milk drinker, so I started eating a lot of almonds and yogurt.
“I pretty much now eat a handful of almonds (10-12) every day and about a cup of Stonyfield farms organic vanilla yogurt. NO MORE LIP PROBLEMS!!! It was awful when I had it.
“No lip balm would work. They actually made it worse. I felt like I looked diseased.”
“I hope this helps someone else. If you do opt to supplement, have your doctor watch your levels. Too much of any vitamin can be a bad thing! Foods are the best source of vitamins.”
R.J. in California used old-fashioned rubbing alcohol:
“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.”
Cathy in Toronto tried coconut oil for her picky eater:
“My seven-year-old has had this condition for well over a year. Sometimes it seemed to get better, but AC would always return. A doctor told her to put Vaseline on it, but that 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 due to being a picky eater. On a whim, we decided to try putting coconut oil on it twice a day, after brushing. I had read about the many benefits of coconut oil. It has antiviral and antibacterial activity.
“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 three months doing this, and the lesions are 95% healed. Until she starts eating better, we’ll continue applying the oil.”
Beware Some Lip Balms:
Visitors to this website have reported that some lip balms may actually make angular cheilitis worse. Lip licking is another contributor. Read about this Catch 22 at this link.
Castor Oil and Other Remedies to Cure Angular Cheilitis:
Here’s an odd remedy that several people report works: castor oil! We saw above that it is an important ingredient in Aquaphor Lip Repair Ointment, which helped a reader’s son.
If you would like to read about other suggestions, here is a link to our most popular article on how to cure angular cheilitis with home remedies:
Share your own experience with a cure for angular cheilitis in the comment section below. Thanks for helping others find a solution to this vexing problem.