Allergic contact cheilitis is a form of allergic contact dermatitis that affects the lips. It looks like an eczema-type inflammation on the outer edge of the lips and is due to a type IV hypersensitivity reaction following contact with an allergen. The lips may also itch or burn.
Angular Cheleitis is an inflammation that leaves nasty, coldsore-like symptoms at the corners of the mouth.
Allergens triggering this reaction include lipsticks and lip glosses, sunscreens, toothpaste and dental hygiene products like floss, toothpicks, mouthwash etc. Metals, particularly nickel and the metal in musical instruments, the metal casings of lipsticks or habitual sucking of the end of a pen or other metal object are common allergens. Food, medicines, nail varnish and latex gloves can also lead to the development of lip cheilitis.
As you might expect, the allergens vary in different age groups and by gender. So lipsticks and lip glosses are the most common allergen source in women, and toothpastes in men. Cheilitis as a reaction to food mainly affects children whereas medications are a common source of allergic contact cheilitis reactions in the elderly.Toothpaste, dental materials, mouth washes and oral hygiene products cause cheleitis in all age groups.
Often the lipstick or toothpaste or suspected item is not in itself the culprit but contains a flavouring, preservative or fragrance to which the sufferer has become allergic, sometimes after prolonged use.
Patch-testing carried out in hospital or allergy clinic will identify the cause of the cheilitis, but the only treatment is complete avoidance of the allergen.