Prevent Chapped Skin When You Have a Runny Nose

Woman blowing her nose.
Woman blowing her nose.. Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

Having a common cold with a runny nose is the pits! Not only are you not feeling well, but your nose just won't slow down on producing mucus that seems to run out of your nose at the most inopportune times. Not only are you congested, have snot barreling out of your nose, but now you also have a chapped nose and upper lip from constantly blowing your nose. Can it get any worse? Let's review some tips on how to keep your nose and upper lip from becoming chapped and adding to your misery.

What is Causing My Runny Nose

A runny nose is a common symptom that may be experienced for a variety of reasons. Here are some of the most common causes for your runny nose:

Why Does a Runny Nose Cause a Chapped Nose and Lip

When your skin is healthy, the outer layer is composed of 10-15% of water. When you have a runny nose, it is common to be continuously wiping your nose with dry material. This may be clothing, handkerchief, Kleenex, napkins, or anything you can get your hands on. The constant wiping causes skin to slough of and reduce the overall water content of your skin around your nose. Once the water content drops below 10 percent, you skin starts to crack and thus becomes chapped. Chapped skin is easily irritated by dry soaps and other irritating products. The irritated skin looks red and commonly 

Remedies for Chapped Skin

Many different tissue manufacturers have created a variety of soft tissue. Be sure to avoid scented tissues, as the chemicals will be more irritating to your skin. Tissues with aloe and vitamin E will be softer on the skin and when used early on may help prevent chapping of your nose and upper lip.

However wiping the nose with even a soft tissue can lead to chapping. To minimize your risk, try dabbing your nose with the tissue rather than wiping which causes friction against the surface of your skin

Petroleum jelly is a great thing to apply to your upper lip and around the nostrils when you or your child have a runny nose. No matter how soft they try to make tissues, you are likely to get chapped, sore skin when you have a runny nose. You should be cautious when using any petroleum-based product while using supplemental oxygen due to the fact that they are combustible and may cause facial burns.

A & D Ointment is generally thought of as a diaper rash ointment, which you can find in the infant section of your grocery store. It prevents chapped skin the same way it prevents diaper rash by forming an impenetrable layer between nasal drainage and your skin. There is a difference is cost between petroleum jelly and A & D ointment has a distinct smell that may be undesirable to some people.

You may want to experiment before settling on the product that's best for you or your child. It's surprising that these products actually last a while, even with constant wiping with tissues. Just two or three applications is usually enough to save your skin.

Using nasal decongestants, like pseudoephedrine or Afrin nasal spray, can save you a lot of headaches in the long run. Not only will your symptoms of a runny nose slow down (saving you from blowing and wiping your nose, but it may also help you not get a sinus infection. Blowing your nose sends fluid through your nasal passage at high speeds and may actually propel infected fluid into your sinus cavities and cause a sinus infection. Just make sure to not use these types of medications for no more than 3 days, as prolonged use can lead to rebound congestion.


Gwaltney J.M., Hendley J.O., Phillips C.D., Bass C.R., Mygind N. & Winther B. (2000). Nose blowing propels nasal fluid into the paranasal sinuses. Accessed on 2/26/2016 from

Youngson, R.M. (2000). The Royal Society of Medicine Health Encyclopedia. Accessed on 2/26/2016 from (Subscription Required)

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