5 simple fixes for beard irritation in the corner of the mouth

When you grow a beard, irritation comes with the territory. However, the irritation can become so bad that you end up considering shaving off your beard when it could be nothing to do with your furry face, friend. The corners of your mouth are particularly prone to irritation. Irritation in the corner of your mouth can be caused by hairs, dryness, fungal infections and more.

Fixing the irritation in the corner of your mouth involves using an antifungal cream that contains steroids or zinc oxide, using petroleum jelly, or utilising a stubble softener and trimming the hair short towards the corner of your mouth.

The irritation you have in the corners of your mouth may not be caused by your beard at all.

Angular cheilitis is a condition that causes red and swollen patches in the corners of your mouth. You can get it on one side of your mouth, or it can spread to both sides simultaneously.

The main symptoms of this condition are irritation and soreness in the corners of your mouth, which may be:

  • bleeding,
  • cracked,
  • itchy,
  • swollen,
  • crusty,
  • painful

Your lips can feel dry and uncomfortable, and the irritation can be so strong that it may feel like they are burning. The thing that will cause this to worsen is if you continually lick and touch the corners of your mouth.

Typically this condition is caused by saliva that builds up in the corners of your mouth. As it dries, it wicks out the moisture from underneath the skin and causes a dry area. Because you will feel like licking your lips often to soothe your cracked skin, the increased moisture in the corners of your mouth causes a fungus to grow. The fungus is the cause of the infection.

It is typically caused by yeast, and treatment involves antibacterial steroid cream and antifungal medication.

Added risk factors

Irritation in the corners of your mouth may be increased by having a beard as it helps keep the area moist and prone to fungal infection.

Besides having a beard, there are several other added risk factors such as:

  • medications
  • autoimmune conditions
  • age
  • the weather
  • having braces
  • smoking
  • having a low nutritional value in your food

Suppose you start to notice that your beard irritates the corners of your mouth, and there is nothing you can do to alleviate the symptoms. In that case, you should consider reaching out to your trusted health professionals so that they can provide you with the appropriate medicated cream.

Sometimes bacterial and fungal infections require real medication and a much more robust medical intervention.

Why the corner of the mouth is a problem

The corners of your mouth are particularly sensitive to changes in moisture because of the amount of skin, hair, and moisture that comes together to a fine point.

Dryness

Dry wintry conditions can cause issues in the corner of the mouth. When your lips and skin gets particularly dry, so does your beard. The combination of dry, sensitive skin and harsh, wiry beard hair can easily cause the corners of your mouth to become irritated.

On the other end of the spectrum, low humidity in a hot climate can increase the chances of you suffering from dryness in the corners of your mouth if you are in a particularly hot and warm climate. Ensuring that you hydrate regularly and use appropriate skin protection will be your best bet at fighting any dryness in the corners of your mouth.

High hair density

The corner of your mouth is surrounded by skin and hair growth which protrude in many different directions.

This part of the face is the intersection between the moustache, cheek line, and chin growth. The massive number of beard growth directions and the high concentration of beard hairs in the area can mean more hairs can irritate the skin.

Moist area

The corner of the mouth is an area where a lot of salivae can become trapped. The evaporation which would naturally occur can be restricted if you have a layer of beard hairs covering the corners of your mouth.

The moist area allows for increased fungal growth, and the dryness combined with fungal growth can cause particularly red and sore parts of your mouth.

Having a significant amount of moisture in the corners of your mouth can be alleviated by using a handkerchief and by regularly using napkins after eating or drinking.

In order to fix irritation in the corner of your mouth, look at the steps below.

Fixes for irritation in the corner of your mouth

if you have irritation in the corner of your mouth and you suspect your beard causes it, you can use products to soften the beard hairs so that they are not as spiky or rigid. On the other hand, if you suspect that the dryness has caused a fungal infection, you should treat it with an antifungal or steroid cream.

Let’s take a look at the fixes for beard irritation in the corner of your mouth below.

Antifungal crème

Treating irritation in the corner of your mouth may involve topical treatments with inflammation-reducing steroids and zinc oxide. Zinc oxide has antifungal properties and provides an environmental barrier to protect the skin during healing.

Antifungal medication such as Nystatin can be used to treat suspected fungal infections.

The main purpose of using an antifungal cream is to clear out the infection and keep the corners of your mouth as dry as possible.

If you find that the antifungal medication doesn’t quite fix the problem, you may want to put petroleum jelly on the inflamed areas that protect your mouth from moisture so that the sores can heal.

Take preventative measures

Being on the front foot of any potential soreness and irritation in the corners of your mouth may mean increasing your dental hygiene by daily brushing and flossing and carrying with you a clean handkerchief to remove the moisture that may build up in the corners of your mouth.

It’s easier said than done, but stopping yourself from playing with the corners of your mouth with your tongue and making sure that you do not touch the corners of your mouth or pick at them when they become dry will be the fastest route to recovery and to help the skin heal fully.

Use a stubble softener

If you find that your stubble or short beard is irritating prickling, you should consider softening the hair around your mouth by using products and mechanical rounding of sharp hairs.

I go through all of your options in my YouTube video below.

If your stubble is relatively fresh, it can certainly irritate the skin as it emerges from the hair root. Sometimes, hair can become trapped in the hair follicle, causing ingrown hair, resulting in uncomfortable and painful skin conditions.

Some people have very acute angle growth – this means that it is growing parallel to the surface of the skin – which causes a significant amount of ingrown hairs. It can also impact the shape of the head causing it to curl inwards as it is growing which can cause irritation on the surface of the skin.

The approaches to dealing with sharp stubble include using a mechanical stubble softening pad or using various products to hydrate and nourish the stubble so that it isn’t as stiff or spiky as it touches the skin surface.

You can soothe the skin around the corners of your mouth by using the following products which can help calm down redness and itchiness.

Banyan Botanicals Soothing Skin Balm$22/4 ozLink to product
CW Beggs and Sons Sensitive Skin Moisturizer for Men$24/2.5 ozLink to product
Liz Claiborne Curve for Men Skin Soother  $25/4.2 ozLink to product

Stubble can also be tamed by using a product to rub off the sharp ends of your hair.

There is a product called The Soft Goat, a hypoallergenic pad that dulls sharp edges from trimming and shaving when rubbed on stubble. It is the first stubble softener that doesn’t rely on the absorption of a product into the stubble.

Condition your beard

Softening the beard hair in the corners of your mouth will also help tremendously.

My preference is to use individual ingredients rather than a mixture of ingredients. However, I have tried several commercially available beard conditioners and found them effective at conditioning my beard.

If you only want to use one product, my recommendation is to stick to the following individual ingredients:

  • Shea butter is readily absorbed by beard hair and can quickly condition the stubble and hair, so it is not as stiff as it contacts the skin in the corner of your mouth.
  • Coconut oil – coconut oil has become a popular ingredient in my beard care journey, and using a little bit of heat to improve the absorption could help. There is plenty of science to show that it seeps deep into the hair.

If you want to know more about softening uncomfortable stubble, check out my other article – click here – where I go through everything you need to know about softening beard hair. Some of the home remedies may surprise you, and you may have them in your cupboard already.

How do you soften stubble

Cut the hair shorter

To stop the irritation at the corners of your mouth, I would recommend trimming up the corners of your mouth so that the hair no longer contact the skin when your mouth is closed or moving.

The corners of my mouth and the moustache above the corners of my mouth are regularly trimmed. However, it can be difficult to push the lower line of the moustache far enough out so that the hair doesn’t touch my bottom lip or the corners of my mouth.

I find myself subconsciously licking the corners of my mouth as this is an area where beard hairs contact from my moustache and upper lip.

Cutting the hair is shorter so that the moustache line sits slightly above the top lip will ensure that the corners of your mouth do not get irritated by hairs.

Trial different lengths at the corners of your mouth to clear out a little gap so that there is no irritation when your mouth is fully closed.

Stop it from coming back

If you have managed to get rid of the dryness and irritation in the corners of your mouth, there are a couple of things that you can do to stop it from coming back.

Trimming and maintenance

Regular trimming and maintenance of your moustache and beard – particularly in the corners of your mouth – will be the only way to ensure that the beard hairs do not touch the corners of your mouth. It will also stop any natural moisture from evaporating from the extreme point created when your lips come together.

Trimming up your moustache and beard at least once a fortnight will keep on top of the growth and ensure that the hairs do not end up becoming too long.

Stay hydrated

Stay as hydrated as possible to lessen the dryness, particularly in low humidity or cold winter weather.

Drinking water regularly throughout the day will not only help make your beard better, but will also help you keep away the dreaded irritation at the corners of your mouth

Good hygiene

Good oral hygiene and using soap to clean your beard and the skin underneath the beard will help you keep fungal infections at bay.

At night try applying a moisturiser that contains petroleum jelly around your lips, which can help prevent saliva from disrupting the outer layer of your skin. I am an open mouth sleeper, and I have found that this tip helps keep my lips dry and irritation-free.

Try to stop touching any irritation as you may be making it worse with your fingers or tongue.

The final word

This article covered all of the simple fixes for solving beard irritation in the corner of your mouth. You may be suffering from angular cheilitis, which will have nothing to do with the beard growth other than the beard hairs potentially stopping the moisture from evaporating away from the corners of your mouth.

Ensuring that your oral hygiene is kept up to scratch and keeping yourself hydrated will help you minimise the number of cracks and amount of irritation that you experience in the corners of your mouth.

The Author


Andy Stapleton

Andy is a writer and YouTuber with a PhD in science. He has written and/or produced videos for Science Alert, COSMOS magazine, and Australia's Science Channel among others. He is an avid beard grower and after many years of growing and trialing different beard styles, he started this blog to share the tips, tricks, and science that he has learned along the way!