Red Wine Mouth: When Your Lips Get As Ugly As Your Issues With Alcohol

Anyone remember Heather? Our guest blogger from July with the iPhone and Red Sox-obsessed boyfriend? Well, she's still alive and kicking... and drinking her sorrows away as her beau continues to tap away at his favorite gadget and follow the off-season administrations of his favorite team. Below, she checks in to tell us how her winter is shaping up. Or, rather, passing out.

Last Friday night, various Jezebels and other Gawker Media employees gathered together for the company holiday party, where everyone drank enough to feel comfortable talking to bosses and other people who otherwise only exist over IM. For me, that meant countless glasses of red wine, so many, in fact, that the night ended with me passing out on my bathroom floor, curled up in the blackout fetus position. One look in my mirror the following morning made me realize that I had a lot more to be embarrassed about than my stumbling around the night before: Red-Wine Mouth. It's an issue that's familiar to any average alcohol-loving, dry-lipped woman, and yet no one at the party could bear to tell me the bitter (well, Burgandy-tasting) truth. Now it's Wednesday, and I'm still dealing with the chappy fallout. (Yes, it's that bad. Allow me to explain.



The problem always sets in once the weather cools off. When flip-flop season ends, red-wine drinking begins, and I spend the ensuing fall and winter months guzzling grenache or anything else I can get my hands on. I wish I could say I drink lightly or sip with maturity, but if that were the case I'd not be writing for this website. Frankly, it's rare that I'll have less than three glasses in a given evening (which perhaps is an issue best explored in another column) and thus it's guaranteed that, within a short matter of time, the inside of my lips will adopt an unfortunate purplish hue, and my teeth will be left crying out for a late-night heart-to-heart with some White Strips.

In the most innocent and nascent stages, Red-Wine Mouth doesn't have to be a big deal: the slurry mulberry mouth is more or less unavoidable, unless you're one of those self-righteous assholes who laps at a glass of water with each sip of wine. But true angst lies in the advanced stages of Red-Wine Mouth, when the wine begins to stain the outside of your lips. Normally you'd wipe your mouth every once in awhile to avoid that filmy buildup that invariably appears either on or around your mouth, but you're enjoying yourself too much to remember to stay on top of such matters. What happens next is when things turn tragic: you go to the bathroom, look in the mirror, and rub your lips to get the shit off. Upon a second trip to the bathroom, however, you will note that, despite your efforts to wipe your mouth every few minutes so as to avoid another black-gunk incident, your red-wine mouth has now become a dark stain. In fact, by inadvertently rubbing the skin off your lips, you've left your kisser with nothing but raw skin standing between it and your drink, and now the wine has stained your skin. There's no rubbing you can do — but on the bright side, your raw, stained lips mean that you won't have much gunk to contend with for the rest of the night!

But oh, what you will wake up to. You may have managed to brush your teeth before bed, but that doesn't matter. Last night's purple lips are this morning's brown spots, and you look like you've got some sort of advanced retrovirus all over your mouth. Alas, by wiping off the red-wine-mouth film and more or less rubbing the skin off of your lips, you created a raw, chappy situation that allowed any later sips of red wine to actually seep into your skin. Your poor mouth then spent all of your sleeping hours trying to heal its chapped-ness, and new skin has started to grow in the spots where you so desperately wiped it away. But underneath that new skin still lies last night's red-wine, and the stain has essentially been tattooed into you. Like you're going to go to work with scabby skin on your mouth! So you put even MORE elbow grease into it and rub that deep tattoo stain off of your mouth again, removing with it whatever new layers of skin you'd started to grow and now you've re-chapped your lips. Then you have more wine that night, and so the vicious cycle begins.

Science has yet to address this issue, but my theories about the devastating aesthetic effects of Red-Wine Mouth have been tested no less than four nights a week for the past six years. So what are we supposed to do? Apply chapstick before every glass? (Doesn't work, I tried.) Go through the winter months with perpetually chapped lips? (Not pleasant, I tried.) Embrace our merlot mouths every time we go out? (Won't get you laid, I tried.) In a life where drinking is often the only solution, I'm still looking for some real answers.