You headed out in the sun and now have sunburned lips? Then this article is for you. You will not only learn what symptoms of sunburn on the lips are but also get a highlight of treatment options available. You will also delight in the pictures listed on the page to inspire your thoughts.
If you have been a frequent reader of our website, you probably by now know how important it is to slather on sunscreen when going out into the sun. It is critical in not only preventing skin cancer but also protecting you from the signs of aging – such as wrinkling, spots etc – commonly attributed to sun damage.
What you probably didn’t know is that your lips can as well get sunburnt if not protected with a good SPF, and chances are that you are one of the people not “…good at protecting their lips” as Dr. Joshua Zeichner, a dermatologist based in NYC puts it, and have sunburned lips to show for it.
Reddening and swelling of the lips are the most obvious symptoms. They may also feel dry, warm, sore, and tender to touch. They often start to crack and sometimes bleed, and is common for them to peel off, usually a few days after exposure to the damaging effect of the UV rays of the sun.
Blisters (tiny fluid-filled swellings) may also be present in more severe cases of sunburn. Other symptoms associated with more severe cases are fever, fatigue, and nausea.
There is that cliché that goes: A picture is worth a thousand words. We are true believers in it in as far as the value of pictures is concerned. We have on that note included a couple photos and images to inspire your imagination:
Some patients may also experience sunburn blisters on lips which are typically a sign of second-degree sunburn (extending beyond the upper layer of the skin (epidermis). The fluid in the sunburn lips blisters usually emanates from the damaged skin cells in the lower layers of the skin.
The blisters may form in just a few hours of exposure to excessive sunlight or a few days down the line.
Swelling is one of the common symptoms lips that have been sunburned. Swollen sunburned lips often respond well to cold compresses, moisturizing, and hydrocortisone 1% creams (discussed below).
If the sunburnt lips, however, don’t improve – say they are still swollen 7-10 days after exposure to the excessive sun – you should consider seeking the attention of a dermatologist. You could be dealing with a more serious problem.
According to Brian P. Maloney, MD, a Facial Plastic Surgeon in Atlanta, it is also critical that you seek the attention of a medical professional urgently if the tongue is as well swollen.
What to Do for or How to Heal
If you forgot to protect your lips with sunscreen only to end up with a sunburn that makes laughing, eating, and kissing a chore and is now wondering how to treat them, there are various options that you may want to consider:
Your first course of action should be to apply a cold compress as soon as possible and every now and then. This is a simple remedy that is nevertheless so effective in relieving sunburn (or other sunburned areas of the body for that matter).
The easiest way to do that is too wet a small washcloth in cold water and then place it on the lips for 15 minutes or so a few times a day.
You can’t – in my opinion – give ways on how to treat sunburned lips (or any other type of sunburn) without mentioning aloe vera which has strong anti-inflammatory properties which help to not only reduce the inflammation, but also the pain resulting from sun damage to the skin.
For lips that have been sunburned, the Livestrong.com website recommends applying an unscented over-the-counter aloe vera gel product or fresh juice from an aloe vera plant.
Taking over the counter anti-inflammatory medication such as aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) usually helps to relieve you of the pain that is typical of lips that have been sunburned. Aspirin should however not be given to children aged below 16 years as it can trigger a fatal condition called Reye’s syndrome.
Moisturizing them also helps to heal them faster. This is as simple as applying a good moisturizing cream like Aquaphor. Applying of Vaseline or any other petroleum jelly is however generally advised against as it can trap heat and worsen the condition. Lidocaine-containing products are also not recommended.
Hydrocortisone 1% cream
Dr. Joshua Zeichner also suggests applying hydrocortisone 1% cream 2-3 times a day. He, however, cautions against ingesting the cream and recommends applying the cream to the outer edges of the lips only.
Extra tips to treat or heal faster
- Keep your body hydrated by drinking lots of water
- Avoid further exposure to the sun as the sunburn heals by applying lip products (e.g. balm or gloss) that feature sunscreen of at least SPF 15. Continue applying sunscreen-containing products even after you have healed from the sunburn to prevent future damages.
- Refrain from licking or picking at your lips as they heal to ensure quicker healing.
What to put on it
This is a common concern in online forums. Well, your best bet would be to keep the lips moisturized and to soothe the inflammation and pain using anti-inflammatory medication (such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen) and hydrocortisone cream (applying it only to the outer edges). Cold compresses are also helpful.
But regardless of what your grandma said, using petroleum jelly (e.g. Vaseline) is a bad idea as this can trap in heat and make the sunburn on the lips worse.
How to Soothe it
As we have already mentioned, soothing sunburned lips is as easy as applying some aloe vera gel and keeping them moisturized. Taking over the counter pain relievers and applying a hydrocortisone 1% cream (carefully to avoid ingesting it) can also help.