If you’ve ever wondered, yes, your lips can absolutely get sunburned. In fact, they’re one of the most susceptible parts of your body because they could potentially get a lot of exposure to the sun. There’s also the unique nature of the skin that comprises your lips. They have a thinner layer of skin compared to the rest of the body.
How can you tell if your lips are sunburned?
Because you’re reading this post, you’re either a curious person or you’re experiencing some combination of stinging lips, swollen lips, and extra sensitivity around your lips that you suspect might be linked to recent sun exposure.
The first signs that your lips are sunburned will start to appear within about two to five hours of extensive sun exposure. What exactly those signs are will depend on the extent of the damage.
A mild case can include general irritation, dryness, and redness. If you’re experiencing any of that, ask yourself if you feel heat radiating from your lips, which is a telltale indicator of sunburn.
Moderate to serious burns will present as blisters, pain, bleeding, and extreme sensitivity.
Just like any sunburn, those initial symptoms will last anywhere from three to five days, at which point your lips will likely begin peeling. It can be an unsettling sight, but it’s a sign that your lips are healing. They’re shedding the dead skin. It’s also common to experience some itchiness during this process.
Those are the immediate consequences. When your lips get sunburned, you’re also at increased risk of developing cold sores down the road, which shouldn’t be confused with the blisters that can result from the sunburn itself. Cold sores are usually clustered together and somewhat painful.
A sunburn could also lead to hyperpigmentation and, just like on other parts of your body, an increased risk for skin cancer.
How should you treat sunburned lips?
In that vein, if an unusual spot develops on or around your lips or you notice a sore that won’t heal, see a board-certified dermatologist as soon as you can. Otherwise, you should be able to treat your sunburned lips yourself.
For mild cases, a cool compress should alleviate some of the swelling and the heat radiating from your lips. Consider using one in conjunction with an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication.
Steer clear of any lip products that contain petrolatum, like Vaseline, which can actually prolong the sunburn and any painful symptoms. Instead, apply aloe vera gel (chilled, ideally) to help ease irritation.
The silver lining: You can avoid repeating all this by simply protecting your lips, which can be accomplished by either coating your lips in your facial sunscreen or using a lip balm with an SPF of 30 or higher. Do it 15 minutes before you head out, then reapply at regular intervals.