Treating sunburn on the lips can be similar to treating sunburn on the skin. You can apply aloe vera and cold compresses, among other products, or take anti-inflammatories to relieve your symptoms.
The shoulders and forehead as two hot spots for sunburns, but other places on your body are also susceptible to sunburns. For example, your lips are susceptible, especially your lower lip.
Your lips are vulnerable to sunburns and chronic sun damage that can cause pain and increase your chances of developing skin cancer. The lower lip is 12 times more likely to be affected by skin cancer than the top lip.
There are many ways you can treat sunburned lips and prevent burns from happening.
Symptoms of sunburned lips include:
- lips that are redder than normal
- swollen lips
- skin that feels tender to the touch
- blistering on the lips
A mild sunburn usually lasts three to five days.
Cold sore or sunburn?
The lip blisters caused by a sunburn have very different symptoms from cold sores (oral herpes).
Cold sore blisters usually tingle, burn, or itch. While cold sores can occur from sun exposure, they can also be triggered by other factors such as stress or a cold. They can present as little blisters that become pus-filled. These may result in small ulcer-like lesions as they heal.
Sunburn blisters are small, white, fluid-filled bumps. You will likely notice signs of sunburn elsewhere on sun-exposed, unprotected areas of your skin. Signs may include:
- blistering, which results from severe sunburn
When to call a doctor
You can treat most cases of sunburned lips with at-home remedies. However, seek emergency medical attention if you experience symptoms that include:
- severely swollen lips
- swollen tongue
These symptoms could mean something more serious, such as an allergic reaction.
If you’re unsure if your lips are severely swollen, look for one or both of your lips being larger than normal. Your lip may feel “fat” and painful. You may also have difficulty doing the following:
- opening your mouth
Sunburned lips can be treated with healing and cooling ointments. Some of the traditional remedies you might use for sunburns on your body may not be good to use on your lips. There’s the likelihood you could ingest what you put on your lips.
For your lips, try these remedies:
Rinsing a soft washcloth in cold water and resting it on your lips can reduce the hot feeling on your lips. Another option is to dip the washcloth in ice water. Avoid icing your burn directly.
The aloe vera plant’s soothing gel can be used to relieve sunburn-related pain. If you have a plant at home, you can break off one of the stalks, squeeze the gel out, and apply it to your lips.
You can also purchase after-sun gels at most drugstores. For your lips, only purchase gels that are made of 100 percent aloe. The gel can also be stored in the refrigerator to provide a more cooling sensation.
Taking an anti-inflammatory medication can help ease the pain and redness associated with a sunburn, especially if taken soon after sun exposure. Examples include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin). They can relieve pain from the inside.
Adding moisture back to irritated skin can help soothe and protect the skin while it heals. One example is applying a topical moisturizer, such as CeraVe cream or Vanicream.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), avoid moisturizers that contain petroleum. They seal heat from the sunburn in your skin.
Hydrocortisone 1 percent cream
You can apply this to the sunburn areas on your lips if the other methods are not working. If you do apply it, be careful not to lick your lips, as the product is not meant to be ingested.
Treatments to avoid
You should avoid any products that have “–caine” listed, such as lidocaine or benzocaine. They can cause irritation or an allergic reaction on the skin. These ingredients also shouldn’t be ingested.
You should also avoid petroleum-based products. They seal heat from the sunburn in your skin.
If your lip sunburn leads to blistering and swelling, avoid popping the blisters.
Always talk with your doctor before starting any treatment method.
You can take steps to prevent future lip sunburns. Purchasing a lip balm or lipstick with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 is a great start.
You need to reapply lip sunscreen more frequently than sunscreen to the rest of your skin, due to eating, drinking, and frequently licking your lips. Reapplying every hour is a good rule to follow.
Regardless of where you live, your lips are exposed to the sun year-round. Wearing a sun-protective lip balm all the time can offer protection that keeps you from experiencing sunburn in the future.