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Sunburn sucks. While you might be layering your arms, legs, and face in SPF 30 every day before leaving the house (kudos!), you might be skipping one super important spot: your lips.
All parts of the body are susceptible to sunburn, including your lips. In fact, your lips are a particularly vulnerable spot for two reasons: 1. most people don’t apply sunscreen there, and 2. the skin on your lips is especially delicate.
Just like your face, arms, and everywhere else on your body, your lips can get damaged by the sun, leading to sunburn, fine lines, discoloration, and even skin cancer. Preventing sunburned lips should be your first priority, but if you’re already experiencing sunburn, there are a few ways to relieve the discomfort.
Below, everything you should know about lip sunburn, from what it looks like to how to treat and prevent it.
According to dermatologists, sunburned lips feel a lot like the aftermath of eating something spicy: tingly and swollen. They may also develop small blisters that look similar to cold sores, and you’ll probably experience severe dryness.
“Sunburned lips are red, swollen, and painful,” says Kenneth Howe, MD, of Wexler Dermatology in NYC. “They'll be sensitive to touch, and may develop small, white blisters. The lower lip is often more affected than the upper, because the lower lip catches more light.”
He warns against popping any blisters, and urges you to let them heal on their own. Blisters might look scary, but they actually serve as a bandage, preventing germs from entering ad causing further damage to the skin. If your blisters are severe, visit a dermatologist or health care provider for professional guidance.
While everybody reacts to sunburn differently, sunburned lips symptoms typically 3-4 days. However, it could be up to 10 days in severe cases.
While prevention is always better than cure, there are things you can do if you’ve accidentally overdone it. Here are a few ways to speed up healing process and relieve lip sunburn.
Apply Hydrocortisone Cream
Alleviate your irritated lips with an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream to reduce redness and swelling.
Drink Plenty of Water
Hydration — both inside and out — is key when it comes to healing lip sunburn. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and accelerate the healing process so your lips can recover ASAP.
Reach for Aloe Vera
Aloe vera is a well known cooling treatment for soothing sunburn anywhere on the body. Dermatologists agree that aloe vera is an excellent treatment for relieving the pain and discomfort — and can be even more helpful when chilled in the refrigerator. Look for a natural aloe vera gel, and apply 2-3 times a day.
You’ll also find aloe vera in Truly’s GLOAT Big Juicy Lip Oil, a soothing lip oil formulated with a nourishing blend of coconut oil, hyaluronic acid, and aloe vera to deeply hydrate lips.
Load Up on Lip Balm
You’ll also need to keep your lips hydrated to help the heal. Choose skincare formulas infused with nourishing ingredients like coconut oil, vitamin E, shea butter, almond oil, and antioxidants.
You’ll find all these ingredients in Truly’s Pineapple Haze CBD Lip Butter. It’s also infused with exfoliating pineapple extract to gently buff away dry skin and chapping, and hemp to soothe irritation and seal in long-lasting moisture.
Apply a Cold Compress
The experts also recommend using a cold compress to reduce inflammation and discomfort. Simply rinse a soft cotton washcloth (like Truly’s Pour le Visage Face Towel) in cold water, then hold it against your lips.
Take an Anti-Inflammatory Pain Reliever
Ibuprofen or Advil can help ease tenderness and swelling associated with lip sunburn.
Try an Emollient
To speed healing and soothe irritation, opt for an emollient like Aquaphor or Vaseline, which are known for helping injured skin heal faster.
Consider a Home Remedy
Home remedies aren’t going to be as effective as the above formulas but if you’re desperate for relief, they can be helpful. Try applying a spoon full of natural yogurt to your lips to ease the pain.
Stay Out of the Sun
The most crucial tip of all: avoid the sun until your lips have fully healed. Next time you leave the house, remember to apply sunscreen to your lips and re-apply every two hours.
Prevent lip sunburn in the first place by adding lip products with SPF to your skincare routine. Choose lip balms with physical sunscreens. These contain active minerals and zinc oxide that work by reflecting light back into the environment. Chemical sunscreens, on the other hand, convert UV light energy into heat, which can cause inflammation and ultimately irritated lips.
Pick a sunscreen lip balm with an SPF of at least 30, and apply every two hours or after eating or drinking. You may even want to consider trying a colored lip balm for extra protection.
“Tinted formulas may offer even better protection as the pigment forms a physical barrier over the lip for added protection,” says Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
Sunburned lips can increase your risk of lip cancer, which is why it’s essential to wear sun protection on a daily basis and avoid exposing your lips to direct sunlight.
Most lip cancers appear on the lower lip, and they tend to be squamous cell carcinomas — a type of skin cancer caused by sun exposure that can easily spread.
Ultimately, it's important to take care of your lips and protect them from UV rays all-year-round to prevent sun damage and maintain smooth, juicy, healthy lips.
While there’s not one best treatment for sunburned lips, there are a few things you can do to alleviate the irritation and speed up the healing process.
If you have a skin condition like eczema and you’re not sure if your symptoms are due to that or sunburn, speak to your derm. Those experiencing severe blistering and burning should seek medical attention immediately.