Derm DMs: Can Your Lips Get Sunburned?
Sunburn can occur anywhere on the body — from your scalp, shoulders and legs to your lips. That’s right, the delicate skin of your lips can be harmed by the sun’s powerful UV rays just like the rest of your skin, and you can develop an uncomfortable (albeit: painful!) sunburn in this area. Ahead, we spoke with Director of Pigmented Lesions and Skin Cancer at Mount Sinai, Orit Markowitz, M.D., about what sunburned lips look like, how to treat them and how to prevent them in the first place.
Can Sunburned Lips Be Worse Than Other Sunburns?
According to Dr. Markowitz, sunburned lips can even be worse than other areas of sunburn on the body. “Lips have almost no melanin to protect them, and the epidermis is thinner on the lips generally,” she says. “This increases your chances of sunburn because they are more susceptible to damage from UV rays.” She also says that because the lips have so many vessels and nerve endings, UV rays irritating the lips usually leads to swelling and discomfort.
How Do I Know If My Lips Are Sunburned? Plus, How Can I Treat Them?
“Lip sunburns tend to make the lip swell and become more sensitive, which dries them out,” says Dr. Markowitz. A mild sunburn will take about 48 hours to resolve, but severe sunburn causing blistering can take up to two weeks to heal. With deeper burns, you also have an increased risk of infection, she notes. If you think your burn falls into the latter category, it’s imperative that you make an appointment (either in person or virtually) with your dermatologist.
For mild lip sunburns, Dr. Markowitz recommends applying 1% hydrocortisone ointment three times a day for two days. “You can even refrigerate your hydrocortisone for a cooling effect,” she says.
What Should You Avoid Doing If You Have a Lip Sunburn?
If you have a sunburn on your lips, stay away from additional sun exposure because the area is now very sensitive and prone to more damage. “Spicy or salty foods are also to be avoided, because they can cause further irritation and drying.”
How Can You Prevent Lip Sunburns?
To help avoid sun damage to your lips in the first place, it’s important to apply and re-apply SPF every single day and take other sun protection measures. Dr. Markowitz recommends to, “Use a dedicated lip balm with SPF as part of your morning routine.”. We recommend the Maybelline Baby Lips with SPF or the Elta MD Skincare UV Lip Balm Broad-Spectrum SPF 31. For the area surrounding your lips, try a soothing sunscreen stick with ceramides and hyaluronic acid like the CeraVe Mineral Sunscreen Stick with SPF 50.