Sunburned Lips: Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention

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Sunburned lips can be treated similarly to sunburned skin. You can apply aloe vera, cold compresses, or anti-inflammatories to soothe the pain and inflammation.

The shoulders and forehead are often the first places to get sunburned, but other parts of your body are also susceptible. Your lips are especially vulnerable, especially your lower lip.

Sunburned lips can be painful and can increase your risk of developing skin cancer. In fact, the lower lip is 12 times more likely to be affected by skin cancer than the top lip.

There are many ways to treat sunburned lips and prevent them from happening. You can apply aloe vera, cold compresses, or over-the-counter pain relievers. You can also wear lip balm with an SPF of 30 or higher.

What are the symptoms of sunburned lips?

Sunburned lips can cause a number of symptoms, including:

  • Redness: Your lips may become redder than normal, sometimes to the point of being bright red. This is because the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays damage the blood vessels in your lips, causing them to swell and become more visible.
  • Swelling: Your lips may also swell up, making them feel puffy and uncomfortable. This is due to the same inflammation that causes the redness.
  • Tenderness: Your lips may feel tender to the touch, making it painful to eat, drink, or talk. This is because the sun’s UV rays have damaged the delicate skin on your lips, making it more sensitive to touch.
  • Blisters: In some cases, blisters may form on your lips. These blisters are filled with fluid and can be very painful. They usually form after the initial redness and swelling have subsided.

In most cases, a mild sunburn will heal on its own within a few days. However, it is important to take care of your lips during this time to help them heal faster and prevent infection.

Cold sore or sunburn?

Sunburned lips and cold sores (oral herpes) are both common conditions that can cause blisters on the lips. However, the two conditions have different symptoms and causes.

Cold sores are caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV). The virus can be spread through contact with an infected person’s saliva or sores. Cold sores usually start with a tingling or burning sensation, followed by the appearance of small blisters. The blisters may eventually burst and crust over.

Sunburn blisters are small, white, fluid-filled bumps that can form on the skin after severe sun exposure. They usually appear within 24 hours of sun exposure. They can last for several days or even weeks. In most cases, sunburn blisters will heal on their own without any treatment. Other signs of sunburn may include:

  • Redness: The skin may become red and inflamed.
  • Swelling: The skin may swell and become puffy.
  • Pain: The skin may be painful to the touch.

Here is a table that summarizes the differences between sunburned lips and cold sores:

FeatureSunburned lipsCold sores
CauseUV raysHerpes simplex virus (HSV)
SymptomsRedness, swelling, tenderness, blistersTingling, burning, itching, blisters, crusting
TreatmentCool compresses, pain relievers, lip balm with SPFAntiviral medication, over-the-counter treatments
PreventionSunscreen, lip balm with SPFAvoidance of contact with infected people, antiviral medication

When to call a doctor

You can treat most cases of sunburned lips at home with some great home remedies. However, if you experience any of the following symptoms, it is important to seek emergency medical attention immediately:

  • Severely swollen lips: If your lips are so swollen that you cannot open your mouth or talk, you should seek medical attention immediately.
  • Swollen tongue: If your tongue is swollen, you may have difficulty swallowing or breathing. This is a serious medical emergency and you should seek medical attention immediately.
  • Rash: If you develop a rash around your lips, this could be a sign of an allergic reaction to the sun. You should seek medical attention immediately to rule out any serious medical conditions.

Additionally you can use these tips for seeking emergency medical attention:

  • Call 911 or your local emergency number.
  • Describe your symptoms to the dispatcher.
  • Stay calm and follow the dispatcher’s instructions.

If you’re unsure if your lips are severely swollen, look for the following:

One or both of your lips are larger than normal.
Your lips feel “fat” and painful.
You have difficulty doing any of the following:

  • Eating
  • Drinking
  • Talking
  • Opening your mouth

If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to seek medical attention immediately. Severely swollen lips could be a sign of an allergic reaction or another serious medical condition.

What are the treatments for sunburned lips?

Sunburned lips can be treated with healing and cooling ointments. However, some of the traditional remedies that you might use for sunburns on your body may not be safe to use on your lips. This is because there is a risk that you could ingest what you put on your lips.

For your lips, try these remedies instead:

Cold compresses

To reduce the hot feeling on your lips, you can rinse a soft washcloth in cold water and rest it on your lips. You can also dip the washcloth in ice water, but avoid icing your burn directly.

Aloe vera

Aloe vera gel is a natural remedy that can help to relieve sunburn-related pain. The gel from the aloe vera plant has soothing and healing properties. You can apply the gel directly to your lips.

If you do not have an aloe vera plant at home, you can purchase after-sun gels at most drugstores. However, it is important to only purchase gels that are made of 100 percent aloe vera. Other ingredients in after-sun gels can irritate your lips.

You can also store aloe vera gel in the refrigerator to provide a more cooling sensation. This can be especially helpful if your lips are feeling hot and inflamed.


Anti-inflammatory medications can help reduce the pain and redness of a sunburn, especially if taken soon after sun exposure. These medications work by reducing inflammation, which is the body’s natural response to injury.

Some examples of anti-inflammatory medications include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), and aspirin. These medications can be taken by mouth or applied topically.

It is important to take anti-inflammatory medications as soon as possible after sun exposure. This will help to reduce the severity of the sunburn and speed up the healing process.


Moisturizing your sunburned skin can help to soothe and protect it while it heals. You can use a topical moisturizer, such as CeraVe cream or Vanicream. However, avoid moisturizers that contain petroleum, as these can seal heat from the sunburn in your skin.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends using a moisturizer that is non-comedogenic, which means that it will not clog your pores. The moisturizer should also be hypoallergenic, which means that it is less likely to cause an allergic reaction.

Some additional tips for moisturizing sunburned lips:

  • Choose a moisturizer that is fragrance-free. Fragrance can irritate your skin.
  • Apply the moisturizer liberally. You may need to reapply it several times a day.
  • Avoid using petroleum-based products. Petroleum can trap heat in your skin.
  • Let the moisturizer soak in before applying makeup (in case you apply).

Hydrocortisone 1 percent cream

If the other methods are not working, you can apply this product to the sunburn areas on your lips. However, be careful not to lick your lips, as the product is not meant to be ingested.

Treatments to avoid

Products with “–caine” in the name, such as lidocaine or benzocaine, should be avoided. These ingredients can cause skin irritation or allergic reactions and should not be ingested.

Petroleum-based products should also be avoided, as they can trap heat in the skin.

If your lip sunburn leads to blistering or swelling, do not pop the blisters.

Always consult with your doctor before starting any treatment method. This is especially important for lip sunburns, as there are a variety of treatments available and your doctor can help you choose the best one for you.

Conclusion – Outlook

To prevent future lip sunburns, it is important to use a lip balm or lipstick with an SPF of at least 30. Reapply every hour, especially if you are eating, drinking, or licking your lips.

Lips are exposed to the sun year-round, regardless of where you live. This means that it is important to wear a sun-protective lip balm all the time, even on cloudy days.

There are a variety of sun-protective lip balms available on the market. When choosing a lip balm, look for one that is labeled as “broad spectrum” and has an SPF of at least 30. You may also want to choose a lip balm that contains antioxidants, which can help protect your lips from the sun’s harmful rays.

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