We all know that your skin can get burned if you stay in the sun too long, but have you ever heard of sunburned lips? While it may come as a surprise, it is possible for your lips to incur this type of damage from UV rays. Here we’ll discuss the causes and types of sunburned lips, and explain how you can keep your mouth safe from ultraviolet (UV) rays.
Can Lips Really Get Sunburned?
Yes, indeed they can. Sunburned lips are not a myth, so protecting them from harmful UV rays is as important as safeguarding the rest of your skin from the sun. The skin on your lips is thin and has very little melanin, which offers some natural protection from the sun. The lack of this pigment makes the lips more vulnerable to sunburn when exposed to UV rays. In the next section, we’ll look at the signs of sunburned lips.
How Do You Know If Your Lips Are Sunburned?
There are specific signs and symptoms that indicate that your lips are sunburned, notably if they appear reddish, painful, swollen, or blistered. In addition, lips with sun damage feel warmer than other areas of your skin, and you may notice a dry patch on your lip indicative of ongoing inflammation.
If you are experiencing these symptoms and you’ve spent considerable time in the sun without applying protection, there’s a good chance that you have sunburned lips. We recommend that you use a lip balm with SPF and wear a wide-brimmed hat when you go out into direct sunlight to protect your lips from sunburn.
What Happens When My Lips Burn?
Sunburn happens when the skin is exposed to the sun’s rays for a prolonged period of time, causing damage to DNA. This leads the body to initiate DNA repair , which kills some of the cells. It also initiates an inflammatory response that can cause symptoms like pain and sun blisters on the lips. The mechanism leading to sunburn is the same for every other part of the body, but it’s more likely to happen on the lips because they are thin and delicate.
First-Degree Sunburned Lips
First-degree sunburned lips are a mild form of the condition, and the symptoms include increased sensitivity, drying, and a stinging sensation. In this case, the face may also be sunburned along with the lips.
Second-Degree Sunburned Lips
A second-degree sunburn on the lips is a more severe form of the condition and includes additional symptoms like blisters. More importantly, recurring second-degree sunburn is a risk factor for developing skin cancer. For this reason, it’s particularly important to use SPF lip balm every time you go outside.
What Causes Sunburned Lips?
These factors increase your chances of getting sunburned lips:
- Thin Skin: The skin on your lips is thinner than in most other areas, making it more vulnerable to damage from UV rays.
- Lack of Melanin: The lips contain much less melanin than other areas, and this is the pigment that helps protect against the sun's harmful rays.
- Altitude: Areas with higher altitudes tend to have heightened levels of UV radiation, so living in these regions makes you more likely to get a sunburn on your lips.
- Forgetting Sunscreen: Not applying sunscreen or lip balm with SPF leaves your lips at a much higher risk of developing a sunburn.
- Extended Sun Exposure: Spending long periods of time outdoors without applying sun protection increases your chances of getting a sunburn on your lips.
How Do You Heal Sunburned Lips Fast?
1. Apply a Cold Compress
Applying a cold compress can help heal your sunburned lips by numbing pain, slowing bleeding, and reducing swelling and inflammation . One way to make a cold compress is by dipping a clean piece of cloth in cold water, putting it in a sealed bag, and placing it in the freezer for 15 minutes.
2. Use a Lip Moisturizer
In order to reduce the risk of sunburn and speed up healing, keep your lips moisturized by applying a lip balm regularly. Choose a formula with SPF to block the harmful UV rays and prevent them from damaging your lips. A deeply hydrating, protective product we highly recommend is Sundefend Lip Balm SPF 15. You can apply this formula anytime you go outside, and you should particularly use it on sunny days.
3. Avoid Picking Blisters or Scabs
If you want to heal quickly, try to resist the urge to pick at the scabs on your sunburned lips. Picking skin tissue that is in the process of repair can make the wound worse and cause it to bleed, slowing down the healing process. One way to prevent this is to apply an SPF lip balm regularly to moisten the blister or scab so you can’t pick at it.
Skincare Routine to Prevent Sunburn
There are ways to help prevent sunburn both on your lips and anywhere else on your body, including modifying your skincare routine to add products and ingredients with protective benefits. The following regimen should help ensure that you don’t develop a sunburn.
1. Brightening Cleanser
Begin your routine both morning and evening with a brightening cleanser to remove dirt, excess oil, and dead skin cells and help prevent discolored lips, acne, eczema, and other skin conditions.
2. Collagen-Boosting Antioxidant Serum
Follow up your cleanser and toner with a rich formula like Ace-Ferulic Antioxidant Photo Aging Defense Serum which promotes a youthful appearance by enhancing collagen production. The added collagen tightens the complexion, eliminates lip wrinkles, and keeps the skin smooth.
3. Hydrating Moisturizer
It’s important to include a moisturizer in your routine to prevent dryness and boost hydration. In addition, add an SPF lip balm to moisturize your lips and avert damage from UV rays.
4. Sunscreen For Everyday Protection
The last step in your daytime skincare routine should always be applying your sunscreen , and we recommend that you use a formula with at least 30 SPF. If you want to combine your moisturizer with your sun protection, we suggest using Dermaxsol SPF30 Daily Moisturizer every morning.
5. Corrective Night Serum to Balance Skin Tone
Applying a night serum can help significantly to balance your skin tone, and the Somaxcell Overnight Firming Mask is the ideal product to incorporate into your nighttime skincare routine.
6. Retinoid Treatment to Boost Cellular Turnover
Retinoids  enhance the synthesis of the proteins collagen and elastin, which decline with age and cause loose skin, wrinkles, and fine lines. We recommend Suvoderm Retinol Night Cream, which is a hydrating formula that includes retinol for anti-aging benefits like decreasing wrinkles and lines.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the outlook for people with sunburned lips?
Some people may feel uncomfortable and inconvenienced by sunburned lips, but it’s important to understand that there are products available to treat the issue. We recommend that you keep an open mind, be hopeful, and adhere strictly to your treatment plan.
Which skin type is most prone to sunburn?
According to the Fitzpatrick Classification  types 1 and 2 are most prone to sunburn, as they include the fairest, whitest skin which is very sensitive to the sun. While these types do not tan easily and are at high risk for sunburn, people with type 3 may experience mild burns.
What do sunburned lips look like?
Can your lips get sunburned? Yes, they certainly can, and sunburned lips appear swollen, reddish, dry, and cracked. In severe cases, you may develop blisters or sores.
The skin on our lips is thin and has limited melanin, making it more prone to damage from UV rays and possible sunburn. However, you should know that there are ways to prevent this from happening, such as applying sunscreen for lips regularly every time you go outside.
It is important to remember that, like the rest of our skin, our lips also need attention and safeguarding against the harmful effects of the sun. When you’re enjoying outdoor activities like going to the beach or hiking in the mountains, make sure to keep your lips protected by applying SPF lip balm every couple of hours. This should prevent the discomfort of sunburned lips so you can safely enjoy the sunshine.
1] ↑Guerra KC, Crane JS. Sunburn. PubMed. Published 2020.
2] ↑John Hopkins Medicine. Ice Packs vs. Warm Compresses For Pain. www.hopkinsmedicine.org. Published 2022.
3] ↑Paul SP. Ensuring the Safety of Sunscreens, and Their Efficacy in Preventing Skin Cancers: Challenges and Controversies for Clinicians, Formulators, and Regulators. Frontiers in Medicine. 2019;6. doi
4] ↑Publishing HH. Do Retinoids Really Reduce Wrinkles? Harvard Health. Published March 3, 2022.
5] ↑Ward WH, Lambreton F, Goel N, Yu JQ, Farma JM. TABLE 1, Fitzpatrick Classification of Skin Types I through VI.