Sunburn is a painful thing whichever body part it happens on. When this body part is your lips, the pain can be unbearable!
The lips are a very sensitive part of the body, and as such it can be agony to burn them. After all, we use our lips all day every day – for eating, talking, smiling – so it’s not like you can just give them a break and wait for them to get better.
Prevention is better than cure, of course, so it’s best to avoid getting sunburned lips in the first place – but if you’ve fallen foul of unexpected sun exposure, then read on for ways to deal with your scorched smile.
What causes sunburned lips
Sunburn on the lips works the same way as sunburn on the rest of the body – the sun’s rays, specifically UVA and UVB, enter the skin and cause damage to the skin’s cells.
The skin contains its own natural sunscreen, called Melanin, which is the reason we tan, as this pigment is released to prevent the skin from burning – however, the lips have very little Melanin to protect them.
Lips are also generally an overlooked place to apply sunscreen, and they are constantly exposed to the sun.
Signs of sunburned lips
You may notice that familiar tightness after a day in the sun, but you may not expect those feelings to be in your lips. Sunburnt lips can be mistaken for food allergies; or an unknown factor, as most of us simply don’t expect that lips can get sunburnt. The same signs of sunburn in your skin can be felt in the lips – redness, soreness, and swelling – or your symptoms may get more severe.
Sunburned lips can be red, sometimes swollen, and they can feel tender to the touch. In very serious cases a person may experience small, white, fluid-filled blisters.
There is very little skin on the lips, so you will not notice the characteristic peeling that comes after a normal sunburn – but you will definitely notice the familiar burning pain and tightness.
Sunburn on the lips is actually harder to deal with than sunburned skin, especially if it is particularly severe, as the lips have so little natural Melanin and so few layers of skin to protect them.
How to treat sunburned lips
Luckily, there are a great many things you can do at home treat your sunburned lips:
- Start by reducing the discomfort. You can take over the counter painkillers such as Paracetamol and Ibuprofen to reduce any pain.
- Keep hydrated. Too much time in the sun can deplete your water levels, so be sure to drink plenty after you have become burnt (and preferably before and during, too).
- Cool the area. Soaking a small towel in iced water then holding it to the lips can help with the pain and inflammation. You can also wrap a few ice cubes in a towel and hold this to the area.
- Skimmed milk can help soothe and heal the burn, as the milk proteins form a layer over the exposed nerves and can speed up the healing time.
- Aloe Vera is a well known sunburn soother. Apply any Aloe Vera gel that is 100% pure onto the lips, and reapply every time it dries out. Make sure it is totally pure Aloe gel, or even the juice from the plant itself, in case of accidental ingestion.
- Diluting Lavender essential oil in water is another great help for sunburn as this is a well known cooling agent which is good for burns. Mix a few drops of oil into a small bowl of water, soak a small towel in the mixture and hold it to your lips.
- Coconut oil is good at healing skin and soothing wounds, so apply it liberally if you experience sunburnt lips.
Prevention is better than cure, so your best bet to deal with sunburnt lips is to avoid getting burnt in the first place! But, if the damage has already been done you can mitigate it.
Hopefully this experience will make you more aware in the future, and hopefully you can prevent the need to look up how to treat sunburned lips. We all want beautiful, big lips, so don’t let them suffer! 🙂