You probably already know the importance of covering your arms and legs with sunscreen, but did you know that it’s just as essential to protect your lips from the sun?
It’s summertime! Time to enjoy the outdoors. When you pack for the beach, you know to bring sunscreen to protect yourself from harmful UV rays. But as you’re applying the lotion over your arms, legs, and shoulders, you may forget to cover another critical area of your body — your lips!
Yes, your lips can get sunburned. The skin on your lips is thinner and contains less melanin, making them especially sensitive to intense sunlight. The damage caused by the sun may not only affect your lips but your oral health, too.
How to know if your lips are sunburned
Sunburned lips look similar to sunburn elsewhere on the body. Your lips become swollen and red. They’ll feel tender to the touch. Small, white, fluid-filled blisters may also appear. These blisters differ from cold sores, which can also develop from sun exposure. Cold sores may tingle, burn, and itch. As they heal, the pus-filled cold sores may develop into lesions.
Sunburned lips can be painful and unsightly, but they can also impact your oral health, which begins at your lips. When you avoid brushing and flossing because of the pain, you’re giving bacteria and plaque a chance to grow and cause tooth decay.
UV rays can also lead to skin cancer on your lips. Cancer may spread if not caught early by your dentist. Your twice-yearly checkups detect more than just cavities — the exams look for any signs of oral cancer.
How to protect your lips
To protect your lips, apply a sunscreen lotion or lip balm with an SPF of 30. Since you’ll be drinking and talking liberally, apply sunscreen often throughout the day. Wearing a hat is also recommended. Avoid being out in the sun during the peak hours of 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Yet sometimes a bad sunburn happens. A burn on your lips usually resolves in three to five days. If you want to speed up the healing process and alleviate discomfort, you can try these four tips:
Apply a Cold Compress. Soak a towel in cold water and apply it to your lips. The cold will cool down the burn. Never press ice directly against your lips.
Apply Aloe Vera Lotion. A lotion containing 100 percent aloe vera helps heal the burn. While you can slather a moisturizer, don’t use a petroleum-based product that can seal in the sunburn. Lidocaine or benzocaine are also not recommended due to the possibility of causing irritation or an allergic reaction.
Take Anti-inflammatories. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatories such as Advil and Motrin can reduce sunburn pain.
Use Hydrocortisone Cream. If the other methods fail to work, you can apply a hydrocortisone 1 percent cream to your lips as the last resort. Remember not to lick your lips because the product should not be ingested.
Bonus Tip? Never try to burst the blisters on your own! See your doctor if the burn doesn’t resolve in a few days. Sunscreen isn’t only for the summer. Year-round sun exposure happens if you work outdoors. So never forget to apply sunscreen to your lips when venturing into the sun.
Healthy lips, healthy mouth
Schedule an appointment at Espire’sOklahoma City location today! Our highly trained dentists can check your lips, mouth, and teeth for any signs of damage or decay. Don’t live near our Oklahoma City office? Find one of our otherlocations near you.
Oklahoma City, OK
12448 St Andrews Drive
Oklahoma City, OK 73120