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Young woman applying sun protection on her lips at the beach

Why You Need Lip SPF

There’s nothing quite like sitting beach- or pool-side during the summertime, especially if you’ve endured a brutally cold winter. As amazing as the summer sunshine can be, it’s also important not to expose your skin too much to the sun without a little protection. In fact, intense and repeated exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light increases your risk of sunburn and other potential sundamage.1 Not only could the exposure to too much sun be a risk for skin on your body like your shoulders or neck, but too much sun on your lips can also cause damage.

Not only do you need to consider applying a SPF to your body as a way to protect your skin from UV rays, but you also could benefit from having a lip SPF on hand to defend from sun damage.2 We’ll cover the various symptoms of sunburned lips, the effects a sunburn can have on the lips, as well as treatment options.

Common Symptoms of Sunburned Lips

We all have probably been there before: the painful, red skin that is a sunburn.3 You may have experienced the pain of a sunburn on your shoulders, nose, or back, causing extreme bouts of tenderness that make just about any type of movement almost unbearable. Well, the same could be said for a sunburned lip, as many of the signs and symptoms may be similar. For example, your lips may:

  1. Become swollen
  2. Appear redder than normal
  3. Blister
  4. Feel extremely tender4

In some instances, if the sunburn is more severe you could experience symptoms like headache, fever, nausea, and fatigue.5 And just like sunblock for your body can be critical for preventing a sunburn, sunblock for lips is just as vital to prevent experiencing the pain of a sunburn. 

Sunburns Can Cause Cold Sores and Other Side Effects

There are several complications that one may experience with too much sun exposure to their lips. For example, too much sunlight can be a common trigger for cold sores. Studies have shown that a significant amount of exposure to UV rays has the potential to weaken the body’s immune system, making it more difficult to fend off infections like that of a cold sore.6

Another skin- and lip-related complication that can occur if you experience too much exposure to UV rays is the acceleration of the skin’s aging.7 This means that your skin’s strength and elasticity could weaken, cause the onset of deep wrinkles and even cause your skin to become dry and rough.8 More extreme side effects of too much sun can be increased risk of skin cancer (and yes, that even means skin cancer on your lips).9 If you notice a bothersome change in your skin either in the appearance or texture of a mole, or even a sore that doesn’t heal, then it may be worth contacting your doctor.

Treatment and Prevention Options for Sunburned Lips

The effects of too much exposure to the sun may be somewhat alarming to you, but there are plenty of preventive measures you can take to ensure your lips stay protected from UV rays.

  1. Get a lip SPF – just like you would purchase SPF for your body to apply before being out in the sun, you can do the same for your lips. A lip balm with an SPF of 30 or greater can help to protect against ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays.10 There are many lip SPF products to choose from, making it simple to bring one along in your beach bag. 
  2. Consider wearing a hat or bringing an umbrella – if you know that you’ll be outdoors for an extended period of time, a large hat or umbrella can help shield your face and lips from the sun. Even if you do decide to wear a hat or carry around an umbrella, you’ll still want to apply a lip SPF as there may be moments your lips are exposed to the sun.
  3. Plan your beach or pool trip around peak sun exposure times – the sun’s rays are strongest from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.11, meaning that you may want to avoid spending too much time outside during this time frame or consider being outside in the later evening or early morning.

If you do end up getting sunburnt lips, there are several things you can do to help reduce your pain, swelling, and discomfort. For example:

  1. Apply aloe vera gel or lotion to your lips – these products contain soothing ingredients that can help reduce the pain you may be experiencing. 
  2. Take an anti-inflammatory – an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication can also help relieve pain. 
  3. Stay hydrated – keep a glass of water handy over the course of a few days to ensure you do not become dehydrated. 
  4. Stay out of the sun for a few days – don’t risk re-exposing yourself by going back out into the sun after already getting a sunburn. Relax indoors or stay in a well-shaded area to avoid direct exposure to sunlight.12

Now that you have the low-down on why your lips need just as much protection from the sun as any other part of your body does, it’s safe to say that you won’t leave the house again without sunblock for your lips. Lip care should never be neglected as part of your skin care routine, and, now, it doesn’t have to be. Learn more about how to manage lip health and what to do if you find yourself dealing with cold sores.


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