Sunburned Lips: Causes, Prevention, and Treatment for Painful Pouts

Sunburned lips can be an uncomfortable, painful, and sometimes even dangerous side effect of summer fun in the sun.

From chapped, dry lips to cracked and bleeding skin, sunburned lips may not seem like a big deal but can actually lead to some serious medical issues if left untreated.

What are Sunburned Lips

Sunburned lips are a common side effect of too much sun exposure. It occurs when the skin on your lips becomes irritated, red, and dry due to UV radiation exposure. The burning sensation is usually accompanied by peeling and flaking of the skin. In severe cases, sunburned lips may also lead to cracking and bleeding of the skin.

Protecting your lips from sun exposure is important for a number of reasons. Not only can it help to reduce the risk of developing a painful sunburn, but it can also help to prevent more serious long-term effects such as skin cancer and premature aging.

Causes of Sunburned Lips

1. Excessive sun exposure

Excessive sun exposure is the leading cause of sunburned lips. Overexposure to ultraviolet radiation, either from direct sunlight or artificial sources such as tanning beds, can damage the skin on your lips and cause irritation, redness, dryness, and burning.

2. Lack of sun protection for lips

Lack of sun protection for the lips is another common cause of sunburned lips. Many people neglect to apply sunscreen or lip balm with SPF when they are out in the sun, leaving their lips exposed to damaging UV rays.

3. Sensitivity to UV rays

Some people are more sensitive to the effects of ultraviolet (UV) rays than others. Those with fair skin are particularly at risk for sunburned lips as they tend to burn faster and more severely.

Symptoms of Sunburned Lips

  • Redness and inflammation

Sunburned lips typically present with redness and inflammation of the skin. The affected area may become tender and sore to the touch, and there may be a burning sensation that accompanies it. In more serious cases, the skin may blister or peel, leaving behind peeling skin or unsightly dark spots. In addition, sunburned lips can cause dryness and cracking of the skin.

  • Swelling and blistering

Swelling and blistering of the lips may occur with sunburned lips. The areas affected by the sunburn may become swollen and tender to the touch, and small blisters may form on the skin. These blisters can be filled with clear fluid, and if they break, they can cause pain and discomfort.

  • Pain and discomfort

Sunburned lips can be very painful and uncomfortable. The affected area may become extremely sore to the touch, and there may be an intense burning sensation that comes with it. In more severe cases, cracking of the skin can cause pain when talking or eating, and even cracking or bleeding when exposed to extreme temperatures or activities such as kissing.

  • Dryness and peeling

Sunburned lips may also present with dryness and peeling of the skin. The skin may become dry, flaky, and cracked due to dehydration caused by the sun’s UV rays. This can lead to discomfort and even cracking or bleeding when exposed to extreme temperatures or activities such as kissing.

Prevention of Sunburned Lips

Regular use of lip balm with SPF

Regular use of lip balm with an SPF of at least 15 is one of the best ways to prevent sunburned lips. Look for a lip balm that contains ingredients such as zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, or avobenzone for optimal protection from UV rays.

Wearing a wide-brimmed hat

Wearing a wide-brimmed hat is another great way to prevent sunburned lips. A wide-brimmed hat will help to protect your face, including your lips, from the sun’s harmful UV rays.

Seeking shade during peak sun hours

Seeking shade during peak sun hours is another important step in preventing sunburned lips. The sun’s rays are strongest between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm, so it is best to avoid exposure to direct sunlight during this time of day.

Avoiding tanning beds and excessive UV exposure

Avoiding tanning beds and excessive UV exposure is essential for preventing sunburned lips. Tanning beds emit high levels of UV rays that can cause serious skin damage, including sunburned lips. It is important to limit your exposure to these artificial sources of UV radiation as much as possible.

Treatment for Sunburned Lips

Applying aloe vera gel for cooling effect

Applying aloe vera gel to sunburned lips can help to cool the affected area and relieve some of the pain and discomfort associated with it. Look for a pure form of aloe vera gel without added fragrances or dyes, and apply it directly onto the affected area as needed.

Using a moisturizing lip balm to soothe and protect

Using a moisturizing lip balm can help soothe and protect sunburned lips. Look for a lip balm that contains ingredients such as beeswax, shea butter, or cocoa butter to hydrate and nourish the skin.

Taking over-the-counter pain relievers, if necessary

Taking over-the-counter pain relievers can help to reduce the discomfort associated with sunburned lips. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or naproxen may be taken to reduce swelling, inflammation, and pain.

Seeking medical attention for severe sunburn

Seeking medical attention is essential if you experience severe sunburn on your lips. Signs of a severe sunburn include blistering, intense pain, swelling, redness that does not fade after several days, or any other signs that could indicate skin damage.

Tips for Recovering from Sunburned Lips

Staying hydrated to promote healing

Staying hydrated is key to promoting healing after sunburned lips. Make sure to drink plenty of fluids, such as water and electrolyte beverages, throughout the day to help replenish lost moisture and keep your skin hydrated.

Avoiding picking or peeling lips

It is important to avoid picking or peeling sunburned lips, as it can further irritate the area and put you at risk for infection. If your lips are blistered or peeling, resist the urge to pick off any dead skin.

Eating a healthy, balanced diet for skin health

Eating a healthy, balanced diet is essential for keeping your skin healthy and protecting it from sunburns. Make sure to include plenty of fruits and vegetables in your diet as they are rich sources of antioxidants that can help protect your skin from UV rays.

Keeping lips protected from further sun exposure

earing a lip balm with SPF can help protect sunburned lips from further damage. Look for a lip balm that contains at least an SPF of 15 or higher to provide adequate protection against UV rays. Additionally, avoid exposing your lips to the sun during peak hours, such as between 10 am and 2 pm, when UV radiation is strongest.

Complications of Sunburned Lips

Increased risk of oral infections

Sunburned lips are at an increased risk for developing oral infections. When the skin is damaged from sunburn, it can become cracked and break open, allowing bacteria to enter the area and cause infection. Symptoms of an infected lip include fever, swelling, redness, pain, and discharge from the affected area.

Potential for long-term damage or discoloration

The effects of sunburned lips can extend beyond just immediate discomfort—it can also cause long-term damage and discoloration. Prolonged exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can cause damage to the skin’s collagen, leading to premature wrinkles and fine lines.

Higher likelihood of cold sores or fever blisters

Sunburned lips can increase the likelihood of developing cold sores or fever blisters. These painful and unsightly lesions are caused by the herpes simplex virus, which is highly contagious and spreads through direct contact with an infected person or object.


Sunburned lips can be painful and uncomfortable, and in severe cases may require medical attention. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help recover from sunburned lips, such as staying hydrated, avoiding picking or peeling the skin, eating a healthy and balanced diet for skin health, and using lip balm with SPF.


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