Wellness Skincare How Are Sunburned Lips Treated? For sunburned lips, pain relievers, cold compresses, and topical healing products can treat swelling and pain. By Claire Gillespie Claire Gillespie Claire Gillespie is an experienced health and wellness writer. Her work appears across several publications including SELF, Women’s Health, Health, Vice, Verywell Mind, Headspace, and The Washington Post. health's editorial guidelines Updated on March 31, 2023 Medically reviewed by Leah Ansell, MD Medically reviewed by Leah Ansell, MD Leah Ansell, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and assistant professor of dermatology at Columbia University. learn more Share this page on Facebook Share this page on Twitter Share this page on Pinterest Email this page In This Article View All In This Article What Causes Sunburned Lips? Take Pain Relievers Use Cold Compresses Apply Topical Treatments Bandage Any Blisters Living With and Managing Sunburned Lips A Quick Review Some body parts are more likely to get sunburned than others. For example, your lips are a particularly vulnerable spot for sunburns. Generally, sunburned lips become swollen, tender, and red. In some cases, blisters will form, similar to how blisters can form on sunburned skin on other body parts. Most sunburns heal on their own. Still, taking pain relievers, applying cool compresses, or using topical creams, can help reduce pain, swelling, and redness. Consult a healthcare provider right away if you develop blisters with symptoms like fever, headache, or chills. Preventing sunburned lips can reduce your risk of skin cancer. Most skin cancers affecting the lips tend to be squamous cell carcinomas. The leading risk factor for skin cancer on the lips is exposure to the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays. The lower lip has a higher risk of skin cancer than the upper lip since it is more exposed to the sun. Andrii Zorii/Getty Images What Causes Sunburned Lips? Your lips are more likely to get sunburned if you don't protect them with SPF products. "Many people lick their lips, so they lick the sunscreen off," Debra Jaliman, MD, a dermatologist, told Health. "Some people don't apply sunscreen because they have lipstick or lip gloss on and don't want to remove it, but harmful UV rays will penetrate the product if it doesn't contain sun protection. So, a lip balm with SPF should be an essential part of your routine." One of the easiest ways to prevent sunburned lips is to keep your lips out of the sun, Rhonda Q. Klein, MD, a dermatologist based in Connecticut, told Health. After a lip sunburn, precancerous inflammation called actinic cheilitis (AC) can develop. AC can lead to SCC. In its early stages, AC might look and feel like chapped lips. Consult a dermatologist if you notice something on your lip that feels scaly, looks like a burn, or turns white. How Long You Can Expect a Sunburn to Last—and How To Treat It Take Pain Relievers Taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help if your sunburn feels painful. For example, aspirin or ibuprofen can reduce discomfort. NSAIDs can treat swollen and red lips, as well. Use Cold Compresses A cold compress reduces inflammation and pain, noted Dr. Jaliman. Simply rinse a soft washcloth or dip it in ice water. Then, gently hold it against your lips. After applying cool water to your lips, moisturizer reduces flaky, dry skin. Moisturizer will help trap the water if you apply it while your lips are still wet. Apply Topical Treatments To speed healing, try products with panthenol and glycerin, said Dr. Jailman. Panthenol retains moisture. At the same time, glycerin is a protective layer that prevents moisture loss. Look for topical treatments with vitamins C and E, which reduce skin cell damage. Lip treatments with cortisone may decrease inflammation. In contrast, avoid products that end in "-caine," like benzocaine and lidocaine, which can worsen symptoms. Likewise, do not use butter, petroleum jelly, or products made with oils, especially on blisters. Those products may clog the pores near your lips and cause infection. Bandage Any Blisters Applying bandages can prevent infection if your sunburned lips form blisters. Bandaging the skin near your lips may be hard. Therefore, try not to touch, pop, or pick at blisters if you cannot bandage them. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you develop a fever, headache, or chills. These symptoms may be signs of an infection. Living With and Managing Sunburned Lips Most sunburns on your lips or any other body part heal on their own. Still, you can take a few steps to lessen discomfort during healing. For example, make sure that you're staying hydrated. Wear a lip balm with an SPF of 30 or more daily. Ensure you avoid the sun until your lips have fully healed. The UV index is at its highest from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Consider wearing a wide-brimmed hat just to be safe if you must go outside during that time. Further, contact a healthcare provider right away if you develop any of the following symptoms: Feeling dizzyQuick breathingRapid heart rateFeeling very thirsty but not urinating Pale, clammy skinNauseaFever and chillsRashSunken eyes that are sensitive to bright lightsBlisters that do not heal or worsen Preventing sunburned lips is key to reducing your risk of skin cancer. One of the most significant risk factors of skin cancer is frequent sunburns, especially blistering ones. The 13 Best Sunburn Relief Products, According to Dermatologists A Quick Review Your lips are a particularly vulnerable spot for sunburns. Taking pain relievers, applying cool compresses, or using topical creams, can help reduce pain, swelling, and redness if you have sunburned lips. Consult a healthcare provider if you develop severe symptoms like fever, headache, or chills. Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Tell us why! Other Submit 7 Sources Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Supreet BD, Mathivanan S, Merchant MI, et al. Squamous cell carcinoma of lower lip reconstructed with bilateral fan flap. Ann Maxillofac Surg. 2019;9(1):211-213. doi:10.4103/ams.ams_3_16 Supreet BD, Mathivanan S, Merchant MI, et al. Squamous cell carcinoma of lower lip reconstructed with bilateral fan flap. Ann Maxillofac Surg. 2019;9(1):211-213. doi:10.4103/ams.ams_3_16 American Academy of Dermatology Association. Sunscreen FAQs. MedlinePlus. Sunburn. Nemours Foundation. I got blisters from a sunburn. What should I do?. Guerra KC, Crane JS. Sunburn. In: StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing; 2022. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Skin cancer.