The sun is back in the country and with it, its rays, sometimes dangerous for our skin. An area that we rarely think to protect against it? Our lips. They too can quickly become victims of a bad blow…
In the beauty sphere, our lips play a major role. We moisturize them, we gum them, we dress them with lipstick or other gloss. Sometimes, we even inflate them with injections to make them even fuller and more desirable. But are we protecting them enough?
With the sunny days coming back, we don’t hesitate to go out to enjoy the first rays, but very often, the protection against UV rays goes by the wayside. We only think about one thing: feeling the heat of the sun on our skin. A terrible mistake, because yes, a sunburn can happen faster than expected and in areas we don’t necessarily think about, like our lips.
The American magazine “Allure” asked why our lips are so prone to sunburn. Dermatologist Corey L. Hartman explained that “lips have a thinner layer of skin than the rest of our skin” and that lips have “very little melanin”, pigments that not only color our skin, but also help protect us from UV rays. Although our nose “offers some sun protection to our upper lip”, according to dermatologist Nazanin Saedi, it remains minimal compared to the power of the sun. For these reasons, our mouths are more susceptible to sunburn than any other part of our bodies.
HOW TO TELL IF YOU HAVE A SUNBURN ON YOUR LIPS
Have you ever eaten something spicy and felt that tingling, swollen feeling? It’s kind of like the feeling of sunburn on your lips. “Sunburned lips are red, swollen and painful,” says Dr. Kenneth Howe of Wexler Dermatology in New York City. “They are sensitive to the touch and may develop small white blisters. The lower lip is often more affected than the upper lip because it catches more light.”
You should avoid bursting blisters and let them dissipate on their own. “They are the body’s way of forming a bandage,” says Dr. King. “The blister serves as a biological dressing, keeping germs out, and the fluid inside prevents further damage to the skin underneath and allows it to heal.” If you are concerned about a particular blister, it is recommended that you see a medical professional to analyze the area.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF SUNBURN ON THE LIPS?
According to the confidences of the specialists to the magazine, the first signs of a sunburn on the lips appear approximately “two to five hours after a strong exposure to the sun”.
In case of mild sunburn
In a mild case, our lips will be dry, irritated and red in addition to abnormal heat.
In case of intense sunburn
If the sunburn is more intense, it is not impossible to see blisters, bleeding, often accompanied by pain and hypersensitivity of our lips.
Then follows a healing process that involves the shedding of dead skin.
What are the risks
What the professionals want us to understand through their explanations is that sunburn in addition to a dose of heat brings a “stress blow” to our skin. The damage caused can lead to “persistent discoloration in the form of hyperpigmentation”, but can also lead to “an increased risk of skin cancer”.
HOW TO TREAT SUNBURNED LIPS?
Don’t panic: there are solutions. The recovery period usually lasts 3 to 5 days, and it’s advisable to avoid exposing your lips to more UV rays during this time, as well as taking ibuprofen for pain relief (check the package for proper dosage). When it comes to soothing the area, both dermatologists recommend aloe vera, which can be more helpful when refrigerated, Dr. Howe says. You can also soothe the inflamed area by using a yogurt or washcloth soaked in cold, low-fat milk for 15 minutes. “The fat content of milk cleanses and moisturizes, but can retain heat. So switch to whole milk when the active phase of the sunburn subsides and the dry, flaking phase begins,” Dr. King advises.
Warming and tugging
These are very often the after-effects of a mild sunburn. In this case, all you need to do is moisturize the lip properly. The most effective in this case is to use aloe vera-based gels, such as petroleum jelly, to relieve the irritation, avoiding any product containing petrolatum.
Swelling and inflammation of the lips
According to Dr. Hartman, “apply a cold compress to the area to reduce swelling and decrease the heat in our lips. This method works effectively when combined with anti-inflammatory medication. This method can also be combined with the previous one to moisturize the skin.
In case of blisters
It is not impossible to see blisters appear after a major sunburn on our lips. They can remain on our mouth for 5 to 15 days. In order to help them disappear, and especially to ensure proper healing, you must not touch them and must be patient. The risk of piercing them would be to see an infection appear.
HEALING AFTER SUNBURN
As far as healing is concerned, there are no miracle remedies. Healing will occur naturally and will go through several stages. It is therefore not impossible to see your lips peel like any other part of your body. To promote this stage, only hydration, both through our diet and by local application, will be useful.
HOW TO PREVENT SUNBURN ON YOUR LIP
They’re preventable if you apply SPF 30 or higher! Dermatologist Hartman adds that you can also apply “your favorite sunscreen on your lips to get some protection,” although SPF lip balm is still the most recommended solution. So let’s run out and buy our protective balm now, so we can get a love shot instead of a sunburn!
BE AWARE OF THE RISKS
Sunburn on the lips can have long-term, even dangerous effects if you allow the skin to burn repeatedly and don’t give the sensitive area the protection it needs. In addition to the possibility of chronically swollen or deformed lips, there is a greater urgency when it comes to this area and skin cancer, Dr. Howe says. “Skin cancer on the lips behaves much more aggressively than skin cancer on other parts of the body,” he says. “Squamous cell cancer in the fleshy part of the lip is five times more likely to metastasize (i.e., spread) than similar skin cancers elsewhere on the body.”
Dr. King adds that not only can chronically sun-damaged lips cause a condition called actinic cheilitis, but they can also change in appearance. “They can develop fine lines and lose their red color and volume,” she says.
In the end, it’s essential to take care of your lips and protect them from the sun all year round – because chapped lips are more than enough on their own without adding to the sun damage.