Why You Need to Be Putting SPF on Your Lips

<p>Getty Images</p>

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Getting a sunburn on your face—or anywhere on your body—is no joke. Aside from it being painful AF, it can also cause serious skin damage and increase your chances of developing skin cancer. One place that's arguably the most prone to getting sunburned is also likely the place where people forget to apply sunscreen. We're talking about your lips.

The lips are just as important as the rest of your body when it comes to sun protection. While it's an unexpected place to get sunburned, it happens frequently and you'll want to treat it ASAP. But how? That's where we turned to doctors Jeannette Graf and Michael I. Jacobs.

Meet Our Expert

  • Dr. Jeannette Graf is a board-certified dermatologist and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

  • Dr. Michael I. Jacobs is a board-certified dermatologist in Manhattan and the medical technology director at Cortina.

Why Lips Are Prone to Sunburns

Before diving into how to treat your sunburned lips, you have to understand how sunburn can happen there in the first place. According to Dr. Graf, the skin on our lips is more delicate than on other parts of the body, making it very sensitive to sun damage. Dr. Jacobs agrees and adds that our lips also have less melanin than other parts of our bodies, which adds to our susceptibility to burn.

Another reason our lips get sunburned is that people often forget that it too needs SPF protection. "Many people also neglect to apply sun protection to their lips," says Dr. Graf. "In addition, the movement of the lips while speaking, drinking, eating, and licking our lips removes the SPF which has been applied. That makes constant reapplication of SPF lip balm very important."

How to Tell If Your Lips Are Sunburned

It's not that hard to tell whether your lips are sunburned or not. Dr. Graf explains that the symptoms of sunburned lips are very similar to ones of chapped lips. "You may experience flaking, dryness, and sensitivity," she says. "They may be blistered and red which is an early sign that lips are sun damaged."

Protecting Lips Against the Sun

While it may be tempting to just use your daily face SPF (or even your body one), both experts discourage it. "I wouldn’t recommend using body or face SPF on your lips as there may be ingredients that are harmful for ingestion which can happen when products are applied to the lips," says Dr. Graf. "Due to the type of skin on lips and ease of rubbing product off, a lip balm [with SPF] is preferable." Look no further: We've rounded up the best SPF-infused lip balms to wear all year long.


You'll also want to avoid exfoliating lips while sunburned, as that can cause more damage and make lips more sensitive.

How to Treat Sunburned Lips

The best way to treat sunburned lips is to use products that will hydrate and keep inflammation down. Dr. Graf says to look for products that replenish moisture in the lips such as shea butter and aloe vera or take an anti-inflammatory like Ibuprofen to reduce any swelling and provide relief.

She also recommends taking vitamins. Studies have shown the vitamin D3 taken one hour after sunburn can help reduce its symptoms. Other things you can do, says Dr. Jacobs, include applying cool compresses of water, milk, or aloe vera for that hydration.

Related: The 11 Best After Sun Lotions to Soothe Stressed-Out Skin

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