When you're applying sunscreen before heading out to take on a new day, you probably remember to squeeze a dab on your cheeks, nose, and forehead. After all, you're well aware that you can get a sunburn on your face and body. But, there's one place that people tend to overlook when it comes to sun protection: their lips. Can you get a sunburn on your lips in the first place?

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, the leading cause of lip cancer is ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. So, if you don't normally think about sun exposure when it comes to your lips, consider boosting your ready-for-fun-in-the-sun routine to include your kissers. Here's what you should know about lip sunburns.

What Do Lip Sunburns Look Like?

As you might've guessed from its distinct color and texture, lip skin is a little different from the skin on the rest of your body. According to the International Journal of Cosmetic Science, the skin on your lips is thinner, lacks hair and sweat glands, and has a lower capacity to hold water. All of these factors make your lips especially sensitive to their external environment—including the sun's UV rays.

Healthline suggests keeping an eye out for the following symptoms to determine whether you have sunburned lips:

  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Tenderness
  • Dryness
  • Blisters

Keep in mind that lip blisters resulting from a sunburn are different from the blisters you get from a cold sore. According to Healthline, cold sore blisters and sunburn blisters can both be painful and itchy, but those caused by sunburn look like small, white, fluid-filled bumps. When in doubt, check out the surrounding skin. If it's red and swollen, you're probably dealing with a sunburn-related blister, rather than a cold sore.

How Long Do Sunburned Lips Take to Heal?

Sunburned lips generally take anywhere from three to five days to heal in mild cases. More severe lip sunburns may take closer to 10 days. You may experience itching and peeling during the healing process—and if you do develop any blisters, make sure not to pop them, as this could lead to infection. If your lips are severely swollen to the point where they're preventing you from doing everyday things like eating and talking, contact your doctor right away.

How Do You Soothe Sunburned Lips?

Sunburns are no fun, but there are a few things you can do at home to help make the wait a little easier. Here are some common ways to help soothe sunburned lips:

  • Try aloe vera. Snip a leaf straight from your aloe plant, or get a bottle of fragrance-free aloe vera from your local market. Rub the gel in gently to help cool the stinging and soothe irritation.
  • Apply a cold compress. Ice packs and ice rollers can help reduce puffiness and temporarily numb the area.
  • Moisturize. Adding moisture to your parched lips helps support overall skin health and can help speed up the healing process. Look for lip balm ingredients that lock in moisture, like Hyaluronic Acid, Squalane, and Vitamin E.
  • Consider hydrocortisone cream. If nothing else seems to do the trick, you can apply some of this over-the-counter cream to the outside of your lips to help reduce itching, swelling, and redness. Just be careful not to swallow it!

What's the Best Way to Prevent Sunburn on Your Lips?

As with the rest of your face and body, the best form of daily protection is to use sunscreen on your lips. Try an option made specifically for this delicate area, like EltaMD UV Lip Balm Broad-Spectrum SPF 36, which protects from both UVA and UVB rays and soothes dry, chapped lips. Reapply often—at least every couple of hours—to keep your skin protected.

So, can you get a sunburn on your lips? You sure can. In fact, they're even more susceptible to the elements than other areas. Your eyes may be the window to your soul, but your lips are pretty important too—so give them a little TLC!


  • Audrey Noble

    Audrey Noble is a New York City-based reporter specializing in features, celebrity profiles, and beauty topics. Her work has appeared in Vogue, Harper's BAZAAR, Allure, Vanity Fair, Refinery29, and more. She is a University of Southern California alumna with bachelor's degrees in print journalism and creative writing.

    View all posts