how to protect lips from sun

How to Protect Your Lips from the Sun

When you apply sunscreen to your body, do you remember to protect your lips as well? The lips are a sensitive part of the body that are often forgotten about. Frequent sun exposure not only increases your risk of skin cancer, but also lip cancer. At Lifetime Family Dental, we want to help you reduce your risk of all types of oral cancer with preventative action. Continue reading to learn how you can protect your lips from the sun. 

Why Do Your Lips Need Sun Protection?

Just like the rest of your skin, your lips can get a sunburn from too much sun exposure. In fact, your lips are more sensitive to the sun than the rest of your body, because their skin is thinner and contains less melanin. If your lips are redder than usual, swollen, tender, and/or blistering after being out in the sun, they’ve most likely been sunburned. 

Prolonged sun exposure doesn’t just cause painful sunburns, it also increases your risk of lip cancer, a type of oral cancer that results in tumors or lesions on your lips. The main signs of oral cancer in the lips are mouth sores that won’t heal. 

Men over the age of fifty have a higher risk of oral cancer than women. However, other risk factors include smoking, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, and frequent sun exposure. In addition to quitting smoking and drinking in moderation, you can greatly reduce your risk of lip cancer by protecting your lips from the sun. 

How to Protect Your Lips from the Sun to Prevent Lip Cancer

Protecting your lips from sun damage is easy—it just takes a little foresight. If you’re going to be out in the sun all day, remember to plan ahead. And it’s not just the summer sun that you need to worry about. You can still get a sunburn in winter, so it’s best to make a habit of protecting your lips all year long.

Use an SPF Lip Balm

While you can apply normal sunscreen directly on your lips, there are also SPF lip balms specifically designed to protect your lips from the sun. Lips need a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30, so make sure to choose a product that will provide proper protection. You should reapply SPF lip balm every two hours during sun exposure to best protect your lips. 

Wear a Wide-Brimmed Hat

Wearing a hat with a wide enough brim will help keep the sun off your face and lower your risk of lip cancer. However, you should still wear SPF lip balm while wearing a wide-brimmed hat for maximum protection. You can still get a sunburn from the sun’s reflection off of water or snow, so it’s especially important to wear an SPF lip balm if you plan to spend extended time outside, even if you have a hat on. 

Limit Your Exposure to the Sun

Another simple step you can take to protect your lips is to limit your time in the sun. Try to find a shaded area to rest in as often as you can when you’re out having fun on a hot summer day. You should also try to stay out of the sun as much as possible between 10 am and 3 pm, when the sun’s rays are the most intense. 

How to Treat Sunburned Lips

If your lips do get sunburned, try these tips to find some relief:

  • Rest a cold washcloth on your lips. Avoid icing your lips, which causes more damage.
  • Apply 100% aloe vera gel to your lips. Avoid petroleum products, which can seal in the heat from your sunburn and further irritate your skin. 
  • Use an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication like ibuprofen to reduce pain. 

Speak with your doctor right away if your sunburn is accompanied by severely swollen lips, tongue swelling, or a rash. You should also contact your doctor if your lips have not healed after five days. 

Preventative Dental Care in Gilbert, Arizona

Regular preventative teeth cleanings help keep your mouth healthy and reduce your risk of oral cancer. At Lifetime Family Dental, we provide gentle cleanings and thorough dental exams that help us catch any signs of oral cancer early on. If you’re due for a checkup, call us at 480-558-4331 today to schedule an appointment. 

Images used under creative commons license – commercial use (8/9/2022). Photo by Old Youth on Unsplash