When it's warm outside and the sun is shining, you might be tempted to head to the beach and swim, play a volleyball game or just lie in the sand. Before you indulge in these activities, however, you should make sure to protect your skin. Skin that's exposed to the sun is susceptible to sunburn, which can cause painful redness and even blisters. To prevent sunburn and sun blisters, use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor, or SPF, of at least 30.
Blisters occur only in severe cases of sunburn. Sometimes they're accompanied by swelling. A blister is a bubble under the skin that's usually filled with fluid. Blisters can be uncomfortable and unsightly, but don't pop them. Blisters form to protect the skin, so it's best to keep them intact for as long as possible. If a sun blister pops, make sure to keep it clean and dry so it doesn't get infected.
Preventing sunburn and blisters is easy. The sun shines most intensely from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., so don't spend too much time in the sun during the late morning and early afternoon. You should put on sunscreen half an hour before you go out in the sun so it has time to soak into your skin. Reapply sunscreen every two hours, especially if you've gotten wet or sweaty. Also remember that clothing protects you by keeping your skin covered, and hats provide shade to protect your face. Some companies now make UVA- and UVB-protective clothing, so do some research if having this type of protection interests you.
As long as you take the proper precautions to protect yourself, don't worry about enjoying bright, warm, sunny days outdoors. But don't forget to take care of your lips -- which have the thinnest skin on your body. For more information about how sun blisters can affect your lips, keep reading.
Sun Blisters on Lips
When you think of your skin, your lips might not be the first thing that comes to mind. However, it's just as important to protect your lips as the rest of your skin.
Lip balms are great for soothing already chapped or irritated lips, and sometimes they come in fun scents and flavors too. The next time you're dabbing on your favorite lip balm, take a look to see if it has an SPF rating. Many lip balms make sun protection part of their formulas, and using a protective balm with 15 or 30 SPF will help prevent sun blisters on your lips. Protective lip balm is especially beneficial in the winter months, when you don't notice the sun's strength or brightness as much.
If you already have a sun blister on your lips, the treatment is similar to treatment for sun blisters anywhere else on your skin. Disinfect sun blisters on the lips by lightly dabbing them with antiseptic wipes. Check with your doctor to determine the best kind to use -- some antiseptic materials are dangerous if accidentally swallowed and should not be used on the mouth. You can also gently apply aloe to sunburned lips to relieve pain, just as you would on any other sunburn. But make sure the moisturizer you use on your sunburn does not contain alcohol, which will tighten and dry out your skin -- and make your sunburn even more painful.
To learn more about treating sun blisters, read on.
Treating Sun Blisters
You've stayed out in the sun too long, didn't (re)apply sunscreen, and have a serious sunburn -- now what? As far as blisters are concerned, your best bet is to let them be. Remember that blisters form to protect the skin, so you shouldn't pop them. If a sun blister pops on its own, wash the area gently, but don't pull off any skin. Instead, loosely cover the popped blister with a clean bandage. You can also bandage intact blisters, which will help prevent infection. Use a soft material, like gauze, and just be careful not to break the blisters.
Treatments for the sunburned skin surrounding sun blisters will relieve pain, but they won't actually make the sunburn heal faster. The healing process happens naturally, but severe cases can sometimes take several days to even begin to heal. In the meantime, cover sunburned skin with a cool washcloth, or take a cool bath or shower to relieve irritation. Use moisturizers such as aloe on your skin. Many moisturizers can be purchased at your local drugstore, but be careful. Benzocaine and lidocaine are ingredients in some moisturizers that could actually further irritate your sunburn, so read the labels before you make your choice. You can also take over-the-counter medication like ibuprofen or aspirin to relieve pain from sunburns.
If your sunburn doesn't begin to heal in several days or is covered in sun blisters, you should see a doctor. Also see a doctor if you feel dizzy or have a fever -- these symptoms can accompany a sunburn and are signs of a more serious problem, such as dehydration or heat exhaustion.
The best way to treat a sunburn is to prevent it. Wear sunscreen when you go out in the sun, even if you don't think you'll be out for very long. Your skin will thank you.
Visit the links on the next page for more information.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- American Academy of Dermatology. "Ultraviolet Index: What You Need To Know." (Accessed 8/3/2009) http://www.aad.org/public/publications/pamphlets/sun_ultraviolet.html
- Ansdell. "Sunburn." Center for Disease Control and Prevention. July 29, 2009. (Accessed 8/6/2009). http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2010/chapter-2/sunburn.aspx
- Berman, Kevin. "Sunburn Health Article." Healthline. April 12, 2007. (Accessed 8/3/2009) http://www.healthline.com/adamcontent/sunburn
- Duldner, John E. "Sunburn first aid." Medline Plus. June 9, 2008. (Accessed 8/3/2009) http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000062.htm#Prevention
- Gibson, Lawrence E. "Sunburn treatment: What works?" Health Information. Aug. 16, 2008. (Accessed 8/3/2009) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/sunburn-treatment/AN01423
- Harvard Health Publications. "Blister (Overview)." Dec. 18, 2007. (Accessed 8/3/2009. http://www.everydayhealth.com/health-information/blisters-overview-what-is-it.aspx
- Harvard Health Publications. "Sun-Damaged Skin." Feb. 8, 2007. (Accessed 8/3/2009) http://www.everydayhealth.com/health-information/sun-damaged-skin-what-is-it.aspx
- ToothIQ. "Herpetic lesions." March 21, 2008. (Accessed 8/4/2009) http://www.toothiq.com/dental-diagnoses/dental-diagnosis-herpes-labialis-overview.html
- ToothIQ. "Sunburned lips." June 16, 2009. (Accessed 8/4/2009) http://www.toothiq.com/dental-symptoms/dental-symptom-sunburned-lips.html