By Ying Chu
Q: I was recently exposed to quite a bit more sunlight than I expected. While I did have sunblock on, my lips seem to have taken the brunt of it. They are sore, peeling, and dark around the edges. Is there anything you can recommend?
A: The best thing you can do after a sunburn is moisturize. A vitamin E or aloe gel (fresh aloe is even better!) will help with healing, and if you store them in the fridge, the coolness with soothe your lips. Follow with a rich lip balm containing shea or cocoa butterand reapply every hour. If your lips are really painful, you could try Neutrogena Skin Aid All-In-One Skin Recovery Treatment or Neosporin Plus Pain Relief First Aid Antibiotic Cream. Both are ointments with a mild topical analgesic that numbs the pain; Neosporin will also help prevent infection (if they're cracked). And it might be tempting, but try not to lick your lipsthat'll just dry them out more.
No matter what your skin type is, ward off skin cancer and sun damage by following these top tips:
1. Apply Yourself. The American Cancer Society suggests spreading about a palmful of sunscreen on your body and a squirt the size of a silver dollar on your face. Reapply every 40 to 80 minutes if you're outdoors. Most of us apply less sunscreen than we should (and never reapply), which can render an SPF 30 only as effective as an SPF 7.
2. Dry Off After Swimming
The sun's rays penetrate wet skin more than dry skin, says Min-Wei Christine Lee, M.D., a dermatologic surgeon and director of the East Bay Laser & Skin Care Center in Walnut Creek, CA.
3. Go Undercover
Slather on sunscreen under your swimsuit. UV rays can get through most fabrics.
4. Aim High
If you're exercising outdoors, go for a sunscreen with an SPF of 45 or higher. In general, higher SPFs stay put best, says Dr. Lee.
5. Do Your Research
Check the labels of any oral drugs you're taking for warnings of photosensitivity. Some antibiotics, diabetes treatments and diuretics make you more prone to sun damage even while wearing sunscreen.