Merck Manual

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Lips and Sun Damage


Bernard J. Hennessy

, DDS,

  • Texas A&M University, College of Dentistry

Last full review/revision May 2020| Content last modified May 2020
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Sun damage (see also Overview of Sunlight and Skin Damage) may make the lips, especially the lower lip, hard and dry. People over age 45 and people with light skin who have had extensive exposure to the sun are most susceptible to sun damage.

Long-term sun exposure may cause precancerous growths called actinic keratoses.

Sun-damaged lips are sometimes dry and scaly and feel like sandpaper. These changes are considered precancerous, particularly if the lip surface thins, reddens, and develops sores (ulcers). Sun-damaged lips with such changes should be evaluated by a doctor or dentist.

Keratoacanthomas are skin growths that are considered by some experts to be a type of skin cancer. They occur most often on sun-exposed skin.

Sun damage to the lips can be minimized by covering the lips with a lip balm containing sunscreen and by shielding the face from the sun's harmful rays with a wide-brimmed hat.

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