Have you got sunburn blisters on the face, lips, or scalp and are wondering what to do about them? Then stay with us for a comprehensive insight including pictures, treatment and options for severe blistering.
Blistered Sunburn – What They Are
Blistered sunburn usually indicates more severe (deeper) damage by UV rays from the sun. The blisters may develop within a few hours of exposure or a few days later.
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What causes sunburn blisters?
The skin contains special cells called melanocytes which produce melanin to protect the skin cells from the damaging effect of ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun or other sources such as sun lamps.
It however often happens that the extent and period of exposure to UV radiation exceeds the ability of melanin (skin pigment) to protect the skin. When that happens, the skin gets burned (sunburned).
The first layer of skin is typically affected (first degree sunburn), but in some cases, the lower layers of skin may as well get sunburned (second degree sunburn). Second degree sunburns are the ones typically associated with blisters.
Sunburn blisters manifest themselves as small, fluid-filled bubbles on the surface of the skin. These can occur on any exposed area of the skin, including the lips and scalp. The fluid retained in them emanates from the damaged skin cells in the lower layers of skin. It’s typically colourless but may turn yellowish-green if infection occurs.
The intensity of the blisters vary depending on the skin type (fair skinned or dark), the intensity of exposure (what time of day?), and the period of exposure.
Small sunburn blisters usually heal on their own, but you should keep in mind that the skin damage cause by sunburn is often permanent and can cause serious long-term complications, including skin cancer.
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Sunburn blisters Treatment
A question often arises with regard to sunburn blisters treatment, should you pop them or not? Well, they are usually aimed at protecting your skin and it is in your skin’s best interest to leave them intact.
The WebMD website however says that large blisters may benefit from draining them out more so if they are painful. With that in mind, let us look at the two treatment options available for sunburn blistering:
For small pea-sized sunburn blisters
- Leave the blisters intact
- Keep the surrounding skin cool with cool showers or cool compresses (washcloth soaked in water), hydrated (water-based lotion), and soothed (aloe vera gel or lotion)
- Use over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen to reduce pain
- If you like, apply dry bandages to prevent infection and change as soon as is necessary to keep the sunburned area of skin dry and clean
For large, painful blisters
According to the WebMD website, large painful blisters may benefit from draining as follows:
- Sterilize a needle or straight pin by rubbing it with alcohol
- Puncture a small hole on one edge of the blister and drain the fluid retained in it gently
- Clean the blister with soap and water – not hydrogen peroxide, iodine or alcohol
- Dry the blister by patting it gently with a clean gauze
- Apply an antibiotic cream such as Polysporin or Bacitracin
- Cover the area with non-stick bandage and change it at least once daily
- Take over-the-counter pain relieving medicines such as ibuprofen to take the pain out of the blister
In addition you will want to use loose cotton clothes, drink adequate amounts of water, and avoid further exposure to the harmful UV rays by staying out of the sun and applying a wide spectrum sunscreen at all times once the blisters have healed.
When to seek medical attention
Watch out for symptoms of sun poisoning such as fever, chills, nausea and general malaise. These merit getting medical attention. It is also advisable to seek medical attention if you experience extreme thirst or rapid breathing and increasing pulse rate.
Sunburn Blisters on Your Lips
Thinking of sunburn (and sunburn blisters), the lips are the last part f the skin that comes to mind of many, but they are just as prone to UV damage. The lower lips are more susceptible to sunburn since its orientation makes it relatively more exposed to sun rays compared to the upper lip.
Protecting your lips from sunburn (and blisters) is as easy as ensuring that your lip balm or lip gloss has sunscreen protection – at least SPF15. This applies to sunny seasons as much as it does to cloudy days and winter seasons.
If the unfortunate has already happened however, treating sunburn blisters on lips is the same as treating blisters occurring anywhere else on the skin.
Keep the blisters intact and protect them from infection by dabbing them with antiseptic wipes. Ensure that the antiseptic wipes you use are safe for use on the mouth.
You may also want to apply some aloe vera gel or juice to relieve pain. If the blisters are not broken, you may also apply some moisturising lotion, preferably one that contains aloe vera.
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Caution : Do not use Vaseline or any other petroleum product on blisters caused by sunburn as this can trap in heat and make the blisters worse. Also check that any moisturizer you use on the blisters doesn’t contain alcohol as this can make the lips dry and cause tightening that can make the blisters more painful or even cause them to break out.
Sunburn Blisters on the Face – Blistered Sunburns on Face
The face is one of the parts of the body that receive the most exposure to sun rays and UV radiation that comes with it. This makes the face particularly vulnerable to sunburn damage and blistering. Facial blisters are typically Clear white but may become yellowish green in the event of infection.
Although fair-skinned people are at higher risk of sunburn and blistering, dark and black skins can as well get sunburned and thus need to be protected. In addition to wearing a broad spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 15, you should also avoid exposure to the sun when it is at its peak; that is between 10 am and 4 pm.
Your best bet in as far as treatment of facial sunburn blisters is to let them be and keep the skin cool (with cool baths) and moisturized (water based lotion; only if blisters are still intact) and staying adequately moisturized (taking plenty of water) while soothing the symptoms by taking OTC pain relieving medicines, applying aloe vera gel.
If the blisters however burst on their own, wash them with water and soap and apply antibiotic cream such as Polysporin.
Sunburn Blisters Images and Pictures
Here comes our favorite section. I know you have been waiting to see some real sunburn blisters pictures as is the custom of our website to provide you with visual inspiration whenever possible. So here we go:
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The second image shows blisters with yellowish-green pus which is often an indication of infection.
Very Severe Sunburn Blisters – Bad Blisters from Sunburns
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, most cases of sunburn – including those with a few blisters – can be treated at home using simple remedies such as cool soaks, aloe vera, anti-inflammatory drugs e.g. ibuprofen, oatmeal baths, etc.
If the blisters however cover more than 20 percent of the body (or the entire back of your child), it merits medical attention. The same applies to sunburn blisters that are accompanied by symptoms such as pus discharge, fever, chills, nausea, or general malaise (feeling tired).
Sunburn Blisters on Your Nose
“I had bad sunburn on the face a week ago and I thought it was healing just fine until I suddenly developed blisters on the nose. What should I do?” Jayden
That is a question sent to use by one of our readers.
Well, as part of the skin, the nose can as well fall victim to sunburn blisters which are usually a sign of serious sunburn. As we have already mentioned, the blisters do not necessarily show right away; it might be a few days before they break out.
Just leave the blisters alone to prevent infection but if they break, apply antibiotic cream. If you need to trim some hanging pieces of skin, use a pair of small scissors that has been cleaned with alcohol.
You may also want to integrate aloe vera, pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and cool baths into your treatment regime.
Sunburn Blisters on Your Back
The back is also not foolproof to the damaging effects of sun’s UV radiation. These blisters can for example, occur, after hours of sun bathing by the pool without (re)applying sunscreen.
Such blisters will heal on their own over time but you may want to take care of symptoms by taking anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, applying aloe vera, applying cool soaks, and keeping the surrounding skin moisturized.
Scalp Sunburn Blisters
A question often arises, is sunburn to blame for the blisters I have on the scalp? Well, blisters can form as a result of exposure to excessive UV radiation from the sun. After all, the scalp is just part of the skin and needs to be protected.
If your scalp gets sunburned, soothe it by applying cold milk and stay away from heat styling, e.g. blow-dry, until the sunburn has healed.