When it comes to sunscreen, people remember to apply it on their face and body. One of the most overlooked places to use sunblock is on the lips. The skin on the lips is thin and can quickly become burned or damaged by the sun. That's where lip sunscreen comes in — a specially formulated product to keep your lips safe and healthy while you enjoy being outdoors.
Lip sunscreen is a product containing both sun protection and ingredients to maintain hydration and gloss.
Long-term sun exposure without lip SPF may lead to premature aging, sun damage, and skin cancer.
Dermatologists recommend a broad-spectrum, water-resistant lip sunscreen with at least SPF 30.
You should reapply lip sunscreen every two hours or after eating and drinking.
Using SPF lip balm and lipstick may enhance the effectiveness of sun protection.
What is lip sunscreen?
Lip sunscreen is crucial for protecting the delicate skin on our lips from the harmful effects of sun exposure. Similar to applying sunscreen to our face and body, it is equally important to give our lips the same level of protection. Lips have thinner skin and contain less melanin, a natural pigmentation that protects against harmful sun rays, making them more susceptible to sunburn and other sun damage.
Risks when avoiding lip sunscreen
Ultraviolet rays can cause sun damage, premature aging, and skin cancer on the lips. Examples of sun damage can be dark spots, fine lines, and wrinkles. Individuals may also risk developing actinic cheilitis, a precancerous condition that may become skin cancer.
According to research, actinic cheilitis and skin cancers may appear anywhere on the lip but are usually present on the lower lip. The condition is more commonly seen among males than females, possibly due to males working outdoors more often and not consistently applying lip balm. Additional risk factors for cancer on the lips include:
- Alcohol consumption
- Exposure to tanning beds
- Exposure to human papillomavirus (HPV)
- Weak immune system
Sun damage on lips
Sun damaged lips can manifest in several ways. One common sign is dry and chapped lips, which may feel rough and flaky. Additionally, sun damage can cause discoloration of the lips, resulting in darker or uneven pigmentation. In more severe cases, prolonged sun exposure can lead to painful blisters or lip sores. Signs and symptoms can also include:
- Fragile skin
Benefits of lip sunscreen
Aside from sun protection, they also contain antioxidants, such as peptides, that address fine lines and wrinkles. Extra ingredients include humectants to help retain moisture and emollients to soften the lips. All of these components assist in ensuring your lips are protected while incorporating the correct elements to maintain their plumpness and shine.
What to look for in a lip sunscreen
Dermatologists advise looking for a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. The same goes for lip sunscreen. Opt for a lip sunscreen that offers broad-spectrum protection, which shields against UVA and UVB rays. Choosing a water-resistant lip sunscreen is advisable, especially if you plan on swimming or participating in outdoor activities where you may sweat.
Lastly, look for a lip balm that is moisturizing and nourishing, as the delicate skin on the lips is prone to dryness and chapping. Ingredients such as shea butter, cocoa butter, or oils like coconut or jojoba can help to keep your lips hydrated while providing sun protection.
Lip balm versus lipstick
There is not enough research comparing the effectiveness of SPF lip balm and lipsticks. However, lipsticks use an ingredient known as iron oxides that help to distribute various shades. Tinted sunscreens have iron oxides. Some clinical studies argue that this element may protect against visible light. Therefore, using both lip balm and lipstick with SPF may enhance SPF protection against harmful rays and visible light.
How to apply lip sunscreen
When applying lip sunscreen, apply evenly to your top and bottom lips, covering the entire surface. Reapply lip sunscreen every two hours or more frequently if you are swimming or sweating, even if the sunscreen is water-resistant. Also, reapply after eating or drinking water. If you have the habit of licking your lips, you will need to reapply sunscreen again.
Additional measures to consider when protecting yourself from sun exposure include wearing a hat and seeking shade. Applying lip sunscreen protects your lips from harmful UV rays and the potential risks of sun damage. Not only will lip sunscreen shield your lips from the sun, but it will also help to keep them moisturized and nourished. Following these steps may seem cumbersome, but it could help keep your lips healthy and safe in the long run.
Can I use face & body sunscreen on the lips?
Face and body sunscreens could contain ingredients that may be unsuitable for the lips and could cause dryness or irritation. Lip sunscreens are formulated primarily for the lips and have SPF protection and moisturizing elements to improve hydration and smoothness.
Should you only use lip sunscreen in the summer?
No, sunscreen is required year round. UV rays from the sun can harm your lips regardless of the season. Like the rest of your skin, your lips can also suffer from sunburn, dryness, and long-term damage caused by UV radiation. Therefore, using lip sunscreen regularly, not just in the summer, is vital to protect your lips.
How can I reapply my sunscreen over my lipstick?
If you are wearing lipstick for the day, consider selecting a lipstick that contains SPF. As you retouch your lipstick, you'll also have the opportunity to reapply for sun protection.
- Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. Iron oxides in novel skin care formulations attenuate blue light for enhanced protection against skin damage.
- Cleveland Clinic. Actinic cheilitis.
- American Academy of Dermatology Association. Sunscreen FAQs.