lip sunscreen

Why Lip Sunscreen Should Be Your Best Friend This Summer

Summer is coming, and it’s time to ready our gear. And no, we’re not talking about swimsuits. We’re talking about lip sunscreen.

With the vast amount of information the internet provides us with, there’s no excuse for not knowing how to protect our skin. In this article, we talk about one of the more ignored aspects of sun protection: the lips.

Flaky, sunburned lips are bad canvasses for your favorite lipstick or your next microblading appointment. Worse: they hurt like a B. Here’s how to protect your peckers from the pesky summer sun.

Why lip sunscreen is essential

Did you know that one in five Americans will end up with skin cancer? The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) encourages everyone to use sunscreen, as it shields us from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. Apply sunscreen every day that you’re going outside, recommends the AAD.

And don’t forget to protect your lips from the sun, as well. According to California-based dermatologist Melanie Palm, MD, the lips are even more at-risk because it is a mucosal surface.

Speaking to Good Housekeeping, Dr. Palm said: “By the simple anatomy and structure of mucosal surfaces, we get very concerned that cancers [on the lips] can be more aggressive in nature because they can spread more easily through these conduits to other areas of the body.”

It might not happen as often, but the lips can get sunburned. In addition to sunburn, continuous exposure to the sun can also cause a rough or leathery appearance, collagen breakdown, dilation of blood vessels, and precancerous spots.

Also talking with Good Housekeeping, Deanne Robinson, MD, Connecticut-based dermatologist, explained:

“UV radiation from the sun can lead to DNA damage. The lips can develop precancerous or actinic keratosis, basal or squamous cell skin cancers, and even the deadliest of skin cancers, melanomas.”

Most commercials sunscreens don’t actually cut it

Unfortunately, Environmental Working Group (EWG) reports that about two-thirds of commercial sunscreens don’t offer enough protection.

The EWG studied beach and sports sunscreens, daily moisturizers, and lip balms. They looked into how well these products actually protect the skin from UV rays and whether or not the listed ingredients are linked to any health hazards. Only 34% of the tested sunscreens met the EWG’s standards.

That said it’s important to find the effective sunscreen and follow additional measures that protect the skin from the sun:

  • Wear clothing that covers up the skin, such as pants, hats, and long-sleeved shirts. Protective clothing can reduce burn risk by up to 27%.
  • Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from UV rays.
  • Avoid being under the sun from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., as these are the sun’s peak hours.
  • Always stay in the shade when outdoors. This reduces the risk of multiple burns by 30%.
  • Reapply sunscreen every 90 to 120 minutes or after eating or drinking.
  • Drink lots of water!

Choosing the right lip sunscreen

Picking sunscreen can be a confusing ordeal, what with the number of options available in the market. Here are tips from the EWG and Doctors Palm and Robinson.

lip sunscreen

1. Physical over chemical sunscreen

“The physical-based sunscreens work almost like mirrors; they reflect light back into the environment,” said Dr. Palm. “Chemical sunscreens function like little heat absorbers. They actually convert UV light energy into heat, but heat can cause inflammation on the skin.”

According to the AAD, the difference between physical and chemical sunscreens are:

Chemical sunscreens
Physical sunscreens
Work like a sponge, absorbing the sun’s rays. They contain one or more of the following active ingredients: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate. These formulations tend to be easier to rub into the skin without leaving a white residue.
Work like a shield, sitting sit on the surface of your skin and deflecting the sun’s rays. They contain the active ingredients zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide. Opt for this sunscreen if you have sensitive skin.

2. SPF content

Find a sunscreen and a lip balm that has an SPF of 30 to 50. Any higher than that, and you expose yourself to a different set of risks, says the EWG. They gave five reasons why sunscreens with 50+ SPF can be dangerous:

  1. Marginally better protection. There’s not really much difference in protection. SPF 50 sunscreen protects from 98% of UVB rays, while SPF 100 sunscreen protects from 99%.
  2. Poor balance. The higher the SPF number, the worse the protection against UVA rays.
  3. “100 SPF” isn’t really 100. Different tests yielded different results when scientists researched how much SPF is really in “SPF 100” products. The “actual SPF” of these products varied from SPF 37 to SPF 75.
  4. Customers get misled. People tend to think that the higher the SPF, the longer they can stay out under the sun. This can lead to more dangerous sun exposure.
  5. There may be more health risks. High-SPF products require a higher concentration of sun-filtering chemicals, writes the EWG. Some of these ingredients have been linked to tissue damage, potential hormone disruption, and allergic skin reactions.

3. Water resistance

If you’re going for a swim, it’s important that you’re sunscreen and lip balm are water-resistant; otherwise, they could easily be removed. Water-resistant sunscreen usually only lasts either 4o to 80 minutes.