The Importance Of Sun Care For Your Lips

Like sunburns on the scalp or that one spot around your bra strap, lip sunburns are entirely preventable. Here’s what you need to know about protecting your pout.
Written by Leah Prinzivalli
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The Importance Of Sun Care For Your LipsMelissa Di Rocco/Unsplash

It’s happened to the best of us: You get home from a beach day, feeling proud that you remembered to slather on your SPF 30 sunscreen every two hours just like your dermatologist recommended, when all of a sudden you sense a tingle around the mouth. Your lips feel dry as a desert and look red and swollen. And then it hits you — you forgot to pack your sun protective lip balm.

Like sunburns on the scalp or that one spot around your bra strap that always seems to elude you, lip sunburns are 100 percent preventable yet somehow frustratingly hard to remember to proactively treat. But this Skin Cancer Awareness Month, we’re pledging to never again head out for a day in the sun without SPF lip care. Here’s what you need to know about protecting your pout.

Why You Need to Protect Your Pout

“It is essential to protect your lips from the sun,” says Corey L. Hartman, MD, a board certified dermatologist and founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology in Birmingham, Alabama. Whether you realize it or not, the lips are a part of your skin — a very sensitive part at that, he cautions.

Unfortunately, many of us forget that sun protection on the lips is no different than sun protection on the rest of the face (i.e. it should be a non-negotiable). “Patients will slather on sunscreen all over their face but put on their regular lip balm without SPF protection and get a sunburn on the lips, which can be so painful and dangerous,” he shares. In his practice, Dr. Hartman has seen patients with cancerous growths on the lips, including melanoma, which is the deadliest form of skin cancer.

According to Atlanta-based board certified dermatologist Kathleen Viscusi, MD, the lips can actually be more vulnerable to skin cancer than other areas of the body. “The lower lip deserves even more special attention due to its increased exposure to the sun overhead and its lack of natural protection afforded to other areas shadowed by the contours of our face and body,” she explains. Be sure to examine your pout during at-home skin cancer screenings. “Skin cancer in this area is considered a high risk feature and can be particularly aggressive,” Dr. Viscusi warns.

The Best Lip Balms with SPF

The experts tell us that lip balms with SPF should be applied at least 15 minutes before you go outside, and reapplied after swimming, sweating, or eating and drinking. If you’re doing it right, you’ll be reaching for your tube often, so we’ve rounded up a few of our favorites below.

Best Budget Buy: Sun Bum Mineral SPF 30 Sunscreen Lip Balm


Dr. Viscusi refers to this broad-spectrum, zinc-based balm as her “holy grail drugstore option.” At this price point, we recommend buying two or three — one for every beach bag. $4,

Best Multitasker: Brush on Block Protective Mineral Lip Oil SPF 32


What happens when you combine a non-sticky lip gloss with rich emollients to lock in moisture, antioxidants to protect against free radicals, and titanium dioxide and zinc oxide to offer broad-spectrum SPF 32 protection? You get this universally flattering neutral lip oil. $25,

Best Lipstick Alternative: MDSolarSciences Hydrating Sheer Lip Balm SPF 30


Perfect for adding just a hint of protective tint, this vegan SPF 30 balm features nourishing shea, avocado, and olive butters. The five shades — ranging from a ruby red (above) to a barely there shimmer — have a creamy texture and flattering satin finish. $20,

Best For Daily Use: Supergoop Play Lip Balm with Acai


Supergoop is a sun care company first and foremost, but you’d never know that its silky lip balm doubles as a broad-spectrum SPF 30 protectant. Nourishing shea butter and soothing acai make for a go-to balm that you’ll be reaching for in and out of the sun. $10,

Best Hydrator: hello Naturally Friendly Sweet Mint Vegan SPF 15 Lip Balm


This vegan balm is free of beeswax, petrolatum, and parabens and instead offers eight hours of moisturization (thanks to coconut and olive oils) and SPF 15 protection (courtesy of 9 percent zinc oxide). Oh, and it's also water resistant for up to 80 minutes, which makes it a great addition to any beach or pool bag. $5,

Best Tinted Balm: Colorescience Sunforgettable Total Protection Color Balm SPF 50


Tinted and protective, this broad-spectrum SPF 50 balm comes in three shades — deep berry (above), your-lips-but-better blush, and sun-kissed bronze — which makes perfect for beach days that turn into fun summer nights. $30,

Best For Pool Days: EltaMD UV Lip Balm Broad Spectrum SPF 31


EltaMD is known (and loved) for its face sunscreen, and this moisturizing lippie is sure to become one of your favorites, too. Dr. Viscusi likes the sheer formula because it’s water-resistant and perfect for poolside days when you’re planning for frequent dips. $12,

Best Scent: eos The Guardian 100% Natural Sunscreen Lip Balm in Coconut


We're not sure what we love more, the broad-spectrum zinc oxide formula that features nourishing sunflower and jojoba seed oils and shea butter (to name a few) or the piña colada-inspired scent. Either way, it's a tropical vacation in a tube. $3,

All products featured are independently selected by our editors, however, AEDIT may receive a commission on items purchased through our links.

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LEAH PRINZIVALLIis a contributing writer for AEDIT.

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