You Should Really Be Applying SPF on your Lips—Here’s Why

Plus expert-recommended SPF lip balms that protect and look great.

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Getting into the habit of applying SPF is easily one of the best things you can do for your overall health. That daily slather shields you from harsh UV sun exposure, which is ultimately responsible for causing skin cancer and premature aging. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) says you should apply a broad spectrum SPF of 30 or higher to any exposed skin, and that you should re-up at least every two hours.

Lips are an area that’s often forgotten about, but it’s really important to apply SPF here as well. In fact, this area might actually be more prone to sun damage since it’s consistently exposed and often neglected. The skin here is also quite thin compared to other areas of skin, notes board-certified dermatologist Kristina Collins, M.D. 

“As a dermatologic surgeon who has performed over 15,000 skin cancer surgeries, including numerous surgical removals of cancerous growths on the lips, I can assure you that your future self will thank you for protecting this sensitive area with daily SPF,” Dr. Collins says. “Even more importantly, when we do diagnose and treat skin cancer on the lip, this location is considered a risk factor for a cancer to be highly aggressive.” 

Beyond cancer, Dr. Collins says that chronic sun damage on the lips can lead to wrinkles, scaling, thinning, and dryness. There’s even a condition referred to as “actinic cheilitis” in which lips are perpetually chapped due to UV damage, which is super-uncomfortable to deal with. 

How Much and How Often Should You Apply Lip SPF?

Applying SPF to your lips every day, and reapplying often, is your best defense against all the above. Similar to advice given for the rest of your skin, you should use an SPF of 30 or higher for your lips in order to get adequate protection from the sun. 

You should apply lip SPF at least every two hours when outdoors. Also make sure to reapply after eating, or if you have a habit of licking or biting at your lips. And just like the rest of your body, year-round application—rain or shine—is a must, notes board-certified dermatologist Diane Madfes, M.D.  

If this regimen feels hard to keep up with, then you can do other things that protect your lips from the sun, like wearing a sun hat, sticking to shady spots, and avoiding peak sun hours (between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.).

Best Lip Balm with SPF

Forget what you know about lip balms with SPF. In the past, many of these products felt chalky or thick, and some left behind an unflattering white cast. Today’s class of SPF lip balms are formulated with moisturizing, nourishing ingredients and can lend a pop of color or a bit of shine. We asked skincare pros to share their favorite lip balms with SPF so you can narrow down your shopping list.

Colorescience Sunforgettable Total Protection Color Balm

lip-balm-with-spf-Colorescience Sunforgettable Total Protection Color Balm

Sara Kranke DNP, ACNP-C, APRN, says this is her preferred lip balm with sunscreen. It has SPF 50 and features an all-mineral formula that also protects against aggressors like pollution. As a bonus, you can use this on both your lips and cheeks! 

Coola Organic Liplux Classic Sunscreen Lip Balm SPF 30

lip-balm-with-spf-Coola Organic Liplux Classic Sunscreen Lip Balm SPF 30

If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option, try this sunscreen lip balm from sun-care brand Coola. In addition to a clear option, it’s available in a pale pink hue, which makes it a good option “for those who want a little tint in an oil base,” Dr. Madfes says. 

Cay Skin Isle Lip Balm SPF 30

lip-balm-with-spf-Cay Skin Isle Lip Balm SPF 30

For a juicy, glossy pick that looks great, smells divine, and protects like a champ, try this lip balm from Cay Skin. It applies just like a gloss without any of the stickiness, tastes like vanilla sugar, and comes in a clear, rose, and berry shades.

Elta MD UV Lip Balm with SPF 36

lip-balm-with-spf-Elta MD UV Lip Balm with SPF 36

This creamy lip balm soothes, hydrates, and locks in moisture while protecting from UV rays. It’s also waterproof, making it a great pick for pool days or for those who tend to drink a lot of liquid throughout the day. Both Kranke and Dr. Collins say this is one of their favorites because of the broad-spectrum protection and moisturizing, waterproof formula.

eos SPF 30 Coconut Lip Balm

lip-balm-with-spf-eos SPF 30 Coconut Lip Balm

Here’s another affordable pick, this from eos. Kranke says, “It provides great sun protection via SPF 30 and features fortifying ingredients, like shea butter and jojoba and coconut oils, to provide moisture. The coconut and pineapple flavor makes it even more delightful. 

Supergoop! PLAY Lip Balm SPF 30 with Acai

lip-balm-with-spf-Supergoop! PLAY Lip Balm SPF 30 with Acai

Leave it to sun-care brand Supergoop! to deliver a great lip balm that’ll keep your pout protected from the sun. Along with SPF 30, this moisturizing formula features creamy shea butter and sunflower seed oil, and has a nice, minty flavor. 

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