It's safe to say that we all know to use sunscreen to protect the skin on our face and body from the harmful rays of the sun. Similarly, you need sunscreen in your lip balm, because the skin on your lips can also burn, become sun damaged and develop skin cancer.
The skin on your lips is thinner and more delicate. You may be using a lip balm to hydrate your lips, so why not find one that also offers sun protection? One top choice is Supergoop's PLAY Lip Balm SPF 30 because it's affordable, hydrating and offers broad-spectrum protection.
What to know before you buy a lip sunscreen
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends a minimum of SPF 30 for sun protection for your lips. If you’re fair-skinned or burn easily, opt for SPF 50. Anything over SPF 50 can give you a false sense of security that you can stay out in the sun longer, but that isn’t true.
Lip balms with mineral sunscreens use natural minerals like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide to reflect the sun’s rays. Ones with chemical sunscreens use chemicals like oxybenzone and avobenzone to absorb the sun’s rays to protect you. Pregnant and nursing women should avoid chemical sunscreens.
If you have dry skin, choose a lip sunscreen with glycerin, lanolin and oils. Those with sensitive skin should choose hypoallergenic and fragrance-free formulas that don’t have petroleum in order to avoid irritation. Those with oily or acne-prone skin can get lip balm in a gel formula.
Lip sunscreen features
Both UVA and UVB rays can cause skin cancer. UVA rays cause signs of aging and UVB cause sunburns. It’s best to find a broad-spectrum lip sunscreen that can provide protection from both.
Water- and sweat-resistant
If you’re planning on being physically active or swimming, choose a lip balm that’s water- and sweat-resistant so you don’t have to reapply as often. If you’re out longer, make sure to reapply every 2 hours.
Tinted lip sunscreens offer a subtle color, and many brands make them in a range of matte or shimmery shades. Untinted ones generally apply clear and may have a matte or shiny finish.
Many lip balms come in a variety of chemical flavors of fruits or desserts, which may irritate your skin or cause allergies. If you like flavored lip balm, look for natural ingredients.
Ingredients to look for
Beeswax and plant-based waxes are often used ingredients in lip balms as they help heal and soften the lips. Some other frequently used natural ingredients are honey, coconut oil and peppermint for their hydrating and soothing benefits.
Ingredients to avoid
Make sure your chosen lip balm doesn’t have alcohol or synthetic fragrances, as they can irritate your lips. It’s also best to avoid BHA, as studies have shown that it can have carcinogenic effects.
Lip sunscreen cost
Affordable lip sunscreens come in at $8 or below, though they might not be sweat-resistant. Mid-range options come in the $9-$20 range and can offer a variety of colors and flavors. High-end brands cost $20 and above due to the brand name and packaging.
Lip sunscreen FAQ
Is it safe to wear sunscreen on my lips?
A. Yes, it is. Dermatologists recommend using a lip sunscreen with at least SPF 30 to protect your lips from the sun.
Does lip sunscreen work?
A. Yes, it does. Lip sunscreen can protect you from sunburn and skin cancer. You may have to reapply it more often if you're outside.
How do I prevent sunburned lips?
A. Apply lip sunscreen 15-30 minutes before going outside and reapply as needed. It's likely to rub off after eating, drinking or swimming, meaning you'll need to reapply.
Which lip sunscreen should I get?
Best of the best lip sunscreen
Our take: A reliable sunscreen brand, Supergoop makes this affordable lip sunscreen with shea butter to keep your lips hydrated for hours.
What we like: Made with sunflower seed oil to retain moisture and vitamin E to protect from environmental stressors. It's cruelty-free, vegan and reef-safe. It's available in mint and acai flavors.
What we dislike: It isn't available in tinted or flavorless options.
Best bang for your buck lip sunscreen
Our take: A hydrating lip balm that can heal dry, chapped lips and offer sun protection.
What we like: Available in six flavors and a value pack of three, it's free of parabens, phthalates and sulfates. It has antioxidants to protect from damage caused by free radicals and costs only $8.
What we dislike: The emollient balm can be a bit sticky.
Honorable mention lip sunscreen
Our take: A creamy lip sunscreen with broad-spectrum SPF 30 to protect, nourish and soften your lips with natural ingredients.
What we like: This mineral lip sunscreen is available in six colors and is water-resistant for up to 80 minutes. It's also available in a three-pack. It's safe to use if you're pregnant and nursing.
What we dislike: It can be pricey for a lip balm at $18, and it has caused some irritation to those with sensitive skin.