Lips

When you slather on the sunscreen for a day at the beach or pool, are you protecting your pucker? In a study done by the University of Texas, 94 percent of participants were aware that UV exposure from the sun causes skin cancer, but only 6 percent were aware of the risk factors for lip cancer, and only 28 percent of participants were wearing a form of lip protection.

Lips have a very thin layer of skin and much less melanin—the pigment that helps protect skin from the sun—than other areas. Lips see a lot of sun exposure, year-round; hats, sunglasses, scarves, clothing, and other accessories meant to protect us from the sun do little to shade your lips.  And you can just as easily get skin cancer on your lips as anywhere else on your body. Plus, sun is thought to affect collagen as well (in your lips and other parts of your body), which means that sun exposure can cause signs of aging beyond a simple sunburn.

For a beautiful smile, try these tips for keeping your lips safe in the summer (and all year long).

  1. Look for any lip-specific product that says sunscreen or UV protection. 
  2. Avoid using regular sunscreen meant for your face or body on your lips. Lips have a very thin layer of skin and regular sunscreens can irritate. Plus, regular sunscreen may not be safe to be ingested.
  3. As with all sunscreens, opt for at least SPF 30, and a zinc-oxide base is ideal.
  4. Frequent application is key. Apply at least every two hours during sun exposure.
  5. Regular opaque lipstick does offer some protection—more than gloss. If you want a glossy look when you’ll be out in the sun, apply an opaque lipstick first.
  6. Avoid petroleum jelly, high-shine lip gloss, or baby oil—all of these will actually focus more harmful UV rays on your lips.
  7. Young lips can be even more at risk, so be sure to apply lip balm with sunscreen on kids as well.
  8. People susceptible to cold sores should be extra cautious; sun exposure has been shown to trigger breakouts.

Photo Credit: Hamed Saber