SPF Lip Balm- How to Protect Your Lips Especiallly in the Summer Months

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Is it important to protect your lips from the sun? 

Protecting your lips from the sun is as important as protecting every other part of the body exposed to UV radiation such as the face and neck.  Even those of us who wear appropriate sun protection on their faces every day, often times we forget this super important area that also has to be protected-the lips. 

Why, what specific damage can the sun do to your lips?

Often unshaded and exposed to the harmful UV radiation, unprotected lips are exposed to sun damage, accelerated aging, and even cancer.  Lips exposed to UV light often times become the site of a common type of skin cancer-Squamous Cell Carcinoma, which can be invasive and spread throughout the body.

How often should you be wearing an SPF lip balm?

Wear your SPF lip balm EVERY SINGLE DAY, just like you do on your face with your regular broad-spectrum sunscreen.  You want to have your SPF lip balm before you leave the house and reapply every two hours when outdoors or exposed to the sun, even when you’re sitting indoors but near a window or driving in a car.  When using your lips more often, such as kissing, eating, drinking, sweating, or, swimming, reapply as needed, as we all know these things tend to make your lipstick and balms wipe off!

Make an effort to replace your regular lip balm with those that contain SPF for sun protection so that you are covered full-time, and you don’t think whether to use it or not.

What moisturizing ingredients to look for in your SPF lip balm?

There is a number of moisturizing ingredients available that are used as components for lip balms.

You want to look for humectants, which add water to the lips.  Humectant ingredients include hyaluronic acid, glycerin and aloe vera.   Another humectant ingredient is honey, which hydrates, evens out texture, and plumps the skin while being antibacterial and antifungal.

The other moisturizing ingredients are emollients, which help soften the lips.  Emollient ingredients include petrolatum/petroleum jelly, mineral oil, shea butter, and coconut oil.  Petroleum jelly also works as an occlusive ingredient that traps the skin moisture preventing it from evaporating, as does lanolin.  (Lanolin is harvested from sheep's wool and also acts like an occlusive that prevents water from evaporating from the lip skin and keeps it moist.)  Other ingredients available are beeswax and natural oils that also do the job hydrating while forming a protective barrier.

Whatever product you choose, make sure that it contains a moisturizing ingredient to keep the lips from excessive dryness and cracking.

What mineral ingredients are important? 

As the lips are prone to drying when exposed to the sun, just like the skin, it is important to have ingredients physically blocking UV rays to prevent them from causing the skin to be chapped. 

Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are used for this purpose, and many good SPF lip balms (and broad-spectrum SPF sunscreens for that matter) have formulated these mineral ingredients into micronized and nano particles so that they are ‘cosmetically elegant’ and do not leave a white tint.

Zinc oxide is especially great as a mineral ingredient, as with its ability to block UVB rays on top of the UVA rays, which helps prevent pre-cancerous conditions, such as actinic cheilitis, and skin cancers including basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.

What chemical ingredients are important?

Along with moisturizing ingredients and those mineral UV ray-blocking ingredients, there are other chemical ingredients that are important for a good quality SPF lip balm.  

Anti-aging additives such as hyaluronic acid, atelocollagen (a moisturizer) and dipalmitoyl hydroxyproline (a line filler) my help to reduce the appearance of lines and furrows at edges of the lips.

Are there ingredients to stay away from?

Paraben is substance that can potentially disrupt endocrine function because of its chemical composition, mimicking estrogen an is to be avoided. because it can lead to an increased risk of breast cancer.

Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) or butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) is a preservative that is also being connected to cancer, systemic toxicity, respiratory and endocrine issues.

Menthol, phenol, and camphor are often added to medicated lip balms to acting as mild anesthetics to soothe irritated lips.  However, they actually tend to dry out the lips.  Alcohol, like phenol and menthol to a lesser degree, while not dangerous per se, can be associated with excessive dryness of the lips on some occasions so discontinue use if signs of irritation do occur.

"Fragrance" is a tricky term and manufacturers sometimes list chemicals they use as "fragrance" to protect their trade secrets. Be careful using a product that contains such designations as unknown ingredients, such as phthalates (endocrine disruptor), may be used.