Lip Sunscreen: Do Lips Need SPF Protection?

3 min read

OCT 19, 2023 - by THE ONESKIN TEAM
October 19,2023
SKIN CARE

Lip Sunscreen: Do Lips Need SPF Protection?

3 min read

OCT 19, 2023 - by THE ONESKIN TEAM
October 19,2023
SKIN CARE
When it comes to skin care, we put a lot of emphasis on why you should wear sunscreen to protect yourself from harmful UV rays; however, we frequently overlook one area of skin that is more delicate and vulnerable to sun damage than almost any other area: our lips. So, can you put sunscreen on your lips?
When it comes to skin care, we put a lot of emphasis on why you should wear sunscreen to protect yourself from harmful UV rays; however, we frequently overlook one area of skin that is more delicate and vulnerable to sun damage than almost any other area: our lips. So, can you put sunscreen on your lips?

Lips are the body’s most sensitive sensory organ and a mainstay of our face. Studies show that the lips are one of the first and most prominent areas that show signs of aging- starting with gradual loss of volume and increased lines that accumulate as time goes on.1 Not only that, but lips are built differently, lacking many protective features compared to the rest of skin. The truth is, protecting the skin on your lips is crucial, and it is essential to incorporate a lip sunscreen or application of regular sunscreen with SPF into your routine.
In this blog we will explore the importance of applying sunscreen to your lips for sun protection, while also providing practical tips for keeping your lips safe from harmful UV rays. We’ll discuss the potential risks of sun exposure to the lips and why using sun protection on them is a step that should never be overlooked.

Lips are the body’s most sensitive sensory organ and a mainstay of our face. Studies show that the lips are one of the first and most prominent areas that show signs of aging- starting with gradual loss of volume and increased lines that accumulate as time goes on.1 Not only that, but lips are built differently, lacking many protective features compared to the rest of skin. The truth is, protecting the skin on your lips is crucial, and it is essential to incorporate a lip sunscreen or application of regular sunscreen with SPF into your routine.
In this blog we will explore the importance of applying sunscreen to your lips for sun protection, while also providing practical tips for keeping your lips safe from harmful UV rays. We’ll discuss the potential risks of sun exposure to the lips and why using sun protection on them is a step that should never be overlooked.
01

How is lip skin different?

We know the skin on our lips is much more delicate and prone to sun damage than the rest of our body, but why? To start, our lips are covered by a much thinner layer of skin compared to the rest of our face or body. They have a thin stratum corneum (the outermost layer of the epidermis
), which serves a protective function, prevents dehydration, and shields UV radiation.2 Additionally, this exceptionally thin layer of skin lacks melanocytes, which contain the melanin pigment found across the rest of the body. The lip skin also has a higher transepidermal water loss (TEWL) and lower water content than skin on the cheeks, primarily due to the fact that lip skin doesn’t produce sebum.4 Being that their only source of moisture is saliva, the lips can easily become dry, chapped, and more prone to sunburn.
01

How is lip skin different?

We know the skin on our lips is much more delicate and prone to sun damage than the rest of our body, but why? To start, our lips are covered by a much thinner layer of skin compared to the rest of our face or body. They have a thin stratum corneum (the outermost layer of the epidermis
), which serves a protective function, prevents dehydration, and shields UV radiation.2 Additionally, this exceptionally thin layer of skin lacks melanocytes, which contain the melanin pigment found across the rest of the body. The lip skin also has a higher transepidermal water loss (TEWL) and lower water content than skin on the cheeks, primarily due to the fact that lip skin doesn’t produce sebum.4 Being that their only source of moisture is saliva, the lips can easily become dry, chapped, and more prone to sunburn.
02

Why lips need sun protection

UV damage can cause premature aging, and more importantly, leads to an increased risk of skin cancer. The fact is that the natural differences between the skin on the lips as opposed to the rest of the body means that lips are extra susceptible to UV damage and environmental stressors. Let’s delve a bit deeper into why lips need sun protection:
  1. The lips have an inherently weaker
  2. skin barrier
    due to a thin stratum corneum, this means there is less natural protection against the sun’s harmful UV rays that are inherent to thicker areas of skin.
  3. They have no oil glands! This leads to a lack of sebum, which contains antioxidants to help manage free radicals caused by UV radiation. Sebum also provides essential moisturization to the rest of your skin- without it, the lips are much more prone to dehydration.
  4. Melanin acts as your body's natural defense against UV radiation, absorbing and dissipating harmful UV rays.3 Since the lips have less melanin, they are more susceptible to the damaging effects of UV radiation.
  5. In order to make up for the lip’s vulnerabilities, we should be applying SPF to lips diligently. Cumulative UV damage from unprotected sun exposure, smoking, and other lifestyle habits play a role in lips' loss of volume, wrinkled appearance, and weakened color.
    Of these, UV damage is thought to be the most destructive and the leading extrinsic aging factor to the lips.5 But perhaps the most critical reason to protect your lips from the sun is to reduce the risk of skin cancer. Prolonged and repeated sun exposure increases the likelihood of developing cancers like squamous cell carcinoma on the lips,6 which can be aggressive and challenging to treat.
    02

    Why lips need sun protection

    UV damage can cause premature aging, and more importantly, leads to an increased risk of skin cancer. The fact is that the natural differences between the skin on the lips as opposed to the rest of the body means that lips are extra susceptible to UV damage and environmental stressors. Let’s delve a bit deeper into why lips need sun protection:
    1. The lips have an inherently weaker
    2. skin barrier
      due to a thin stratum corneum, this means there is less natural protection against the sun’s harmful UV rays that are inherent to thicker areas of skin.
    3. They have no oil glands! This leads to a lack of sebum, which contains antioxidants to help manage free radicals caused by UV radiation. Sebum also provides essential moisturization to the rest of your skin- without it, the lips are much more prone to dehydration.
    4. Melanin acts as your body's natural defense against UV radiation, absorbing and dissipating harmful UV rays.3 Since the lips have less melanin, they are more susceptible to the damaging effects of UV radiation.
    5. In order to make up for the lip’s vulnerabilities, we should be applying SPF to lips diligently. Cumulative UV damage from unprotected sun exposure, smoking, and other lifestyle habits play a role in lips' loss of volume, wrinkled appearance, and weakened color.
      Of these, UV damage is thought to be the most destructive and the leading extrinsic aging factor to the lips.5 But perhaps the most critical reason to protect your lips from the sun is to reduce the risk of skin cancer. Prolonged and repeated sun exposure increases the likelihood of developing cancers like squamous cell carcinoma on the lips,6 which can be aggressive and challenging to treat.
      03

      What does sunburn on the lips look like?

      Identifying what sunburned lips look like is essential for early intervention and protection. Sunburn on the lips typically presents with the following symptoms7:
      • Redness: The sunburned lips become noticeably redder than usual.
      • Swelling: Sunburned lips may appear swollen and feel tender to the touch.
      • Dryness: You may notice that your lips become excessively dry, often accompanied by peeling.
      • Pain and discomfort: Sunburned lips can be painful, making it uncomfortable to speak, eat, or even smile.
      • Blister: In severe cases, lip sunburns can lead to the formation of a blister.
      • If you suspect a lip sunburn, it's essential to take immediate action. Apply a soothing SPF lip balm and avoid further sun exposure.
        03

        What does sunburn on the lips look like?

        Identifying what sunburned lips look like is essential for early intervention and protection. Sunburn on the lips typically presents with the following symptoms7:
        • Redness: The sunburned lips become noticeably redder than usual.
        • Swelling: Sunburned lips may appear swollen and feel tender to the touch.
        • Dryness: You may notice that your lips become excessively dry, often accompanied by peeling.
        • Pain and discomfort: Sunburned lips can be painful, making it uncomfortable to speak, eat, or even smile.
        • Blister: In severe cases, lip sunburns can lead to the formation of a blister.
        • If you suspect a lip sunburn, it's essential to take immediate action. Apply a soothing SPF lip balm and avoid further sun exposure.
          04

          What ingredient can you use on your lips?

          When it comes to choosing the right sunscreen or SPF lip balm, look for products that contain these protective ingredients:
          • Broad-Spectrum SPF - Ensure that the product offers broad-spectrum protection, which shields against both
          • UVA rays and UVB rays
            . This comprehensive coverage is essential for effective sun protection.
          • Mineral sunscreen - Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are mineral sunscreen ingredients that provide a physical barrier against UV radiation.8 Of the two
          • zinc oxide is our preferred mineral UV filter, because it provides superior protection that is sustainable and gentle on the skin.
            Mineral sunscreens
            are also much safer for your skin as opposed to chemical sunscreen filters that could potentially become toxic when absorbed- this is especially important for products you could potentially ingest, like lip sunscreen.
          • Antioxidants - Look for a lip product that contains antioxidants like vitamin E or green tea extract.
          • Antioxidants
            help neutralize free radicals generated by UV radiation, offering an additional layer of UV protection. This is especially important for lips, since they are not able to create sebum, which naturally contains antioxidants.
          • Moisturizing Ingredients - To prevent water loss, try to stay hydrated and lock in that hydration by using
          • topical products like a peptide cream
            with moisturizing ingredients like shea butter, coconut oil, or beeswax. These ingredients help prevent dryness and chapped lips.
            04

            What ingredient can you use on your lips?

            When it comes to choosing the right sunscreen or SPF lip balm, look for products that contain these protective ingredients:
            • Broad-Spectrum SPF - Ensure that the product offers broad-spectrum protection, which shields against both
            • UVA rays and UVB rays
              . This comprehensive coverage is essential for effective sun protection.
            • Mineral sunscreen - Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are mineral sunscreen ingredients that provide a physical barrier against UV radiation.8 Of the two
            • zinc oxide is our preferred mineral UV filter, because it provides superior protection that is sustainable and gentle on the skin.
              Mineral sunscreens
              are also much safer for your skin as opposed to chemical sunscreen filters that could potentially become toxic when absorbed- this is especially important for products you could potentially ingest, like lip sunscreen.
            • Antioxidants - Look for a lip product that contains antioxidants like vitamin E or green tea extract.
            • Antioxidants
              help neutralize free radicals generated by UV radiation, offering an additional layer of UV protection. This is especially important for lips, since they are not able to create sebum, which naturally contains antioxidants.
            • Moisturizing Ingredients - To prevent water loss, try to stay hydrated and lock in that hydration by using
            • topical products like a peptide cream
              with moisturizing ingredients like shea butter, coconut oil, or beeswax. These ingredients help prevent dryness and chapped lips.
              Key Takeaways
              • Due to biological differences in the skin on your lips like a thinner skin barrier, less melanin content, and minimal hydration sources, the lips are much more susceptible to sun damage than other areas of your body.
              • Protecting your lips from UV damage can help prevent premature aging, painful sunburns, and skin cancer.
              • Sunburns on the lips can present with pain and discomfort, redness, swelling, dryness, and even blisters.
              • Opt for a broad spectrum mineral sunscreen with antioxidants and moisturizing ingredients to keep your lips hydrated, healthy, and protected.
              Key Takeaways
              • Due to biological differences in the skin on your lips like a thinner skin barrier, less melanin content, and minimal hydration sources, the lips are much more susceptible to sun damage than other areas of your body.
              • Protecting your lips from UV damage can help prevent premature aging, painful sunburns, and skin cancer.
              • Sunburns on the lips can present with pain and discomfort, redness, swelling, dryness, and even blisters.
              • Opt for a broad spectrum mineral sunscreen with antioxidants and moisturizing ingredients to keep your lips hydrated, healthy, and protected.

              Reviewed by Alessandra Zonari, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) and Co-Founder of OneSkin

              Alessandra earned her Master’s degree in stem cell biology, and her PhD in skin regeneration and tissue engineering at the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil in collaboration with the 3B’s Research Group in Portugal. Alessandra did a second post-doctoral at the University of Coimbra in Portugal. She is a co-inventor of three patents and has published 20 peer-reviewed papers in scientific journals.

              Reviewed by Alessandra Zonari, PhD, Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) and Co-Founder of OneSkin

              Alessandra earned her Master’s degree in stem cell biology, and her PhD in skin regeneration and tissue engineering at the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil in collaboration with the 3B’s Research Group in Portugal. Alessandra did a second post-doctoral at the University of Coimbra in Portugal. She is a co-inventor of three patents and has published 20 peer-reviewed papers in scientific journals.

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