Applying SPF 30+ sunscreen daily is one of the most effective ways to help protect your skin from the signs of premature aging and reduce the chances of developing skin cancer.¹ But the truth is, no sunscreen can provide complete protection from the sun’s UV rays. That’s why it’s important to apply sunscreen liberally about 15 minutes before heading outdoors (check the label for specific directions!) and reapply frequently—every two hours or after swimming or sweating.²
But when was the last time you remembered to extend that UV protection to your lips? After all, they need it just as much as any other part of your skin. Think about it: Your lips are constantly exposed to the sun when you’re outside. Even broad-brimmed hats can fall short of fully shading them. That’s why you might want to consider swapping your go-to lip balm for one with the added benefit of sun protection.
Here’s all you need to know about SPF in lip balms:
There’s no getting around it. SPF lip balm is necessary because your lips are just as likely to get a sunburn as the rest of your skin. Nevertheless, so many of us overlook our lips when it comes to SPF protection.
The skin on your lips is thinner than many other parts of your body that are usually exposed to the sun. Your lips also lack sebaceous glands, which produce sebum, your skin’s natural oil. That means our lips can’t moisturize themselves as well as other parts of our body (which is why we’re often licking them or applying a moisturizing lip balm in the first place). This leaves them especially susceptible to environmental factors like sun, wind, and extreme temperatures, which can lead to dryness, flaking, and blisters.
Wondering how to add SPF to lip balm? It doesn’t mean dipping your chapstick in your sunscreen before applying it to your lips and calling it a day. It’s actually easier—choosing a lip balm that already contains SPF in the first place! Here's a list of some of our favorites to help protect your lips from the sun.
The lip balm by Curology with SPF 30. We took our dermatologist-designed lip balm and added a boost of sun protection! Non-greasy and formulated with 9.4% zinc oxide to provide broad-spectrum protection from UVA and UVB rays, it’s a 100% mineral sunscreen for your lips that’s vegan and cruelty-free.
EltaMD UV Lip Balm SPF 36. This one contains octinoxate and zinc oxide to provide 80 minutes of water-resistant UVA and UVB sun protection.
Supergoop! PLAY Lip Balm SPF 30 with Acai. Active ingredients like avobenzone, homosalate, octocrylene, and octisalate provide broad-spectrum protection, while shea butter moisturizes.
CAY SKIN Isle Lip Balm with SPF 30. This one contains aloe, sea moss, and vitamin E for hydration and avobenzone, homosalate, and octisalate for sun protection.
MDSolarSciences Hydrating Sheer Lip Balm SPF 30. Also available in five shades, this lip balm contains avocado oil, shea butter, and olive butter to help hydrate and avobenzone, actisalate, and homosalate for broad-spectrum sun protection. And it’s vegan and cruelty-free.
Just like sunscreen for your face and body, the best SPF lip balm is the one you’ll actually make a habit of using. Here are some things to consider when choosing a lip balm with SPF protection.
Avoid common irritants like added fragrance if you have sensitive skin. Even natural fragrances, like essential oils, can cause irritation in some people. Our advice? Keep it simple by sticking with fragrance-free products.
Look for hydrating ingredients, including aloe, glycerin, and petrolatum—especially if you’re prone to dry lips or live in a dry, cold, or windy climate. Other hydrating powerhouse ingredients include hyaluronic acid, honey, and beeswax.
Mineral sunscreens use zinc oxide or titanium dioxide to physically block the sun. These sunscreens are often better for sensitive lips. Choose lip balms using micronized or nanoparticles to avoid the white caste many mineral sunscreens are famous for leaving behind.
Use a water-resistant lip balm if you like to play hard, especially in the water. FDA labeling requires sunscreens, including lip balm sunscreens, to list their water resistance as 40-minutes or 80-minutes.³
The general recommendation is to choose SPF 30 or higher,⁴ but the most important thing is consistent use and proper application. In other words, apply liberally and reapply frequently. And whether it’s for your lips or the rest of your body, always try to use the product that works best for your lifestyle and your unique skin. If you love being in the water, go with a lip balm that’s water resistant, and choose a sunscreen based on whatever type of skin you have, be it normal, combination, or acne-prone.
Sure, but it’s not necessary. Your skin works to repair itself at night from damage caused by the sun,⁵ including the skin on your lips. If you’d like to use some sort of lip balm before heading to bed, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends a thick ointment like petrolatum.
The simple answer, again, is to apply and reapply. All sunscreen products, whether made for your body, face, or lips, should be applied about 15 minutes before going into the sun and every two hours or after swimming or sweating. Regarding your lips, specifically, if you use a napkin to wipe your mouth after eating or drinking something, you’ll also need to reapply.
Use the two-finger rule to apply sunscreen to your face and body. Protecting the rest of your body is just as important as protecting your lips!
If you live in a cold, dry climate, you know your lips take a beating all winter. But the same can true during the summer. Aside from wearing SPF lip balm all year, here are a few tips to care for your lips all year round.⁶,⁷
Stay out of the sun as much as possible. Seek shade or wear a broad-brimmed hat, but remember that some broad-brimmed hats may not shade your lips.
Use a hydrating lip balm for dry, chapped lips. Choose non-irritating lip balms with humectants and emollients to attract and seal in moisture.
Avoid ingredients that irritate your lips. For many, this includes ingredients like camphor, eucalyptus, and menthol. Added fragrance and alcohol can also be irritating and drying.
“Stop licking, biting, or picking at your lips. The urge to nibble at flaking skin on your lips is common but resist the temptation! Instead, try applying a hydrating lip balm to rehydrate them,” says Kristen Jokela, a certified nurse practitioner at Curology.
Stay hydrated by drinking water throughout the day. Use a humidifier in dry conditions, especially at night when you’re sleeping.
Be mindful of the way you fidget! Avoid putting metal objects like paper clips, jewelry, or reusable metal straws between your lips. Certain metals can also cause irritation.
Our members asked us to include SPF protection in our lip balm. So, we did! Now you can add the broad-spectrum SPF 30 lip balm to your order and know you’re better protected from UVA and UVB rays.
Not a Curology member yet? Sign up for a free 30-day trial to be paired with one of our licensed dermatology providers who will design a custom skincare routine, including a formulated-just-for-you custom prescription cream to target your unique skincare concerns. Your 30-day trial also includes any of our non-prescription products such as the cleanser, moisturizer, sunscreen, and SPF lip balm—just pay $4.95 (plus tax) to cover shipping and handling.
SPF lip balm is necessary because your lips are just as likely to get a sunburn as the rest of your skin. Nevertheless, so many of us overlook our lips when it comes to SPF protection.
Here are some things to consider when choosing a lip balm with SPF protection.
Avoid common irritants
Look for hydrating ingredients
Use a water-resistant lip balm
The general recommendation is to choose SPF 30 or higher, but the most important thing is consistent use and proper application. If you love being in the water, go with a lip balm that’s water resistant, and choose a sunscreen based on whatever type of skin you have, be it normal, combination, or acne-prone.
Sure, but it’s not necessary. Your skin works to repair itself at night from damage caused by the sun, including the skin on your lips. If you’d like to use some sort of lip balm before heading to bed, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends a thick ointment like petrolatum.
Sambandan, D. R. & Ratner, D. Sunscreens: an overview and update. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. (2011).
Food and Drug Administration. Sunscreen: How to help protect your skin from the sun. (2021, November 8).
Code of Federal Regulations Title 21. Food and Drugs. (2022, March 29).
American Academy of Dermatology. Sunscreen FAQs. (n.d.).
Lyons, A.B., et al. Circadian rhythm and the skin: A review of the literature. Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. (September 2019).
American Academy of Dermatology. 7 Dermatologists’ tips for healing dry, chapped lips. (n.d.).
American Academy of Dermatology. How to prevent and treat dry, chapped lips. (n.d.).
* Subject to consultation. Subscription is required. Results may vary.
Meredith Hartle, DO