Summer Buyers' Guide: Lip Protection

Pamper your lips this summer with sun-block-added lipsticks.

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on June 06, 2007

Your lips need protection from heat, humidity, and the sun's rays -- just like the rest of you. This summer, look for lip products with SPF to minimize damage from the sun's UV rays.

"The best protection for lips is anything that says sun block," says Ellen Marmur, MD, chief of dermatologic and cosmetic surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. A zinc-oxide base is ideal.

"Sun blocks that are made for lips are less irritating than those made for the skin," she says. For example, if you use skin sunscreen on your lips it may irritate them, so splurge for a lip-specific product.

Look for one with an SPF of 30 or higher, and use it often. "The key is frequent application, which means up to every two hours or so based on exposure," she adds.

What about lipstick? "Opaque lipsticks will protect better than sheer glossy ones. So if you want that glossy look, use an opaque lipstick first and then make the second layer glossy," Marmur says.

Some new lip products contain antioxidants with SPF for extra moisture, which may also offer additional protection. "Look for a lip treatment that combines the effects of antioxidants with SPF and maybe some of the newer features such as black currant oil and fatty acids to plump the lips."

Avoid products such as petroleum jelly, high-shine lip gloss, and baby oil; all these attract the sun to your lips. UV light exposure can increase the risk of lip cancer.

In a recent study by Richard Wagner, MD, a dermatologic surgeon at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, 94% of study participants were very aware that UV exposure causes skin cancer, but only 6% were aware of the risk factors for lip cancer.

Alarmingly, just 28% of participants were wearing a form of lip protection such as specialized lip sunscreen, regular sunscreen, or lipstick.

So this summer, smarten up your glossy look!

Show Sources

SOURCES: Ellen Marmur, MD, chief of dermatologic and cosmetic surgery, Mount Sinai Medical Center. New York City. Richard Wagner's study, Dermatologic Surgery, February 2005 issue.

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