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There are a few body parts that are especially vulnerable to sun damage. The shoulders, tip of the nose, and lips, because of their physical location, stand unguarded against the sun’s blistering UV rays. Baseball caps tend to cut off shade right around the mouth, and sunscreen’s sour taste and poison-adjacent ingredients mean the lips tend to get skipped over during daily application.
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And yet, anybody who has slurped down spicey ramen after a day at the beach can attest that a sunburnt kisser is a uniquely irritating ache. Lip skin is sensitive, and while it heals quickly those hours between the exposure and the crisped layers sloughing off are not pleasant. Use lip balm with SPF instead.
What the Experts Say
SPY spoke to three skin care experts to find out the best stuff for keeping your smackers moisturized, and protected, in heavy sun. Jake Jaime, a skincare product designer, Bart Kaczanowicz, a skincare and beauty blogger, and Garrett Munce, a writer and grooming expert who’s worked at Esquire and GQ.
According to Kaczanowicz, a good SPF balm is best used as a daily preventative measure, rather than an attempt to retroactively soothe after the damage is done. He recommended stocking up on cheap, everyday balms for regular use and putting something heavier and more luxe in the nightstand for weekly replenishing. Both Jaime and Kaczanowicz, however, said that simple is often better and something at or above 30 SPF is what one should aim for.
Aquaphor Lip Repair SPF 30
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Consistency Is Key: Jaime told SPY that he’s an Aquaphor fanatic. The basic Immediate Relief balm is his go-to for day-to-day use, but when he’s going to be in the sun, he opts for the SPF 30 version.
Texture Matters: “Lip balms that contain SPF can be grainy and feel horrible on the lips, but Aquaphor isn’t like that,” Jaime said. “I can’t tell the difference in terms of texture between the original and the SPF version, and that’s exactly what you want.”
Jack Black Intense Therapy Lip Balm
Smell Test: The Jack Black balm, according to Kaczanowicz, is “rich without feeling heavy and stays on the lips significantly longer than most.” It also comes in a variety of scents.
Price Point: At $10 for 0.25 ounces, it’s more expensive than a standard tube of chapstick, but the quality will keep you coming back. Kaczanowicz says he’s relied on it for years.
Supergoop! Lip Shield SPF 30, Mint Flavor
Clear Favorite: “No one makes sunscreen like Supergoop! and the lip balm is no exception,” Munce said. “Good protective factor, broad spectrum, it’s even water and sweat-resistant. It also, somehow, doesn’t feel heavy or sticky on your lips.”
Stock Up: It’s available in a 3-pack for $30, which puts it individually a bit higher than some of the alternatives, but worth it for how long the three tubes will last.
Vacation After Dinner Mint SPF 30 Lip Balm
Fun Factor: “This stuff tastes incredible – truly like one of those classic soft mints you get at like a family restaurant or something,” Munce said. “I love that this brand is really having fun with sunscreen and making it different and exciting to use, even when it comes to lip balm.” You’re going to taste trace amounts of anything you put on your lips, so it might as well be pleasant.
ROI: At just $5 for a tube, this is one of the cheaper options on the list. Sure, it’s a bit more than gas station chapstick, but it’ll be a big level up.
Frequently Asked Questions About SPF Lip Balm
How much SPF do you need in lip balm?
Jaime says that 30 is the benchmark according to most dermatologists. “Anything less than 30 isn’t providing enough protection,” Jaime says. He also noted that anything above that can feel needlessly heavy or sticky on the lips.
What does SPF lip balm look like on your lips?
Kaczanowicz says that some mineral UV filters — like the zinc used in many sunscreens — can make already-cracked skin look worse than it is. Otherwise, most SPF balms have a matte finish that won’t look much different from regular chapstick if applied correctly.
What are SPF lip balms made of?
SPF balms will be made of many of the same waxes and oils as typical Chapstick but with an added ingredient for sun protection. In the case of Aquaphor, for instance, these are a combination of Avobenzone, Homosalate, Octisalate, and Octocrylene, which are organic compounds that shield the skin from UV rays. Other balms may use slightly different chemicals or a mineral like zinc that’s a more significant physical barrier.
Do I need sunscreen in my lip balm?
Lips get sunburned like any part of the body, and since they’re often overlooked, you might be doing damage without even noticing it. In short, yes. If you’re spending a lot of time outside, you should get some SPF in your lip kit.
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