– Sun care is an essential part of personal care and necessary to protect your skin from the harmful effects of UV energy. When you'll be outdoors for long periods of time, ensuring that your skin is adequately protected from the sun is of the utmost importance. Lip balm allows you to extend sun protection to the delicate lip tissue to help you avoid sunburn and lower UV exposure risks.
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The ultraviolet energy of the sun poses both short and long-term risks for the skin. If your skin is exposed to the sun without a sun protective barrier, it can become red and inflamed. This condition is known as sunburn, and the lips are very susceptible to it because they do not contain the sun protective pigments found in the rest of your complexion. Repeated unprotected exposure to UV can do damage to the skin cells in the lip area, causing lines and wrinkles to form on the lips. Cancerous growths can also develop on the lips due to sun exposure. The lower lip is particularly at risk for skin cancer and is 12 times more likely to become the site of a cancerous tumor.
Types of Sunscreen Ingredients in Lip Balm
All lip balm products with SPF protection can help lessen the risk of sunburn, but products may provide sun protection in different ways. Some types use FDA-approved natural mineral sunscreens like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide to form a barrier over the lips that reflects ultraviolet energy. Others contain chemical ingredients that absorb the ultraviolet energy, so that it does not affect the lip tissue. SPF lip balms will have their sunscreen ingredients labeled, so you can determine how the formula provides sun protection to the lips.
Interpreting Lip Balm SPF Levels
One of the ways that sunscreen lip balms differ from each other is in their SPF or Sun Protection Factor ratings. This number tells you how much of the ultraviolet B (UVB) rays a lip balm can block or absorb. An SPF 15 product filters about 93 percent of UVB while an SPF 30 product protects against about 97 percent of UVB. No lip balm can prevent all UVB from reaching the lip tissue, but the higher the SPF number, the more that is blocked by the formula. Keep in mind that there is a second type of ultraviolet energy that can affect the lip tissue called ultraviolet A or UVA. UVB is the type responsible for sunburn, while UVA plays a large role in skin cancer and the development of signs of aging. Only SPF lip balms that are listed as "broad-spectrum" formulas contain ingredients to block or absorb some UVA rays along with UVB.
To ensure that you get the most out of your SPF lip balm, apply it 30 minutes before sun exposure. Reapply the formula any time that you drink, eat, wipe your mouth, swim or sweat profusely. Be sure to reapply the lip balm a minimum of once every 2 hours regardless of what activities you're doing to maintain the sun protection.