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The best SPF lip balms to hydrate and protect lips, according to doctors

Doctors explain how to choose an SPF lip balm, which ingredients to look for — and what to avoid.
Jack Black Intense Therapy Lip Balm SPF 25, Coola LipLux Organic Hydrating Lip Oil and EltaMD UV Lip SPF 36
We spoke with doctors to learn the importance of using SPF lip balms and which ingredients best hydrate and protect your lips.Amazon; Coola

You likely already know the importance of using sunscreen every day to protect your skin from dark spots, sun damage, signs of aging and more serious conditions, like skin cancer. But there’s an area of the face many people fail to think about when it comes to sun protection: lips.

“Protecting your lips from the sun is as important as protecting every other part of the body exposed to UV radiation,” said Dr. Jaimie DeRosa, a board-certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon. The experts we spoke to consider SPF lip balms a daily essential to help protect lips from skin cancer, like basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.

SKIP AHEAD How to shop for an SPF lip balm | What to avoid while shopping for an SPF lip balm

Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Eileen Deignan mentioned that sun exposure can also cause actinic cheilitis, a precancerous condition colloquially known as “sailor’s lip.” “The lower lip is more susceptible [to this] because it protrudes slightly below the upper lip,” she said. Deignan also mentioned that chronic sun exposure can cause breakage of the skin barrier around the lips or cause the lips themselves to look aged and discolored.

That’s why using a lip balm with SPF is so important, said the experts. As with face sunscreens, you should wear SPF lip balms every single day, advised DeRosa. Dr. Patricia Wexler, another board-certified dermatologist we spoke to, said it’s important to wear one whether you’re going outside or simply sitting by a window. Deignan added you should reapply it every two to three hours — but more often if eating or if you’ve wiped your lips.

To help simplify your search for the best SPF lip balms, we asked three dermatologists for insight on which ones offer the best protection and which ingredients we should look for when shopping for one.

Top-rated SPF lip balms

Below are our top picks for SPF lip balms that offer excellent protection, based on our expert guidance. All are highly rated, provide broad-spectrum protection and available to shop at Sephora and Amazon, or big box stores, like Walmart and Target.

Sun Bum SPF 30 Mineral Sunscreen Lip Balm

Sun Bum’s mineral lip balm is made with zinc oxide — a mineral ingredient that our doctors recommended — to protect against UVA and UVB rays, and it has sweet almond oil (a moisturizing ingredient) to prevent drying. According to the brand, this mineral formula will not leave a white cast on lips and has a matte finish. It has a 4.5-star average rating from over 4,000 reviews on Amazon.

Jack Black Intense Therapy Lip Balm SPF 25

Avobenzone, a recommended chemical ingredient that protects from UV rays, and petrolatum, a recommended emollient, work together to protect and soften your lips in this shea butter and vitamin E lip balm, according to Jack Black. The SPF 25 balm is colorless and some of its hydrating ingredients were recommended by our experts, too, from emollient shea butter to vitamin E. It comes with a 4.6-star average rating from more than 3,800 reviews on Amazon.

Plus, if you’re interested in a stronger flavor or natural fragrance, Jack Black offers its Therapy Lip Balm in Black Tea & Blackberry, Grapefruit & Ginger, Lemon & Shea Butter, Natural Mint & Shea Butter and Pineapple Mint.

Elta MD UV Lip Balm with SPF 36

Deignan said that she personally uses Elta MD UV Lip Balm with SPF 36. Like the Sun Bum mentioned above, Elta MD’s lip balm is made with the active ingredient zinc oxide, which blocks the sun. It also contains octinoxate, a UVB ray shield. Of its other ingredients, Elta MD noted that its lip balm has the humectant glycerin (humectants preserve water on the lips). It comes with a 4.5-star average rating from more than 3,000 reviews on Amazon

Aquaphor Lip Protectant and Sunscreen

Aquaphor, which has been around since 1925, has an affordable, SPF 30 Lip Protectant and Sunscreen that’s fragrance-free and paraben-free. It also contains a wealth of our doctor’s recommended ingredients, from avobenzone (which protects your skin by absorbing UV rays), petrolatum to glycerin, as well as the chemical ingredients octisalate, octocrylene and oxybenzone, which absorb UVA and UVB rays and add water resistance. There’s some shea butter in there for good measure, too. Aquaphor’s Lip Protectant and Sunscreen has a 4.6-star average rating from more than 11,000 reviews on Amazon.

Coola LipLux Organic Hydrating Lip Oil Sunscreen SPF 30

The Coola LipLux Organic Hydrating Lip Oil Sunscreen is different from the other options on this list because it’s just that — a lip oil instead of a lip balm. Even so, it excels for the same reasons as the lip balms featured here. It contains SPF 30, is paraben-free, vegan and made up entirely of active ingredients our experts recommended — avobenzone, the chemical ingredient homosalate (a chemical UV filter), octisalate to octocrylene. Plus, it’s infused with hydrating vitamin E.

Banana Boat Sport Lip Balm SPF 50

Banana Boat’s Sport Ultra Lip Balm has active chemical ingredients of avobenzone, octocrylene and oxybenzone, which Deignan specifically recommended for lip balms. It has other recommended inactive ingredients, like petrolatum and coconut oil, too. The Banana Boat lip balm offers broad spectrum UVA and UVB protection — and the highest SPF on this list, with SPF 50. The Banana Boat Sport Lip Balm SPF 50 has a 4.7-star average rating from more than 2,600 reviews on Amazon.

Coppertone Sport Sunscreen Lip Balm

This lip balm from Coppertone also uses avobenzone, one of Deignan’s favorite sum protecting ingredients. Plus, it contains vitamin E and petrolatum to help keep lips moisturized. It has a SPF 50 and offers UVA/UVB protection. According to the brand, the formula is water resistant up to 80 minutes, making it great for outdoor activities. The Coppertone Sport Sunscreen Lip Balm has a 4.6-star average rating from more than 5,000reviews on Amazon.

Colorscience Sunforgettable Total Protection Color Balm SPF 50

This mineral formula (it contains zinc oxide) can be used on both lips and cheeks. It is SPF 50 and is water resistant for up to 40 minutes. It has a tint to it, so it will add a little color to your lips as it protects. Choose from three color options — blush, berry or bronze. According to the brand, the formula is also hypoallergenic and fragrance-free, making it good for those with sensitive skin. This balm has a 4.3-star average rating from more than 1,300 reviews on Amazon.

Supergoop! Play Lip Balm

Containing both avobenzone and octisalate, this lip balm has SPF 30 and also contains shea butter, which our experts like for its softening properties. The formula feels lightweight on your lips, and a doe-foot applicator makes it easy to apply, according to the brand. It has a 4.3-star average rating from more than 2,300 reviews on Amazon.

How to shop for an SPF lip balm

When choosing an SPF lip balm, check for those that are listed as “broad spectrum,” which means they protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Other

important ingredients to look for, said our experts, are ineral ingredients, like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which physically block UV rays to prevent your lips from burning, said DeRosa. “Many good SPF lip balms and broad-spectrum SPF sunscreens, for that matter, have formulated these mineral ingredients into micronized and nanoparticles so they don’t leave a white tint.” Deignan also recommended avobenzone (which unlike zinc absorbs UV rays rather than blocking them), homosalate, octisalate, octocrylene and oxybenzone — all of which are chemical ingredients.

In addition to sun protection, a good SPF lip balm should keep lips from excessive dryness and cracking, said DeRosa. She noted that you’ll want to look for humectant ingredients, which add water to the lips. Some of those humectants are hyaluronic acid (which DeRosa calls an anti-aging additive), glycerin, aloe vera and honey or beeswax.

Emollient ingredients help to soften the lips, so look out for those, too, said our experts. These include petrolatum and petroleum jelly, mineral oil, shea butter and coconut oil. “Petroleum jelly works as an occlusive ingredient that traps the skin’s moisture, preventing it from evaporating, as does lanolin,” DeRosa said. Deignan recommended looking for squalane, as well as vitamin E, which has both humectant and emollient properties.

What to avoid when shopping for an SPF lip balm

DeRosa and Deignan both cautioned against using medicated lip balms with cooling ingredients, like menthol, camphor or phenol, because they can be drying. Alcohol can dry the lips, too, so be wary and discontinue use if any signs of irritation occur, said DeRosa.

While cinnamon and peppermint oil can give the lips a temporary plumping, they might also irritate, said Deignan. She mentioned avoiding propolis if you’re especially sensitive, which can be found in some beeswax-based lip balms.

DeRosa also said we should be avoiding parabens, which are a substance that can “potentially disrupt endocrine function and lead to an increased risk of breast cancer.” Similarly, some preservatives, like butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) have been connected to cancers, respiratory and endocrine issues, she said.

DeRosa also warned against using lip balms that have fragrances in them, as some manufacturers list chemicals they use as “fragrance” to protect trade secrets. Be careful using these products, because they might contain unknown ingredients, like phthalates.

Meet our experts

At Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure that all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and with no undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.

  • Dr. Jaimie DeRosa is a board-certified plastic and reconstructive surgeon and an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and Boston University.
  • Dr. Eileen Deignan is a board-certified dermatologist and chief of dermatology at Emerson Hospital, in Concord, Massachusetts.
  • Dr. Patricia Wexler is a board-certified dermatologist at Wexler Dermatology in New York City.

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