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The best lip sunscreen 2021

What is the best lip sunscreen for 2021?

It’s no secret that we need to protect ourselves when spending time in the sun, and that extends to our lips. Because the skin on our lips is fragile and has very little melanin, it has minimal inherent protection on its own and is more prone to sun damage than many other parts of our body.

When choosing a lip sunscreen, it is essential to pay attention to the ingredients to ensure that they are both safe and effective. Coola Organic Mineral Sunscreen Tinted Lip Balm is an intelligent choice because it is a mineral-based formula made entirely with organic ingredients. And, because it is tinted, it doesn’t leave behind any whitish residue as some others can.

What to know before you buy lip sunscreen

Can lips get sunburned?

Most of us wear sunscreen when spending time at the beach, park or other outdoor settings. There is no shortage of studies showing that excessive exposure to UV rays can lead to skin cancer, brown spots and other forms of skin damage, wrinkles and premature aging. 

However, many people don’t think twice about protecting their lips. This is a mistake, as they are just as vulnerable to sun damage as the rest of your body. Constantly exposing your lips to the sun without protecting them can lead to cancer and actinic cheilitis, a degenerative condition of the lips’ tissue.

Ingredients used for UV protection

You should pay attention to what ingredients a sunscreen uses to provide UV protection, as they vary significantly in their potential safety, effectiveness and eco-friendliness. 

Mineral sunscreens

Zinc oxide and titanium oxide are two FDA-approved mineral filters that essentially create a physical barrier that absorbs, then reflects and refracts UV photons. 

Titanium oxide is the better choice because it is effective at preventing both sunburns and sun damage. In contrast, zinc oxide works for sun damage but has limited efficacy for preventing sunburns. The former is also agreed upon to be reef-safe, and the latter can be toxic to marine life. Both are safe for humans as long as they are not swallowed or inhaled because they don’t absorb into the skin.

Chemical sunscreens

Along with mineral sunscreens, there are also chemical sunscreens. These work in a very different manner than mineral ones. Rather than physical barriers, chemical sunscreens absorb into the skin, absorb UV rays and then convert those rays into heat and release them from the body. 

The most common chemical sunscreens are avobenzone, octinoxate (sometimes referred to as octyl methoxycinnamate) and oxybenzone. Avobenzone offers sun damage protection, octinoxate offers sunburn protection, and oxybenzone provides both. Because of this, and because they provide varying levels of photostability, they are often combined with each other or other chemical ingredients for complete and long-lasting protection. Unfortunately, no chemical sunscreens are considered reef safe and, because they are absorbed into the system and can stay there for days, questions have arisen regarding their safety. 

The bottom line on ingredients for UV protection

Mineral sunscreens need to be reapplied more often than chemical sunscreens. Still, they are safer for the environment, potentially safer for humans and less likely to irritate those with sensitive skin. Chemical sunscreens last longer after each application and spread more easily without leaving behind a chalky white look but are toxic for coral reefs and have some controversy surrounding their safety for humans.

Here’s what to look for in lip sunscreen

SPF rating

The first and most important thing to look for in lip sunscreen is a good SPF rating. Avoid any products with an SPF of less than 15, as these won’t offer enough protection. Also, there is no need to buy any sunscreen with an SPF higher than 50 because the increases in protection are so minimal after this rating that they are not noteworthy.

Broad-spectrum protection

Many people look at the SPF rating of lip balm or sunscreen and just assume that it covers everything you need to know about its protective capabilities, but this is not the case. It only refers to its ability to filter UVB rays. You need to buy a lip sunscreen that provides broad-spectrum protection if you want to filter UVA rays effectively.

Water resistance

If you aren’t heading to the beach or pool, you may not need water-resistant sunscreen. However, when it comes to lip balms with SPF, it is crucial to buy one that is water-resistant so it maintains its effectiveness no matter how often you lick your lips or drink water.

Ease of application

On average, lip sunscreens retain efficacy for between one and two hours. If you are spending a full day in the sun, you’ll need to apply it several times, so it makes sense to choose one that is easy to apply. Sunscreen sticks are the easiest to use and the most convenient to carry around in a pocket or purse.

Other ingredients

The best lip balms with SPF will include moisturizing ingredients to help prevent chafing. Some ingredients to keep an eye out for include shea butter, coconut oil and aloe vera. You can also find some have appealing fragrances like vanilla and peppermint, though people with skin sensitivities may want to avoid these. They may also want to avoid lip sunscreens with PABA, as it causes allergic contact dermatitis in some.

How much can you expect to spend on lip sunscreen?

Lip balms with SPF are very affordable, starting as low as $3 per stick or tube and more premium options costing up to $25.

Lip sunscreen FAQ

How often should I apply lip sunscreen?

A. Always follow the recommendations on the package regarding how long sun protection lasts from any given lip balm. In general, most need to be reapplied every 80 minutes.

Can I wear lip sunscreen and lipstick together?

A. Putting lipstick over or under lip sunscreen will not affect its effectiveness, so there is no reason you cannot use both together.

What is the best lip sunscreen to buy?

Top lip sunscreen

Coola Organic Mineral Sunscreen Tinted Lip Balm

What you need to know: Made with organic ingredients, naturally derived colors and non-nano mineral sunblocks, you can feel safe putting this balm on your lips.

What you’ll love: It comes in a range of colors to match every outfit, and it contains nourishing ingredients like cupuacu butter and mongongo oil.

What you should consider: Some find the texture unpleasant.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon, Macy's and Ulta 

Top lip sunscreen for the money

Vanicream Lip Protectant

What you need to know: Dermatologist-recommended Vanicream, which contains both zinc and titanium oxide for maximum efficacy, is a great way to keep your lips protected on a budget.

What you’ll love: Its fragrance and gluten-free formula mean that almost anyone can use it without irritation.

What you should consider: It can make the lips look a little whitish.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Sun Bum Mineral Sunscreen Lip Balm

What you need to know: This mineral sunscreen is a vegan and reef-friendly option that lasts for up to two hours after each application.

What you’ll love: It's a hypoallergenic formula that contains soothing shea butter and vitamin E.

What you should consider: The tropical scent is powerful.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Macy's


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Brett Dvoretz writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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