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You might be onboard with daily SPF, but unless your lip balms have a few all-important ingredients to block the sun’s rays, you’re missing a vulnerable spot.

“Incidental sun exposure occurs everywhere, but the lips tend to receive extra, as they are exposed all the time,” explains Diane Madfes, MD, FAAD, assistant professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. “We are very good at moisturizing our lips, but not as good with sun protection.”

Going SPF-free day in and day out means your lips are at risk for more than just swelling and sun blisters. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is the leading risk factor for lip cancer.

Madfes says that chronic sun damage on the lips, known as actinic cheilitis, if untreated, can lead to skin cancer. She notes that squamous cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer on the lips.

But regular use of a lip balm with SPF is an easy way to up your sun protection. To make things easy, we’re sharing expert tips, best practices, and our picks for the best lip balms with SPF, so you can keep that pucker protected year-round.

Choosing the best lip balm with SPF is relatively easy, but you’ll want to keep a few things in mind:

  • Don’t skimp on SFP. The higher the SPF, the better. “As dermatologists, we recommend a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor of 30 or higher,” says Tracy Evans, MD, MPH, board certified dermatologist and medical director of Pacific Skin and Cosmetic Dermatology. “While SPF 15 offers benefits… it’s not just about how much radiation from the sun is blocked by sunscreen. It’s also about how much radiation can be successfully transmitted into the skin.”
  • Check for humectants and emollients. In addition to sun protection, your lip balm has another job: keeping your lips soft and hydrated. Humectants and emollients are moisture enhancers that keep the skin hydrated, like glycerin, aloe, coconut oil, shea butter, and ceramides. Humectants bring moisture to the top layers of your lips, while emollients lock in that moisture to keep dryness at bay.
  • Steer clear of ingredients that will dry out your lips. Don’t assume the tingling sensation from your favorite medicated lip balm means it’s working. Menthol and camphor can both have a drying effect, which is pretty counterproductive for a product that’s intended to moisturize.

One other note: You may want to opt for mineral-based balms. “I tell my patients to avoid avobenzone and oxybenzone, which are in chemical sunscreens, and have been shown to be absorbed by our bodies more readily and found circulating in our blood,” says Evans.

“This is especially relevant when the sunscreen is applied to the lips, which have a higher absorptive quality than the rest of our skin, and we are often licking them.”

Preferences about the texture, flavor, and even the color of a lip balm are personal. What appeals to one person may put off the next, and adding SPF means another potential point of contention.

One of the biggest drawbacks of many lip balms with SPF is that telltale white cast, which can be thick and gritty, and usually signals a hefty dose of zinc oxide. It’s a go-to ingredient in many mineral sunscreens and lip balms.

But you don’t have to sacrifice SPF for a smooth glide or subtle sheen. We looked high and low to find lips balms with SPF that have all the softening, smoothing, hydrating effects you want and the sun protection your lips need.

We chose the following picks based on personal experience and customer reviews. We also kept budget in mind along with different formulas, since everyone has different preferences on what they prefer.

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $7
  • $$ = $7–$15
  • $$$ = over $15

Best overall

Salt & Stone Sunscreen Lip Balm SPF 30

Price: $$

The first ingredient in this lip balm is zinc oxide. Between that and the solid white color, you may assume that UV protection would come at a thick, chalky price. However, the sweet almond oil, Argan oil, and bisabolol (derived from chamomile) combine for a soft, ultra-hydrating finish that glides on smoothly with no white residue.

It actually provides a pretty, subdued sheen, which is a nice bonus for such a sunscreen-forward lip balm.

There’s no real scent or flavor. This is a no-frills kind of lip balm that does the job nicely. I always have one in my bag, and I find myself reaching for it regularly.

Best vegan formula

Hello Sweet Mint Vegan SPF 15 Lip Balm

Price: $$$

If you prefer that minty-fresh feeling in a lip balm, Hello has you covered. This vegan balm is made with zero beeswax, petrolatum, or parabens. It’s loaded with zinc oxide but manages to stay soft, even silky, with an even glide. It’s also true to the name — that sweet mint flavor is subtle but noticeable. Don’t be put off by the white color, either. It goes on without any chalkiness, leaving your pucker with a subtle sheen.

Hello says it’s dermatologically tested and water-resistant for up to 80 minutes. It’s designed for all-day moisturizing, so you can apply the formula and keep things moving.

Note that this lip balm comes in a pack of four.

Best fragrance-free formula

PRIORI Tetra Lip Shield SPF 20

Price: $$$

This broad-spectrum lip balm offers serious protection on multiple levels. The coral reef-safe zinc oxide helps protect your lips from damaging UV rays and blue light, while a DNA complex and antioxidants help shield against environmental effects.

Natural oils and wax round out the formula and keep it soothing and hydrating. It’s fragrance-free and white in the tube, but it glides on smoothly and easily with no cast. Plus, it’s water-resistant for up to 80 minutes.

Best natural sun protection

Clean & Pure Manuka Honey Sunscreen Lip Balm

Price: $

Clean & Pure is an Aussie skin care brand that uses all-natural ingredients: Manuka honey, zinc oxide, Australian beeswax, extra virgin olive oil, cocoa seed butter, and vitamin E oil are blended without artificial ingredients for a truly clean product.

Despite the super-hydrating formula of this balm, less is more when it comes to application. Instead of swiping it across your lips, use a light stamping mode of application. Otherwise, it can feel a tad too heavy.

Best hydrating formula

Coola Mineral LipLux Organic Tinted Lip Balm SPF 30

Price: $$

A good lip balm should hydrate, smooth, and protect, and that’s what Coola’s LipLux does. This non-nano mineral formula offers broad-spectrum UVA/UVB protection, and a pop of natural color is the cherry on top. LipLux comes in five flattering shades, and I’ll go on the record as saying Nude Beach is the perfect pinky nude.

Best glossy formula

EleVen by Venus Williams Perfect Form Lip Balm SPF 15

Price: $$$

EleVen by Venus Williams is a collaboration between Credo Beauty, The Sunscreen Company, and the tennis champ herself to serve up clean, effective SPF skin care — and they didn’t overlook lips. Perfect Form is a glossy lip balm available in clear and three other tints. Between the shea butter and bayberry fruit wax, the company managed to pull off an incredibly moisturizing formula.

I sampled Perfect Form in 15 Love, which is clear but leaves a pearly sheen from the zinc. It doesn’t last very long, but since it’s an SPF 15, frequent reapplication is probably a good thing.

Best biodegradable packaging

Stream2Sea Naturally Naked Sun Protect Lip Balm

Price: $

This is a company clued into every ingredient in their products, and their SPF 30 lip balm is no exception. All Stream2Sea products are made of natural ingredients and are biodegradable and safe for fish and coral larvae, which is quite the feat. The tubes are even made from recycled milk jugs, plus, the formula is vegan and cruelty-free.

The Naturally Naked lip balm has no flavor or color. It’s made with an organic, antioxidant blend of hemp oil and omega-6 fatty acids for nourishing hydration. But this is another lip balm you’ll need to apply sparingly. If you swipe it across your lips, you’ll end up with a bright white mouth.

The gentle stamping method works well, even if it does leave your lips on the pale side. But hey, it’s worth it!

Best tinted lip balm

MDSolarSciences Hydrating Sheer Lip Balm SPF 30

Price: $$$

At first glance, you could easily mistake this for lipstick. The sheer tint is available in five available shades, and the rich formula and smooth glide aren’t what you’d expect in a typical SPF lip balm. But this dermatologist-developed lip balm has all that and broad-spectrum sun protection.

Shea, avocado, and olive butter make for a creamy, vegan texture free of octinoxate, a UV filter that gets absorbed by the skin, and oxybenzone, a compound used as a sunscreen agent. It does have avobenzone, an oil-soluble ingredient that absorbs the full spectrum of UV rays.

If you feel naked without color on your lips, this sheer hydrating lip balm is worth considering.

Even when summer ends, you should still apply SPF. “The concern is year-round, especially as in the cold weather; we lick our lips for more moisture,” says Madfes. You should make a point of applying your lip balm before heading outdoors, and reapply often and regularly, especially after eating, drinking, or sweating.

You should be generous with that application, too. “Many people apply sunscreen in a very thin layer or unevenly,” notes Evans, and the same is true of your lip balm with SPF. Make sure you’re applying evenly to the top and bottom lips.

Another tip? “Get lots of them,” advises Madfes. “Lip balms with SPF are small and can sit in a jacket pocket, purse, backpack, car, bike bag, almost anywhere. Keep them handy and reapply often.”

Sun damage is just as detrimental to your lips as it is to the rest of your body. And while it may be second nature to use SPF on your face and body, we aren’t always as on the ball when it comes to our lips.

Here’s an easy swap: If you’re already in the habit of using lip balms, switch to one that has an SPF. It’s one easy way to prevent skin cancer. Stock up on a few tubes, keep them handy, and make a point of slicking some on regularly, no matter the season. Your lips will thank you.

Jessica Timmons has been working as a freelance writer since 2007, covering everything from pregnancy and parenting to cannabis, chiropractic, stand-up paddling, fitness, martial arts, home decor, and much more. Her work has appeared in mindbodygreen, Pregnancy & Newborn, Modern Parents Messy Kids, and Coffee + Crumbs. See what she’s up to now at jessicatimmons.com.