WOMEN'S HEALTH
May 5, 2008

Lip Service: Protecting Lips from UV Damage

Women who use shiny lip balms and glosses may actually be increasing their risk of skin cancer, because the products appear to attract harmful UV rays, according to Dr. Christine Brown, a dermatologist at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas.

Less than 25 percent of Americans use some form of lip protection, even though lips are more susceptible than skin to aging from chronic sun damage and also more prone to developing serious cancers. Protecting your lips from harmful sun rays is as important as using sunscreen to protect your skin.

Shiny balms and glosses don't offer protection. Instead, they attract the sun's rays to the lips, increasing light penetration.

Women should only wear glossy lipsticks in the sun when they have a layer of sun protection on underneath, dermatologists advise.

Anyone who's planning on being outdoors for more than 20 minutes at a time should use a lip sun block with an SPF of 30. Women should apply it in the morning under any lipsticks or lip glosses and then reapply the sun block throughout the day.

People should check their lips for signs of cancer. Consult a dermatologist if you notice any changes to the color of the lip surface (an area turns opaque or white), or if you have persistent peeling or flaking of a spot on your lip, Brown said.
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