Do you sometimes forget that lips need sunscreen, too? I certainly do! Recently, I decided to right this wrong by looking for the best sunscreen lip balm on the market. I compiled a list of my top picks, based on a combination of active sunscreen ingredients, the level of SPF protection provided, and the inclusion of other hydrating ingredients that make it an effective chapstick in addition to a sunscreen.
Lips need SPF love, too
Before I get into my top picks, here’s a little background on what inspired this post. I realized recently that I diligently apply sunscreen on my face, and wear sunglasses to protect my eyeballs, but all too often, I forget to do my lips the same justice by protecting them with a sunscreen lip balm.
A sunscreen lip balm can help hydrate chapped lips and protect them from UV radiation. Some are also tinted, so you might consider them the triple threat of lip care products: hydration, SPF protection, and beauty. In the course of researching the best sunscreen lip balms available on the market, I discovered that many options only offer minimal protection (SPF 15 was pretty common), as if it was an afterthought. Many of them also only offer partial protection against UVA1, UVA2, and UVB rays. If you read my Sephora Sun Safety Kit review, you know that “broad spectrum” doesn’t necessarily mean that a product protects against UVA1, UVA2, and UVB rays. They usually offer protection against UVA1 or UVA2 rays, as well as UVB. Here is the Skin Cancer Foundation’s handy chart of active sunscreen ingredients, along with the type of UV protection they provide.
In this guide, I’ll lay out a bunch of brands and also explain what range of UV protection they provide, based on the active ingredients.
My top pick: Banana Boat Aloe Vera Sunscreen Lip Balm
Banana Boat Aloe Vera Sunscreen Lip Balm is my top pick if you’re ok with chemical sunscreen ingredients. It’s also really affordable. Banana Boat Aloe Vera Sunscreen Lip Balm protects agains UVA1, UVA2, and UVB rays with a mixture of avobenzone, octocrylene, and oxybenzone. It also helps hydrate chapped lips with a range of ingredients like petrolatum, vitamin E, cocoa butter, and aloe vera.
Banana Boat Aloe Vera Sunscreen Lip Balm ingredients
Active Ingredients: avobenzone (2.0%), octocrylene (10.0%), oxybenzone (6.0%)
Inactive Ingredients: petrolatum, polyethylene, ethylhexyl palmitate, trimethylsiloxyphenyl dimethicone, microcrystalline wax, isopropyl myristate, theobroma cacao (cocoa) seed butter, peg-8, caprylyl glycol, sodium saccharin, cocos nucifera (coconut) oil, mineral oil, aloe barbadensis leaf extract, peg-8 dimethicone, octyldodecanol, retinyl palmitate, silica, tocopheryl acetate, ascorbic acid, sodium propoxyhydroxypropyl thiosulfate silica, propylparaben, butylparaben, flavor
Avobenzone protects against UVA1 rays, octocrylene against UVB rays, and oxybenzone provides protection against both UVB and UVA2 rays. This means that it truly provides broad-spectrum protection against UV rays. It also offers SPF 45 protection (much higher than many other sunscreen lip balms), which makes it a great option for days when you know you’ll be out in the sun all day. And it’s water resistant for up to 80 minutes.
My top pick for physical sunscreen lip balm: Vanicream Lip Protectant Sunscreen SPF 30
If you prefer a physical sunscreen over a chemical sunscreen, Vanicream Lip Protectant Sunscreen (SPF 30) is a great option. It’s designed for sensitive skin, and is free of oil, dyes, fragrance, lanolin, and preservatives. It also only includes physical sunscreen ingredients, so if you’re opposed to using chemical sunscreen, this is a good option to try out. Vanicream Lip Protectant Sunscreen provides SPF 30 protection with a combination of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide. Like Banana Boat Aloe Vera Sunscreen Lip Balm, it also provides broad-spectrum protection against UVA1, UVA2, and UVB rays.
Zinc oxide provides protection against UVA1, UVA2, and UVB rays, while titanium dioxide blocks UVB and UVA2 rays. It also includes a skin protectant as an active ingredient: dimethicone. And, like Banana Boat lip balm, it is water-resistant for up to 80 minutes.
Active Ingredients: dimethicone 1.2%, titanium dioxide 1.5%, zinc oxide 15%.
Inactive Ingredients: butylene/ethylene/styrene copolymer, C12-15 alkyl benzoate, caprylic/capric triglyceride, ethylene/propylene/styrene copolymer, hydrogenated polyisobutene, isononyl isononanoate, microcrystalline wax, polyhydroxystearic acid, silica dimethyl silylate, stearic acid, triethoxycaprylylsilane
A tinted sunscreen lip balm for your consideration
So far, neither of my top picks has been a triple threat (hydration, SPF, and beauty/tint). But to tell you the truth, I don’t really like to wear lip balms that are tinted. I eat and drink so frequently throughout the day that I feel like the color would rub off in a heartbeat. However, one of the products included in the Sephora Sun Safety Kit was Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment SPF 15, in the Rose tint, so I might give it a try one of these days. (Editor’s note: here’s the review.)
It comes packaged in a cute little tube, so you can bring it practically anywhere. It also provides SPF 15 protection, which isn’t enough for heavy-duty outdoor days. However, it can be a convenient go-to for adding a bit of rosy tint to your lips.
The active sunscreen ingredients in this product are octinoxate and oxybenzone, so it doesn’t provide protection against all the UVA/UVB wavelengths. Octinoxate protects against UVB rays, while oxybenzone blocks UVB and UVA2 rays. This means that it cannot protect your lips from UVA1 rays.
Fresh Sugar Lip Treatment SPF 15 Ingredients
Active ingredients: octinoxate (7.49%), oxybenzone (2.00%)
Inactive ingredients: cera alba (beeswax), ricinus communis (castor) seed oil, simmondsia chinensis (jojoba) seed oil, hydrogenated olive oil decyl esters, vitis vinifera (grape) seed oil, parfum (fragrance), copernicia cerifera (carnauba) wax, persea gratissima (avocado) oil, limnanthes alba (meadowfoam) seed oil, ribes nigrum (black currant) seed oil, helianthus annuus (sunflower) seed oil, rosa damascena flower water, retinyl palmitate, ascorbyl palmitate, ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate, tocopherol, sucrose tetrastearate triacetate, ci 15985 (yellow 6 lake), ci 77891 (titanium dioxide), ci 15850 (red 7 lake), polyglyceryl-3 polyricinoleate, ci 77491 (iron oxides), ci 77499 (iron oxides), propyl gallate, limonene, benzyl alcohol, linalool, bht, citral, citronellol, geraniol
Other great physical sunscreen lip balms
Pacifica Mineral Color Lip Balm SPF 30: vegan, includes shea butter, vitamin E, olive oil, and coconut oil. It’s also water-resistant to 80 minutes. Protects against UVA1, UVA2, and UVB rays with a mix of titanium dioxide (1.5%) and zinc oxide (3.8%). I didn’t choose it as my top physical sunscreen pick since its SPF percentages were lower than Vanicream. However, it does include more hydrating ingredients than Vanicream, so it might be a good option to try out if your lips generally get dry and chapped. It’s also vegan, if that floats your boat.
Bare Republic Natural Mineral Sunscreen Lip Balm SPF 30 also protects with a mixture of titanium dioxide (2.8%) and zinc oxide (1.0%). It hydrates with sunflower seed oil, shea butter, and olive oil. Note that it is not vegan since it includes beeswax.
Badger Balm Broad Spectrum Sunscreen Lip Balm only provides SPF 15 protection with zinc oxide (8%). Unlike my other physical sunscreen lip balm picks, it does not include titanium dioxide. But that’s ok—zinc oxide is the only FDA-approved active sunscreen ingredient in the U.S. that protects against the full spectrum of UVA1, UVA2, and UVB rays. This lip balm’s inactive ingredients include olive oil, cocoa butter, shea butter, and vitamin E. Note that this product also includes beeswax, so it is not vegan, either.
Runner-up chemical sunscreen lip balm: Aquaphor Lip Protectant Plus Sunscreen (SPF 30)
Aquaphor Lip Protectant Plus Sunscreen (SPF 30) includes a mixture of chemical sunscreen ingredients that combine to provide full protection against UVA1, UVA2, and UVB rays. Here’s a breakdown of active ingredients: avobenzone (UVA1), octinoxate (UVB), octisalate (UVB), octocrylene (UVB), and oxybenzone (UVB, UVA2). Petrolatum is the main protectant here, and is listed as an active ingredient since it’s included at such a high concentration (31%). Note that this product also includes beeswax, so it is not vegan.
If you already use lip balm, I hope it’s not too difficult to try to swap yours out for one of these sunscreen lip balms instead. If you don’t wear it usually, it might take a while to get used to applying a sunscreen lip balm every day. But it’s definitely a good idea to try to get into the habit of doing so—your lips deserve SPF lovin’ too.
Did I neglect to mention your go-to sunscreen lip balm? Let me know—I’d love to hear about your favorites.
- Sephora Sun Safety Kit 2018 review
- Sunscreen active ingredient percentages: How much do they matter?
- Physical sunscreen vs. chemical sunscreen: What’s the diff?
- Other sunscreen reviews
- The Skin Cancer Foundation’s chart of active sunscreen ingredients + type of UV protection provided
- Vaseline Lip Therapy Rosy Lips Mini Review: Your secret to soft, rosy lips even in the winter