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As part of our commitment to generating awareness about mouth cancer, we previously posted an article on lip cancer and the role SPF lipsticks and balms can play in helping protect against this disease.   Your lips are vulnerable as they contain no melanin, the substance that gives pigment to skin but also filters out some of the suns harmful radiation.   Extended exposure to the sun can cause long term damage at any time of year and even through cloud. It is important to protect your lips when outdoors for extended periods no matter the season, yet often, this is an area of the face most often forgotten when slapping on the sunscreen.

We like to practice what we preach, so members of the team at Portobello Dental Clinic decided to get lippy and check out various sun screening lip products. The opinions expressed are entirely our own and do not mean these products are superior or inferior to other similar products or brands. This is a consumer review, not a test of SPF efficacy.


Choosing a sun screening product can be confusing so first, a quick glossary of terms.


SPF means sun protection factor. It is a measure of the product’s capability to filter out the harmful UVB rays of the sun. SPF15 filters out approximately 93% of these solar rays. SPF30 wards off 97% while SPF50 screens out 98%. The higher you go, the better protected you are. No matter what SPF you use, reapply every two hours

Waterproof  v Water resistant

The FDA defines water resistant in terms of sunscreen as either providing 40 minutes or 80 minutes protection  in water. This means that for the stated amount of time in the water (40 or 80 minutes) the SPF value does not decrease. No product is 100% waterproof. (note, all sunscreen, including water resistant types, should be reapplied after 2 hours or after towelling.)

Broad Spectrum

Broad Spectrum filters both sunburning and dangerous UVB rays and aging UVA rays. Both types of  UV light can cause skin or lip cancer


No sunscreen fliters out the suns rays 100% and the term ‘sunblock’ is no longer allowed under EU directive nor by the FDA


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Sporty lip balm

Banana Boat Sport Balm, SPF50

Water resistant (80 mins), found at larger pharmacy chains and online

Tester: Dr Nick Beirne, a keen athlete who enjoys running and kite surfing

Verdict: I  liked the taste – orangey without tasting too artificial! Easy to apply, and it’s rated broad spectrum SPF 50 – so plenty of protection

Cons: The manufacturers claim it’s water resistant for 80 mins – but it’s transparent so it’s hard to tell when you need to reapply. My lip burns pretty easily in the sun, so If I’m doing water sports,  I want to know when my sunscreen is wearing off – personally I’d go for a zinc based one. If, however, you can’t live with the garish fluorescent look of zinc, then this is a pretty good bet.






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High protection lip balm


La Roche Posay, Anthelios XL 50+ stick SPF50,

Water resistant.  For sensitive areas such as lips, ears and face. Widely available in pharmacies and department stores.

Tester: Anne-Marie O’Rourke, Treatment Coordinator and avid hiker

Verdict: Light and non waxy. Handy stick to throw in a pocket and reapply on the go, so perfect for a few hours hiking or cliff walking.  It’s unscented, which is better for my sensitive Irish skin! If you apply it properly in an thick layer or two,  it does leave a hint of a white residue so I rub it in really well.






Zinc & Aloe (mauve) by Aloe Up

Zinc Oxide which provides high protection. Contains moisturising aloe vera. Available online in mauve, tan or clear so not just for the girls!

Testers: Dr Helen Walsh (Winter skiing) and Practice Manager, Sinead Farrelly



SF: Creamy with a real lipstick look in a pretty colour. I’d wear it as a regular lipstick.

HW: Originally got this high protection lippy for a skiing holiday. As an added bonus, lipsticks with a cooler tinge like this mauve really bring up teeth whitening results!

SPF-up your lipstick


Supergoop Mint Fusion lip balm SPF30.

Gentle sheen, wearable alone or under your regular lipstick. Available  via various online outlets

Testers: Hygienist, Joann Marshall and Treatment Coordinator, Anne-Marie


JM: Tingly fresh and moisturizing and not at all sticky like lip gloss. Nice mint taste like chewing gum!

AM: Lovely year-round, everyday lip balm, though I’ll stick to my SPF50 for hiking and high summer. I love that you can turn any lipstick into an SPF30 lippy with this under it. It absorbs well so my favourite lippy doesn’t slide off it.

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It is an unfortunate myth that layering SPF products equals accumulated SPF. If you apply SPF30 under another lipstick containing SPF15 for example, it does not add up to factor 45!  You  still get SPF30, no more.


To read more about lip cancer and sun protection please read  Get Lippy about Lip Cancer, part 1

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