We know that our patients are smart and you all lather yourselves and your loved ones in sunscreen anytime you go outside in the St. Louis sun. You wear your sunglasses, and maybe even a wide-brimmed hat. But do you protect your lips?
Your lips are very sensitive parts of your skin, and you can get skin cancer there just like any other exposed part of your body. At Dr. Postol’s office, we want to make sure everyone is taking proper care of their health and has all the knowledge they need to do so. As always, call us if you have any questions or concerns!
Why You Should Protect Your Lips
The outer layer of your lips is much thinner than that of the rest of your skin. They also have almost no melanin, the pigment in skin that naturally helps screen out the harmful rays of the sun. This is why lips rarely tan, but easily burn.
Lips get a lot of sun exposure, being on your face and all, and are rarely covered. Prolonged sun damage on and around your lips leads to those fine lines and wrinkles that no one wants, as well as some more serious conditions.
The Big Deal with Sun Damage
An estimated 3,500 new cases of skin cancer on the lips are diagnosed every year and many others develop actinic cheilitis, also known as farmer’s lip or sailor’s lip. This condition forms after chronic sun exposure and is characterized by persistent dryness and cracking, leading to precancerous lesions and extensive wrinkling.
You May Actually Be Hurting Your Lips
When we are out in the St. Louis sun, our lips naturally get dry and many people unconsciously lick them to add some moisture back. Some dermatologists feel that the saliva may act like a lens and intensify the sun exposure.
The same holds true for all of those shiny lip glosses. They do not help! In fact, they actually increase your cancer risk, by allowing more UV rays to penetrate the skin (like when people used to tan with baby oil). Unless your lip gloss has an SPF, it is probably harming you rather than helping.
What to Do
The best way to protect your lips is to use lip care products containing sunscreen. You should always apply 30 minutes before going into the sun, and reapply often while you are exposed. If you are headed for the pool or the beach, make sure to find a product that is water-repellant and to reapply as soon as you get out of the water.