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I Tried 10 SPF Lip Balms So You Don’t Have To & There’s A Clear Winner

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SPF lip balm is notoriously difficult to get right and until recently I’d never met one I actually liked and used consistently. In my experience, most leave behind a lingering bitter taste or a stubborn white cast that lends lips a dubious chalky appearance. But the good news is that like sunscreen formulas for the face and body, SPF lip balm has come a long way recently — a great thing, considering that sunburned lips are no joke.

What are the benefits of wearing SPF on lips?

“Applying sunscreen on the lips provides crucial protection against harmful UV rays, which can cause sunburn, premature ageing and increase the risk of skin cancer,” explains Dr Sophie Momen, consultant dermatologist at One Welbeck. “The lips are particularly vulnerable because the skin is thinner and lacks melanin, the pigment that offers some protection against UV radiation,” adds Dr Momen. “They are therefore prone to damage and sunburn more quickly than other parts of the body.”
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Using a lip balm with a high SPF 30 or above can effectively shield the lips from UV damage — providing you reapply regularly, says Dr Momen. Reapplication is particularly necessary when spending time outdoors; just like face and body sunscreen, it is recommended to reapply SPF lip balm every two hours. “Reapplication should occur more frequently if eating, drinking or engaging in activities that might remove the balm,” continues Dr Momen. “This routine ensures that the protective barrier remains intact and effective against the sun's rays.”

What is the best lip balm with SPF?

The spotlight on sun protection is exactly why skincare brands like Ultra Violette, Bondi Sands and Nudestix have all expanded their SPF offering to include lips. Ahead, I put 11 SPF lip balms to the test in various ways. Firstly, taste: Which ones won’t make me wince? Secondly, appearance: Ghostly lips aren’t welcome here. Lastly, staying power. It would be irresponsible (and highly dangerous) to see how long it would take for my lips to burn in the sun so I was keen to know how long each lip balm would stick around after the initial application. Happily, in the UK and EU, cosmetic regulations require SPF rating and UV protection claims to be substantiated by law. As such, any SPF product sold here at reputable retailers should provide adequate protection — if you're applying (and reapplying) the product as recommended.
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Here are my unfiltered thoughts on each SPF lip balm I tried.
Thanks to vitamin E, this SPF 30 lip balm (which serves up UVA and UVB protection) is really moisturising. That said, it leaves behind a white tinge that accentuates lip lines and dry patches. While it does settle down slightly as it melts into the lips, I suspect that the cast will be more obvious on someone with darker skin. Another thing is that it features natural spearmint and though this is nice and cooling in the summer, minty ingredients have the potential to irritate sensitive, reactive or broken skin. 
Ultra Violette’s Fave Fluid Ultralight Skin Screen SPF 50, £37, is one of my favourite sunscreens so I was excited to try this tinted SPF lip balm. I chose Last Bite, a juicy berry hue. The texture is much closer to a rich gloss but once it melts on the lips, it becomes sheer and silky rather than sticky. I’d liken it to Rhode’s Peptide Lip Tint in Raspberry Jelly (my favourite shade) with the added benefit of SPF 50 protection. Even better? It’s available in six shades. This would have grabbed the top spot had it not left behind a very slight taste in my mouth but I can deal with that for the beautiful tint and moisturised feel that sticks around long after the product has worn off. For that reason, it comes in a very respectable second place. 
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Broad spectrum SPF 50 protection? Tick! Moisturising shea butter and hyaluronic acid? Check! Subtle tint? Yep. However, there is a sharp sunscreen taste. This might be something that you can get past but I’m pretty sensitive to taste and smell. I really do love the tint, though, and just how hydrating it is. At first, the shade Rose looked unnaturally pink but it settled really quickly and imparted the prettiest glossy sheen. Those with darker skin might like to try shade Mauve. 
This is arguably the most moisturising of the bunch thanks to vitamin E, shea butter and lanolin, the latter of which is an oil derived from sheep's wool post-shearing (so it causes no harm to the animal). I really enjoyed the tint that the shade Rhubarb lent my lips; it made them look plump and juicy and I received a handful of compliments throughout the day, which propels it into the top spot. Considering it’s a high SPF 30, I’ll be packing this one for my upcoming beach holiday. You could even use it as a blush on no-makeup days. 
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I’m a huge fan of Coola’s SPF 50 Classic Body Sunscreen, £27, so I was keen to see how its lip balm would fare. First off, I really rate the heavy and secure packaging. I just know that it won’t suddenly open up inside my handbag and melt everywhere. The brand promises protection from both UVA and UVB rays with synthetic UV filters like avobenzone and octisalate. It felt so comfortable on my lips (thanks to soothing aloe and deeply moisturising coconut oil) that I totally forgot I was wearing it. Halfway through drinking a cup of coffee, though, I did notice a slight sunscreeny taste. If you’re serious about sun protection and don’t mind this, it’s great. 
I also tried the brand’s Liplux Hydrating Oil SPF 30, £19. I really liked the plastic applicator. I usually apply lip oils and balms over lip liner and the ones that are made out of soft materials always pick up the colour and end up stained. Not this one. The oil sank straight into my lips but I struggled to get past the very strong sunscreen taste. Still, it gave me peace of mind knowing that the UV filters (synthetic avobenzone, homosalate, octisalate and octocrylene) were the first ingredients listed, indicating highest concentration. Coola's Liplux balm lasts longer on the lips, though.
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This lip balm is much thicker than the rest and requires a good squeeze! Without taking you back to chemistry class, it features butyl methoxydibenzoylmethane, a synthetic UV filter which protects skin against UVA rays (associated with skin cancer and premature ageing), as well as ethylhexyl triazone, another synthetic filter to protect from UVB rays (responsible for sunburn). Once it melts on the lips, it’s not too dissimilar to Vaseline in terms of feel, which means it stays put for a good few hours. This balm is clear so it doesn't leave behind any chalkiness at all, and I love the subtle coconutty scent and taste; there isn’t a hint of bitterness even though it's SPF 50. At £4.99, it’s a total steal and has earned a spot inside my handbag for top-ups over lipstick. It's the best lip balm on this list without a tint.
There is no funky taste to this lip primer, which is said to “prep” your lips with hydration and protection in the form of SPF 30. It’s broad spectrum so it shields against UVA and UVB rays. My only gripe is that it absorbs quickly so it doesn’t feel as moisturising as the other lip balms on this list. That doesn’t mean the protection isn’t there, though, and I very much appreciated its matteness one windy day! If you have perpetually dry lips like me, you might need something more akin to a balm. This product imparts a wash of nude colour that suited my light olive skin really nicely but considering it’s only available in one shade (unlike the SPF-free Lip Butters, available in four), it might not be the best option for darker skin. 
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This balm is beautifully glossy and rich thanks to a blend of plant oils and it contains two UV filters: titanium dioxide and benzyl salicylate. It’s on the lower end of sun protection at SPF 20 but considering how regularly I apply lip balm throughout the day, this doesn’t necessarily bother me. Happily, there is no sour taste — just a hint of bubblegum — but the clean freak in me wishes it were available in a tube or stick so that I wouldn’t have to use my fingers on the go. The brand says that it leaves behind a “soft pink tint” but it’s barely there and pretty much looks colourless on my lips. Still, it would make for a nice salve over lip liner. I’ve popped it in my bathroom cabinet and will continue to use it to prep my lips before makeup. 
Considering that this features a high, broad spectrum SPF 50, you’d think it would taste strange. While it did smell quite strongly of sunscreen, it didn’t upset my taste buds at all. It’s completely clear, too, and doesn’t leave behind a white cast. It was a couple of hours before my lips needed another slick of balm and that’s when you’d need to reapply, anyway. I’m headed to the hot Mediterranean on holiday soon and this is going to be another beach bag staple. A little tint of colour would have earned it the top spot but it’s very close behind. It’s a no-frills SPF balm that does exactly what it says on the tin — and it’s currently on sale for £11.05. 

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