Lip Gloss and Skin Cancer: Are You At Risk?

+ CV Skinlabs Team

It’s frustrating sometimes, confronting everything in our world that has a link with cancer. We were shocked to hear the latest-that dermatologists suspect a link between lip gloss and the disease. Lip gloss! That shiny, beautiful stuff that makes our lips look plump has been linked with cancer?

We had to do some investigating. Here’s the scoop: Apparently, lip gloss is suspected of concentrating UV rays onto the skin. According to Dr. Bruce Robinson, a Manhattan dermatologist, lip glosses contain a lot of moisture, which inhibits the natural protective layer your lips already have. “Instead of having to travel through that thicker layer, it’s more condensed,” Robinson says. “So the UV rays reach deeper layers of epidermis and dermis because you don’t have this forcefield.”

In addition, that shiny stuff we love about glosses presents its own dangers. Dr. Robinson says it’s like putting a magnifying glass over the lips that says, “Hey, sun, here I am!”

“These lip glosses can make more of the light rays penetrate directly through the skin instead of getting reflected off of the skin’s surface,” says Dr. Christine Brown, a dermatologist at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas. Since most glosses don’t have sunscreen, they leave lips unprotected as they attract more sun onto them. Lips lack the shielding pigment melanin, and so are even more susceptible to sun damage than other parts of the skin.

An estimated 3,500 new cases of skin cancer of the lips are diagnosed each year. And cancer isn’t the only concern-sun exposure on the kisser can also lead to skin diseases like “actinic keratosis” (where small, wart-like bumps show up on the lips), brown spots, thinning skin, precancerous “farmer’s lip,” or premature aging. Because of the lack of large population studies, the American Cancer Society has yet to make any official warnings regarding lip glosses. Smaller studies, however, have drawn attention to the issue. Researchers looked at lip protection and cancer risk in Los Angeles County women, for example, and found that wearing lip gloss with no SPF increased the risk of getting skin cancer.

Fortunately, you don’t have to give up your favorite glossy colors. The solution is fairly simple-either choose a lip gloss with an SPF of at least 30 (if you can find one!), or be sure to wear a sunscreen lip balm underneath. (You may also choose to switch to sun-protecting lipsticks.) Some good balms to try include Eco Lips Organic Sport Lip Balm, Kiss My Face Organic Sport Lip Balm, or Sol Sunguard Moisturizing Lip Balm.

Have a favorite sun-protecting lip gloss? Let us know!

Photo courtesy of Phil Dragash, via