Lip Science: What’s Different about the Skin on Your Lips?

When we think about our lips, our first inclination might not be to think of them in the same way as the skin on the rest of our face and bodies. It is true that there are many differences between the skin on your lips and on your body, but the fact remains that your lips are still comprised of layers of skin, so you need to take care of them just like you need to properly care for the skin in other areas. To help you better understand the unique characteristics of your lips and how to best care for them, take a look at these important scientific facts about your lips.

Lips Have Fewer Layers of Skin

One of the main differences between the skin on your lips and the rest of your body is that your lips are made up of only about three to four layers of skin, whereas the skin in other areas has 15 to 16 layers for increased protection. The lips do not contain the upper layer of epidermis called the stratum corneum that serves a protective function and prevents dehydration and combats UV radiation. Thinner lips means that the blood vessels underneath can more easily show through to the surface, which is why lips have a pinkish or reddish hue.

The Lips Do Not Have Sebaceous Glands

Another key difference is that the lips do not have sebaceous glands and therefore do not make sebum. Sebum has with many beneficial attributes, such as providing hydration and antioxidants like vitamin E. Vitamin E is a very important antioxidant that helps to protect against oxidative stress, including that caused by the sun’s UV rays. However, because the lips do not produce sebum, they lack this protection. Thus, it is especially important that you keep your lips protected from the sun by using an SPF lip balm, as your lips are more likely to get skin cancer than the areas of your body that do have sebum and therefore built-in sun protection.

Similarly, your lips are much more likely to get dry because they lack sebum. For lips that are often dry, chapped, or flaky, LipSmart can be beneficial to apply to help rehydrate the skin, as well as add topical antioxidants to your lips.

Lip Gloss and Oils Can Attract UV Rays

Some studies have suggested that wearing shiny lip gloss or oils like mineral oil on your lips without pairing them with SPF could increase the risk of developing skin cancer. Gloss and oils are thought to attract UV rays and focus them more directly onto the skin to which they are applied. While it’s best to avoid glossy lip products altogether, if you really like this look and want a bit of a shine, make sure you also use SPF to decrease the cancer risk.

Interestingly enough, studies have also found that oral cancer rates are significantly higher for men than women. Although this may be at least in part due to higher tobacco usage in men than in women, lack of sun protection may also contribute to this discrepancy. It is just as important for men to use SPF on their lips as it is for women. For men who would rather avoid using a tinted lip product, Coola has an unscented and non-tinted SPF lip balm that also contains antioxidants and avocado to help protect and hydrate the lips.

It’s also worth noting that because you eat about 70% of the products that you put on your lips, we recommend that you try to use natural ingredients whenever possible. Coola, for example, uses mineral sunscreen ingredients rather than their chemical counterparts, as well as 70%+ certified organic, food-grade ingredients.

Lips Lose Fullness and Shape with Age

If you’ve ever looked in the mirror and noticed that your lips don’t seem to be as full or as well-defined as they used to be, that’s because the amount of collagen proteins in our skin starts to decrease over time. Since collagen is what primarily gives our skin its firm, youthful structure, declining collagen levels can result in thinning and changes to the shape of the lips.

Injectable lip fillers are one way that you can give your lips a boost of volume while still appearing smooth and natural. Just make sure you work with a trained and experienced provider who understands how to maintain proper lip proportions.

In Summary

Just like the skin anywhere else on your face or body, your lips need to be taken care of in order to get and keep that smooth, healthy look you want, and to lower your risk of skin cancer in this delicate area. Knowing how your lips work and the science behind why they can become dry and sunburned so easily is the first step to great lip care.


February 9, 2018 Skincare