Protecting Lips Outdoors

Lip Skin Differences

The one main similarity between lip skin and the other skin on your body is that both forms of skin consist of three layers – the epidermis, the dermis and the hypodermis. The similarities stop there and instead branch out to a number of differences that make lip skin unique.

  • Lip Skin Is Thinner

  • The epidermis, or outer layer of skin, includes a protective covering called the stratum corneum – a barrier that protects the inner layers from outside threats. This protective layer is only three to five layers deep in lip skin, compared to other parts of the face that contain up to 16 layers of protection. With a smaller barrier, your lip skin is more vulnerable to threats and needs added protection to keep it healthy.

  • Lip Skin Doesn’t Have Sweat Glands, Sebaceous Glands and Hair Follicles

  • The second layer of your skin is called the dermis, and in other parts of your body, this skin layer contains sweat glands, sebaceous glands and hair follicles. These elements are missing in your lip skin. Lips do not have hair and therefore do not have hair follicles. Lip skin also does not release sweat or oil (sebum) like other parts of the body, so it does not include sweat or sebaceous glands. These glands are crucial to keeping other parts of your skin hydrated. This means that your lips cannot hydrate themselves and therefore need your help for providing moisture.

  • Lip Skin Doesn’t Have Melanin

  • Melanin is a pigment that determines skin color, with more melanin producing a darker skin tone. Melanin is not found in your lip skin. The color of your lips is instead determined by blood vessels under the skin’s surface which give lips a pink or red color.
    In terms of skin health, melanin plays a more important role than just determining skin color. Melanin also helps protect your skin from harmful UV rays and sun damage. This means that your lip skin does not have this natural form of protection against the sun.

    Taking Care of Lip Skin

    The differences between lip skin and the rest of the skin on your body point to the importance of taking special steps to protect your lips.

  • Fewer Protective Layers = Greater Impact of Outdoor Threats

  • As mentioned above, the skin on your lips only has 3-5 layers compared to up to 16 on other parts of your face. This makes your lips particularly vulnerable to outdoor threats such as wind, cold temperatures, and low humidity. To protect from these threats, stay inside when conditions are extreme. When you do go outside, make sure to cover your face when possible and apply moisturizer regularly to keep your lips from drying out.

  • No Oil/Sweat Glands = The Need for Added Moisture

  • Lip skin does not have oil and sweat glands to hydrate itself. Because of this you need to moisturize your own lips regularly, no matter what the conditions are. Using saliva to wet your lips typically makes things worse, because the saliva can evaporate quickly. Instead use products that include petroleum jelly or natural beeswax to seal in the moisture for longer periods of time.

  • No Melanin = The Need for SPF

  • To be clear, all of your skin needs to be protected by SPF sunscreen, not just your lips. However, without the added natural benefits of melanin, it is extremely important to wear an SPF lip balm when you are outside, both in the summer and winter. Lips can get burned and you can get skin cancer on your lips. Wearing SPF will not eliminate the chances that this happens to you, but it can lower the amount of damaging rays that penetrate your lip skin.

    Lip skin is considerably different from the skin found on other parts of your body, and it is these differences that require extra care to protect your lips from outdoor threats. Moisturizing and sunscreen are important for all skin, but the unique anatomy of lip skin makes these aspects of the skincare routine even more important for lip health.