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Kids and adults: Use lip balm with SPF

Even on a sunny, mild day like this

Even on a sunny, mild day like this one in Long Beach, kids and adults should wear sunscreen. Photo Credit: Newsday, 2011 / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Q. Are kids (and adults) supposed to put sunscreen on their lips? If not, how do we keep our lips from getting sunburned and chapped in the summer? Can you get skin cancer on the lips?


A. When packing up the sunscreen, you should be sure to also have a lip balm with protection of at least SPF 30 for the kids (and yourself), says pediatric dermatologist Ted Daley, director of Garden City Dermatology.

Using general sunscreen to also cover the lips isn't a great idea, he says. "It's not ideal to get it in the mouth. I would not routinely make a habit of doing that," he says. There are chemicals in the sunscreen that shouldn't be ingested, he says.

It's particularly important to protect the bottom lip, Daley says. If skin cancer develops in the bottom lip, it is 10 times more likely to spread to the lymph nodes, he says, perhaps due to the increased blood flow in that area.

While you're paying attention to the lips, don't forget other neglected facial areas, such as the tips of the ears and the back of the ears, he says. "If you have ears like Prince Charles, you're at a higher risk," he says.

Daley says he knows kids don't love the sun protection process. "I have four kids myself. Just getting the sunscreen on them is sometimes a fight," he acknowledges. But it's a battle worth winning. Reapply every two hours and after getting in the water; he suggests reapplying after swimming, even if you're using a sunscreen that markets itself as waterproof or water-resistant.

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