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Your Lips Need Protection

Unprotected lips are prone to a variety of ailments. Men, for example, run a higher risk of getting lip cancer, research suggests, because their lips usually have nothing on them to block ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun.

Although your skin contains oil that protects it from drying out and from extreme temperatures, your lips do not. Your skin also has melanin, a pigment that colors your skin and offers some protection from the sun. But your lips don't. Lips are full of blood, which explains not only why they bleed so easily but also their attractive reddish color.

Your lips need special consideration, but in return, they provide a number of worthwhile services. One of their most valuable tasks is to seal liquids and food inside your mouth, and help move these substances around.

And they protect your teeth and help you talk. So guard your lips, particularly against the sun, their worst enemy.

Use lipstick and lip balms with a sunscreen to do the job.

Women seem to do a better job of that than do men. Lip cancer is clearly related to sun exposure, and women more commonly protect their lips with lipstick and a hat.

But if the sun is the worst lip abuser, there are a host of others. Cold and dry weather, dry indoor heat, and even cigarette smoke can irritate and dry lips. Applying an emollient can help keep them moist.

Don't habitually lick them, or the continuous drying action of saliva evaporation will cause chapping.

Lips are vulnerable not only to the elements, but also to infection cold sores caused by a herpes simplex virus. A simple kiss or lip-touched hand can pass on the virus.