More Than Lip Service

Lip care is beneficial not just for wind instrument players but also for everyone on and off the field.

Attention band! Protecting your lips from sun, wind and cold can prevent short-term pain and long-term damage. This care is just as important for drummers, keyboardists and drum majors as it is for wind-playing band members. Even band parents, music teachers, judges and fans—in short, anyone exposed to the elements—need to give more than “lip service” to protecting those valuable lips.


Ultraviolet rays from the sun and tanning beds attack, age, dry out and burn your lips, even on cloudy or cold days. Don’t take chances: Apply lip balm generously. Look for a formula with SPF 15 or higher and petrolatum—petroleum jelly—which helps your lips hold on to moisture. Reapply it frequently; every hour is great.

Wind and Cold

Lips dry out fast, and then they crack and even bleed. You may be tempted to “lick your chops,” but avoid that habit. Your saliva has digestive enzymes that irritate the cracked skin more, so you lick again and irritate over and over…Bottom line, use a lip product and reapply often. Also, try to keep that wind instrument mouthpiece warm, so more heat isn’t pulled out of your lips. NEVER put your lips to a frozen instrument. Warm the mouthpiece in your hands first.

Soreness While Playing

The pressure of the instrument can give you sore lips or even bruises— especially on the skin just above your upper lip. If your lips hurt right after you play, ask your section leader, coach or teacher for pointers on better instrument positioning and proper mouthpiece or reed choice. A cold aluminum can or something else at refrigerator temperature will ease swollen lips. Don’t hold ice on your lips. It’s too cold, and you can get frostbite!

Be Prepared

Carry several lip moisturizers with you and keep one in your uniform hat box for a final application before you march out into that snowstorm. Put your initials on the cap, so you know which is yours if you drop it. No sharing allowed. You don’t want to catch your friend’s cold or something worse. Instead, give an unused one to your friend, and a hearty “thank you” will be on his or her lips!

About the Author

Susan Boiko, M.D., is a dermatologist with Kaiser Permanente specializing in skin problems of children and teenagers. She is also a former Girl Scout Fife and Drum Corps member in Bellerose, N.Y., and a past Music Boosters President at San Marcos (Calif.) High School. She is the mother of three musicians: Becky at Arizona State University; Laura, 11th grade assistant drum major and band president at San Marcos High School; and twin sister, Shayna, marching mellophone section leader and budding composer. All three play French horn.

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