The beauty of a person remains incomplete without a pair of juicy pink lips. Apart from beauty, the functional role of our lips is also quite appreciable. From eating to kissing, everything requires significant involvement of lips and we certainly cannot deny it. Hence, it is important to take proper care of the lips to keep them soft, supple, nourished, and adequately moisturized. But it is not only the color and texture of the lips that we should be worried about. There are several issues, such as dry lips, chapped lips, pigmented lips, etc., which prevent this organ from looking pretty and attractive. In this article, we will discuss one of such issues in which people develop freckles on lips and find a hard time getting rid of them. Keep browsing to know more about it.
What are Freckles?
Before heading towards the details of lip freckles, let us know what freckles actually are. Freckle, medically termed as ‘Melanotic Macule’, is a common skin condition, which is characterized by small brown spots on the skin. When our skin produces excess melanin (pigment), freckles are developed. They are found in areas of the skin, which are widely exposed to the sun. In other words, the ultraviolet radiation (UV rays) of the sun is responsible for freckles in most cases. Typically, these spots are harmless and you should not worry about them at all (1).
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What are Freckles on Lips?
Lip freckles are one of the most common lip ailments in which small dark or brown spots are found on the lips. They can be found on both upper and lower lips and our lips usually do not have these spots naturally. They are basically an increased focal pigmentation of the vermillion of the lips (2). When a cluster is formed out of the pigment cells right underneath the surface layer of the lip skin, they are called freckles. While the skin on the remaining part of our body has multiple cellular layers, the skin on our lips is very thin and delicate with 3 to 5 cellular layers only (3). This not only makes the color of the underlying blood vessels visible but also turns any dark spots on lip surfaces more noticeable. Hence, we can see the presence of freckles on the lips easily. They can appear in different numbers and sizes and are more common among light-skinned people.
The vermilion of the lips (also known as ‘margin’ or ‘zone’) refers to the natural border, which separates the lips from its adjacent skin of the face with a sharp demarcation. (4)
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Reasons Behind Lip Freckles
Frequent sun exposure is the most common reason behind the spotty pigmentation of the lip skin. When the ultraviolet radiation of the sun penetrates our skin, it damages the cells underneath its surface. To save the skin from this adverse impact of UV ray penetration, the natural defense system of our body allows the melanin-producing pigmentation cells (melanocytes) in the lip skin to clog together. Later, this clustering of melanin-bearing cells results in freckles. Sometimes, these spots appear immediately after sun exposure while in some cases they may take years to appear. Tobacco consuming, smoking, and alcohol binging are other prominent reasons which root for skin freckles. Age and genetic predisposition can also lead to this condition.
Pregnancy is usually not considered as a reason for lip freckles. However, if you already have spots on your lips, they may get darker during pregnancy.
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Normal Lip Freckles vs. Pre-Cancerous Lip Freckles
Normal lip freckles should not be a cause of concern as they do not pose any serious risks. However, if they start changing their color or texture noticeably or new freckles appear all of a sudden, you should consider it alarming. Also, visit a dermatologist as soon as possible if they are accompanied by dryness and continual chapping or cracking. If you smoke, drink regularly, or consume tobacco, book an appointment with your dermatologist even with a single spot appearing on your lips. There are certain conditions called farmer’s lips or sailor’s lips, Peutz-Jeghers syndrome, etc., in which brownish spots found mostly on lower lips are known to be pre-cancerous. Though normal and pre-cancerous lip freckles do not look much different in their preliminary stages, it is crucial to get them assessed to weigh the potential risks. However, in later stages, the suspicious spots become raised bumps on the lip surface, making it very obvious to identify the problem.
Farmer’s lips or sailor’s lips is medicalled termed as Actinic Cheilitis. It is caused due to the damage in the outermost tissue layer of the lip named lip epithelium. Almost 6% to 10% of people suffering from Actinic Cheilitis simultaneously develop lip cancer.(5)
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Effective Cures for Freckles on Lips
Many people do not feel bothered about the presence of one or two freckles on their lips. Some even believe that lip freckle is a unique facial feature only. But what if you wish to get rid of that spotty pigmentation? Well, it can be challenging but not impossible. Following are some of the most effective cures you should try for it:
1. Sunscreen Lip Balms
Sun protection is the ultimate cure for lip freckles. Whether your skin is more prone to tanning or not, you should apply a high-quality sunscreen lip balm every time before you move out in the sun. This will not only reduce the appearance of lip freckles but also prevent them from darkening over time. The practice will even keep you protected from lip cancer.
2. Freckle-Lightening Creams
Prescription lightening creams intended for freckles on lips can help you get rid of the issue upon regular application. This topical treatment is not only the least invasive but also pretty safe to use.
3. Oral Medications
Certain oral medications can treat your lip freckles effectively. Consult your dermatologist to know whether it is the best option for you or not.
4. Cosmetic Removal Surgery
In cosmetic freckle removal, the spots are removed from the lips surgically under local anesthetic. However, you must remember that it can leave you with noticeable lip scar(s).
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Who Get Lip Freckles the Most?
Lip freckles are most common in people with fair or light skin tones. People with light eye colors also get the same every easily.
Are Freckles on Lips Dangerous?
Freckles are not necessarily dangerous for health. You can get it on your lips if your skin is more sensitive to sunlight and taking proper measures to prevent it will help.
What are the First Signs of Lip Cancer?
The very first signs of lip cancer include lesions, lumps, soreness, blisters, red or white patches, and ulcers on the mouth or lips. These usually do not go away on their own. Bleeding from the lips and pain in the jaw can also signal lip cancer.