Having a pair of rosy pink lips is a dream come true to many women. But reality hurts! Almost each of us suffers from the issues of dark spots, patches, or lines on the lips, which is cumulatively termed as ‘lip pigmentation’. You may have obtained this genetically if you have been facing it since your birth. Otherwise, it could be the result of a certain lifestyle as well as medical factors. But whatever the reasons are, pigmented lips truly look unattractive, and following some simple home remedies can help lighten them to a great extent. In this article, we will learn about the causes, treatments, prevention, and some effective home remedies for lip pigmentation.
What is Lip Pigmentation?
Lip pigmentation, also known as lip discoloration, is the darkening (sometimes even whitening) of lips or the appearance of spots or two-toned lip colors. Well, having an overview of the anatomical structure of lips will help you understand it even better. Our lips are made only of 3-5 cellular layers, which makes them thinner and more delicate than the rest of the skin with multiple cellular layers (1). This also shows the color from the underlying blood vessels through the ‘vermilion border’ or the margin of lips, which is basically the sharp demarcation where lips meet the adjacent normal skin. Usually, the color of the skin in this area differs from one person to another. Based on the natural skin tone of an individual as well as various other factors, it may range from very light pink to brown. However, if the lips turn darker or two-toned over time, they are called pigmented or discolored.
The complexion of a person plays a key role in determining the shade of his or her lips. Typically, the lighter the rest of the skin is, the lighter the lips will be.
Causes of Lip Pigmentation
When the amount of the skin pigment called ‘melanin’ increases in lip cells, they turn darker or hyperpigmented. So, what are those factors that impact the color and appearance of your lips with the production of excess melanin? Find them listed below (2):
- The pigmentation of lips, which makes them look aged, may find its roots in high levels of stress.
- Smoking excessive cigarettes can cause the lips and gums to darken, which is medically termed as ‘smoker’s melanosis. (3), (4)
- Too much intake of caffeine-based products like coffee, tea, etc. may also cause the darkening of lips.
- Dehydration can have many side effects on the body and one of them is lip discoloration.
- Using cheap, low-quality or expired lip cosmetics can be really harmful to your lips as they often cause lip pigmentation and lead to contact dermatitis eventually.
- Prolonged sun exposure not only causes pigmentation of lips but also results in issues like actinic keratosis (dark, crusty bumps), lentigo (solar lentigines), etc.
- Physical trauma, such as injuries, bruises, damage, burns, etc. may also cause the lips to be partly or entirely blue or black.
- Allergic reactions to irritants like lipsticks, toothpaste, leather, rubber, latex, topical antibiotics, fragrance, metals, preservatives, etc. may give you dry, red, swollen, and inflamed skin. This often results in hyperpigmented lips.
- The darkening of lips is often associated with the condition of anemia, which is mainly characterized by the deficiency of iron in the body.
- An excess amount of iron in the body creates a condition named hemochromatosis, which is also linked to the hyperpigmentation of lips.
- When the adrenal gland does not generate adequate cortisol and/or aldosterone, a medical condition called Addison’s disease occurs in which both the inner and outer sides of the lips become dark.
- Medical therapies used to treat benign skin conditions like Laugier-Hunziker syndrome, Peutz-Jeghers syndrome, post traumatic pigmentation, etc. may turn the lips darker.
- Lips can become darker in shade as a side effect of certain medications, such as cytotoxic drugs, antipsychotics, anticonvulsants, antimalarials, tetracyclines, and so on.
- Certain cardiovascular and respiratory disorders may lead to a medical emergency called ‘central cyanosis’ in which the oxygen saturation levels fall below 85% in an individual’s bloodstream (5). This comes with symptoms like bluish purple lips.
Some other factors responsible for the harmless hyperpigmentation of lips include nutritional deficiencies, unhealthy diet, insufficient sleep, poor lifestyle choices, excessive use of fluoride, the habit of sucking lips, consuming pigment-rich foods (berries, wine), and so on.
10 Best Natural Remedies for Lip Pigmentation
There are plenty of natural ingredients that can lighten pigmented lips significantly by inhibiting the production of melanin pigment in the skin cells. Given below are some options for you to try:
Yogurt contains lactic acid that works wonders on dark spots and pigmentation. Apply yogurt all over your lips using your index finger and massage them gently for 2-3 minutes. Do it every day to see noticeable results.
Not only citrus fruits but their peels may also act as melanin inhibitors (6). So, try applying a few drops of fresh lemon juice to your lips every night before going to sleep and rinsing it with plain water the next morning. You can also dip a lemon wedge in sugar and rub your lips with it for some natural exfoliating effects.
3. Lime and Honey
Just like lemon, lime also helps in fading away lip pigmentation. Mix the freshly extracted juice of this citrus fruit with some pure honey and apply it as a lip mask every night. Wash it with lukewarm water the next morning and your lips will look much healthier.
4. Almond Oil and Lemon
Almond oil is rich in antioxidant vitamin E, which reduces lip pigmentation by preventing as well as reversing sun damage (7). When combined with lemon juice, the power of the oil becomes even double. So, squeeze the juice of a lemon into some almond oil, mix them well, and massage your lips with the mixture daily for 3-5 minutes. You will see the outcomes in just a few weeks.
5. Ice Cube
If your lips are pigmented due to the lack of hydration, ice cubes will be a wonderful solution. They work as a natural hydrator, which helps in plumping up the skin cells, thus making the lips look healthy. Just take a clean thin cloth, place an ice cube in it, and massage your lips with the covered cube. The effects will be visible instantly.
Beetroot is a great source of vitamin C, which is known to treat hyperpigmentation by decreasing the formation of melanin in the body (8). Grate a small part of a beetroot nicely and apply it to your lips just like you apply petroleum jelly. Leave it overnight before you rinse it off the next morning.
The active ingredient in turmeric is called curcumin, which has long been known for its melanin-inhibiting and skin-lightening properties (9). In a small bowl, mix enough turmeric powder with a tablespoon of milk or water and prepare a smooth paste. Rub it on your lips with wet fingertips and leave for 5-10 minutes before rinsing off with cool water.
8. Aloe Vera
A certain compound in aloe vera named aloin has moderate depigmenting properties (10), which make the ingredient effective in lightening dark lips. All you need is some freshly extracted aloe vera gel and apply it all over your lips in a thin layer. Let it dry completely and then, wash it off with plain water. Practice it at least twice every day.
9. Cucumber Juice
Studies have found that the juice of cucumber is full of antioxidants and silica-rich compounds, which are helpful in promoting the depigmentation of the skin (11). Simply extract the juice of a fresh cucumber slice and apply it to your lips with your fingertips. Leave it on for 15-20 minutes and then, rinse with water. You may do this 1-2 times daily.
It has been discovered that pomegranate extract is effective in reducing the activities of tyrosinase as well as the production of melanin in skin cells. Hence, it can also be used for lightening the pigmentation of lips (12). For this, prepare a smooth paste by mixing pomegranate extract and rose water together. Massage your lips gently with it for about 3 minutes and then, rinse with cool water. Repeat 1-2 times daily for the best results.
Opt for any one home remedy at a time. Doing all together will not give you fast results. Rather, it may just cause more harm than good.
Treatments Available For Dark Lips
The natural route to combat lip pigmentation is any time better than medications or chemically infused products. But if none of these work for you, your doctor will recommend the right treatment based on the underlying condition that is responsible for your lip pigmentation. Other treatment options available for dark lips include:
- Prescription and OTC (over-the-counter) medications (oral drugs and topical ointments)
- Chemical treatments/chemical peels (hydroquinone, kojic acid, etc.)
- Laser therapy
- Intense Pulse Light (IPL) therapy
Tips to Prevent Lip Pigmentation
Making simple lifestyle changes and following a robust at-home lip care routine can keep lip discoloration away naturally. Here are a few useful tips for you:
- Exfoliate your lips with petroleum jelly and a soft-bristled toothbrush at least once every week. This will eliminate all dirt, impurities, and dead cells accumulated on them.
- Depending on your lifestyle and level of activity, drink plenty of fluids every day to stay hydrated.
- Try to limit your exposure to the sun as much as possible and use a lip balm with SPF 40+ always.
- Do not use low-quality, expired, or damaged lip cosmetics.
- Avoid using lip care products that contain irritants or allergens.
- Avoid sucking on your lips constantly as it makes them very dry.
- Try to limit your intake of caffeine.
- Avoid or quit smoking completely.
Read Also – The Best Way to Treat Sunburned Lips
Lip pigmentation is the darkening of lips or the appearance of two-toned lip colors. Based on the natural skin tone of an individual as well as various other factors, the original lip color may range from very light pink to brown. But when the amount of melanin pigment increases in lip cells, they turn darker. Usually, stress, excessive smoking, too much intake of caffeine, dehydration, using wrong lip cosmetics, prolonged sun exposure, physical trauma, allergies, anemia, hemochromatosis, Addison’s disease, cyanosis, certain medical therapies, specific medications, etc. are responsible for lip pigmentation. Many natural ingredients can lighten pigmented lips significantly by inhibiting the production of melanin in the skin cells. These are yogurt, lemon, lime and honey, almond oil and lemon, ice cube, beetroot, turmeric, aloe vera, cucumber juice, pomegranate, and so on. If none of these work, your doctor may recommend prescription and/or OTC (over-the-counter) medications, chemical treatments, laser therapy, or IPL therapy in order to address your underlying condition. Making simple lifestyle changes and following a robust lip care routine at home will also prevent lip discoloration naturally.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Can I Use Toothpaste for Lightening Dark Lips?
Massaging hyperpigmented lips with toothpaste for 3-5 minutes every day may reduce its darkness to some extent. But do not leave it overnight as it may cause a burning sensation.
Does Exfoliation Remove Lip Pigmentation?
Regular lip exfoliation is essential to keep the lips free from dirt, impurities, and dead cells, which also helps in lightening its tone over time.
What Makes the Edges of Lips Dark?
Prolonged sun exposure and certain inflammatory skin conditions may turn the edges of your lips dark gradually.
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- “Interrelationship of Smoking, Lip, and Gingival Melanin Pigmentation, and Periodontal Status“, NCBI.nlm.nih.gov
- “Epidemiologic Study of Excessive Oral Melanin Pigmentation with Special Reference to the Influence of Tobacco Habits“, PubMed.NCBI.nlm.nih.gov
- “Cyanosis“, NCBI.nlm.nih.gov
- “Nobiletin as a Tyrosinase Inhibitor from the Peel of Citrus Fruit“, JSTAGE.jst.go.jp
- “Effects of Topical and Oral Vitamin E on Pigmentation and Skin Cancer Induced by Ultraviolet Irradiation in Skh:2 Hairless Mice“, NCBI.nlm.nih.gov
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- “Modulation of Antioxidant Defense by Alpinia galanga and Curcuma aromatica Extracts Correlates with Their Inhibition of UVA-Induced Melanogenesis“, Link.Springer.com
- “Aloesin and Arbutin Inhibit Tyrosinase Activity in a Synergistic Manner Via a Different Action Mechanism“, PubMed.NCBI.nlm.nih.gov
- “Invigorating Efficacy of Cucumis sativas for Healthcare & Radiance“, PharmaResearchLibrary.com
- “Inhibitory Effect of an Ellagic Acid-Rich Pomegranate Extract on Tyrosinase Activity and Ultraviolet-Induced Pigmentation“, TandFOnline.com