Facts Checked By Freewill Beauty Experts - Written by Rupali Goswami (Beauty Expert) on 23rd Nov 2020

Lip hyperpigmentation - Causes and Treatments Available 

Lip hyperpigmentation

Just like skin tones, our lips can differ in appearance and color. Some can even experience their lips turning darker over time, depending on various factors like overall health, skin tones, and lifestyle.

Dissimilar to the rest of your skin consisting of multiple cellular layers, your lips are only made of three to five cellular layers. It makes the lips more delicate and thinner, showing the color through underlying blood vessels.

Lip discoloration is a common problem among the majority of people all over the world. Some other factors that can contribute to this particular issue are consuming foods containing pigments, smoking, allergies, too much caffeine consumption, and several other things. 

What is hyperpigmentation? 

Though hyperpigmentation is not necessarily a serious condition, it is important to address it as it can also indicate some other medical conditions.

Hyperpigmentation causes your skin to appear darker that can either cover large areas of the skin or occurs in small patches, and may affect the entire body.

When your lips appear darker, it can be a sign of hyperpigmentation resulting from excess melanin production. Lip hyperpigmentation is not a unique issue. It happens to most of us due to many reasons. From too much sun exposure to lack of hydration to using the wrong lip products, any such factors can cause lip pigmentation.  

Causes of lip hyperpigmentation

1. Deficiency of iron (Anemia):

When you don't have enough red blood cells to carry sufficient oxygen to your body's tissues, that condition is known as anemia.

Anemia can occur on a temporary or long-term basis, which can turn from mild to severe. Pale or white lips can often be seen when you are suffering from this particular condition and, along with this general paleness, can affect all over the face, including the lining of the eyes, insides of your mouth, and nails.  

2.  Too much sun exposure: 

As we mentioned above, the skin on our lips is comparatively thinner and consists of only three to five(3-5) cellular layers, making it vulnerable to sun damage. Sunburns and sunspots can also occur on our face, chest, back, and arms due to too much sun exposure.  

3. Cyanosis: 

The color of the blood changes according to the oxygen content. Low oxygen level or improper circulation can lead to discoloration of skin and lips. This condition is known as cyanosis. When the oxygen saturation level in the blood falls below 85 percent, it leads to cyanosis. Cyanosis may be the reason for abnormal hemoglobin in a person's body. A bluish discoloration can be seen on the lips when you suffer from this condition. 

4. Lack of hydration: 

Dehydration, if not addressed, can have many harmful effects on your body. Factors like irritated, chapped skin and lips can happen due to the lack of hydration. Your lips may feel rough. Layers of the skin may peel-off, leading to small injuries and causing scars, scabs, and discoloration in the lips.

5. Hemochromatosis: 

Hemochromatosis is a term used to define a condition in which there is an excess of iron ( too much production of a skin pigment called melanin) in a person's body. One of the most common symptoms that can be found under this condition is skin hyperpigmentation that can also result in lip discoloration.  

6. Allergies: 

Using wrong lip products can cause allergies like redness, swelling, flaky skin, sensitivity, inflammation, and dryness. It happens mostly because of the ingredients that are present in oral hygiene and cosmetic products. Some possible irritants that can cause allergies include lipsticks, toothpaste, rubber, latex, topical antibiotics, and fragrance products.

7. Oral thrush: 

When an overgrowth of Candida fungus develops inside the mouth and results in oral thrush. It can be the cause of white or yellow patches on the inside of the mouth, tongue, lips, or gums that makes the corners of your mouth and lips cracked and dry.  

8. Smoking: 

When you smoke a cigarette or a pack of cigarettes, you inhale about 22 to 36 mg of nicotine. Nicotine reduces blood flow and starving the skin of oxygen and nutrients needed by the skin by shrinking and narrowing the blood vessels. Nicotine, exposure to tar, and a decrease in blood flow can cause the melanin in your gums, skin, and lips to darken, that further results in uneven pigmentation.

9. Too much caffeine: 

Most of us rely on many cups of coffee a day to make it through the day. That's not the right way to go. Caffeine can make your lips dry and dry up the rest of your skin. Hot coffee is the one to blame as that's the one adding pigmentation to your lips. 

10. Deficiency of vitamins:

Improper diet can make not just lips but your entire skin looks dull, mainly because of vitamin B deficiency. Be it your face, arms, legs, or anywhere else. Make sure you are eating your vegetables and consuming them enough to avoid such problems. 

Treatments for lip hyperpigmentation

Treatments for lip hyperpigmentation 

Treatment options for lip hyperpigmentation vary depending on the cause and how serious the condition is. For instance, people who develop lip discoloration due to certain medications can consult their doctors about alternative treatments.

Conditions like oral thrush can usually be treated by taking antifungal tablets, mouthwash, or lozenges.  

1. Laser therapy: 

The laser lip treatment is considered one of the safest treatments for dark lips that offer effective results and take less time to heal. It is a gentle and painless treatment that can be used on any skin type. Laser treatments work by focusing on just one wavelength of light at a time.  

2. Intense pulse light (IPL):

Intense pulse light is somewhat similar to laser treatment. Still, the difference is where laser treatment focuses on just one wavelength at a time, IPL focuses on multiple wavelengths, just like a photo flash. The light of IPL is more scattered and less focused than a laser.

IPL does not damage the skin as it penetrates through the second layer without causing much harm/damage to the skin's top layer. It can be used all around the body. 

3. Cryotherapy: 

Cryotherapy is a word used to describe "cold therapy." This treatment includes exposure of the body to a freezing temperature for various minutes. This treatment can work on both focused areas or for the whole body. It works in the form of coolant sprays, ice massage, ice packs, and others. Just one session of cryotherapy can provide several health benefits

4. Photodynamic therapy: 

Photodynamic therapy is a treatment that uses light along with chemicals like photosensitizers to treat severe conditions like cancer and others. Photosensitizers create toxic oxygen, which kills nearby cells that comes in contact with specific wavelengths of lights. 

5. Topical medication: 

Topical medication always requires the proper guidance of a dermatologist. Again, by applying the wrong products, you can end up with even more issues, so it is better to consult a doctor before using any topical medication for lip hyperpigmentation.

Prescribed medication can help you get rid of the pigmentation. Generally, ingredients like hydroquinone and kojic acid and topical retinoids, and a hydrocortisone light formula can help fade the discoloration in about four to six weeks.  

Other natural remedies to treat lip hyperpigmentation: 

1. Aloe Vera: 

As suggested in a study, aloe vera contains a compound that can inhibit melanin production. It can do wonders when applied every day. Apply it in the form of a thin layer on the lips. Once dried out, wash it with warm water.

2. Pomegranate: 

A study that took place in 2005 found out that pomegranate extract can help lighten skin hyperpigmentation. To make this remedy more effective, mix pomegranate seeds with rose water and fresh cream. 

3. Turmeric: 

A study in 2010 found out that turmeric may act as a melanin inhibitor. Mixing milk with turmeric can make this remedy more effective.

4. Lemon: 

As found out in a study, citrus fruits can help by acting as a melanin inhibitor. Remember to use it in the night time before you go to sleep. Just rub the juicy part of the lemon on your lips and rinse your lips with cold water the next morning.

5. Lime: 

Lime also belongs to the family of citrus fruits that has anti-melanin properties. Lime juice mixed with honey and glycerin can help you fade away the discoloration on the lips. 

Did You Know:

The skin releases antioxidants when exposed to pollution to face harsh conditions, promoting melanin production. 

Preventions 

  • Having a balanced diet consisting of all the nutritional foods like green vegetables, fruits, etc. 
  • Using a lip balm with sunscreen and limiting sun exposure. 
  • Quitting bad habits like smoking, sucking lips, and others. 
  • Providing enough hydration or moisturization to the skin. 
  • Maintaining regular oral hygiene. 

The Bottom Line 

Lip discoloration or hyperpigmentation can occur due to various factors. The lightness and darkness of your lips depend on personal cosmetic preference. There is no instant solution for lip hyperpigmentation.

Many treatments are available to address this issue, from surgeries to home remedies. You have to be patient, try and see what works best for you, and take advice from your doctor if you need any treatments or if it is an indication of some other issue that may be taking place inside the body.