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What Causes Lip Darkening and How Do You Need to Treat It?

by Sarin Skin 08 Jun 2023
What Causes Lip Darkening and How Do You Need to Treat It?

While some have dark lips by birth, and some of us experience gradual darkening of lips as we grow older. Lip discoloration treatment can make one feel under confident and sometimes gives an impression of smoking even though the person is not. 

If you are experiencing the same issue, you are at the right place—no need to worry about it and read on as we have suggested some good ways to lighten the lip.  Lip darkening can result from some habits, or may be due to some underlying disease. It can also be caused by environmental or lifestyle factors that lead to discoloration of the lips. 


Causes of lip darkening 

Our lips are different from the rest of the skin on the body and need more care than the rest of our faces. Why? Because there is only a thin protective layer over it.

Lips have a lot of glandular tissue with many blood vessels. Hence the colour is in shades of pink. As the skin is thin, our lips are more susceptible to damage and harmful UV rays than the rest of the body. 


Smoking contains nicotine which affects not only other body systems but also involves the darkening of the lips and oral cavity. It increases melanin production (the main colour pigment in the skin) and hence causes hyperpigmentation of lips. It gradually increases melanin and oxidative radicals in the lips, giving them a greyish-blackish shade. Smoking is dangerous because it causes several diseases, including oral cancer. Smoker’s melanosis is another disease caused by tobacco consumption, and it appears as dark, brownish lips with small brown patches in the gums. 

Alcohol consumption

Alcohol can also cause skin damage, including on the lips. Alcohol can damage the skin by increasing the production of free radicals, unstable molecules that can damage cells and contribute to premature ageing. Over time, aldehydes in alcohol also cause the lips to darken and develop wrinkles.

Heavy alcohol consumption can lead to a deficiency in essential vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B12, folate, and iron, all necessary for healthy skin. Deficiencies in these nutrients can cause various skin problems: dryness, inflammation of lips which can turn into pigmentation after healing.

UV rays 

UV rays can stimulate colour production by stimulating melanocytes to produce melanin. We focus on applying sunscreen to our face and neck but neglect the most exposed area, the lips. Radiation from the Sun can damage our lips and lead to chafing and dryness, causing dullness and darkening of lips. Long-time exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun causes a condition called Actinic/solar cheilitis; lips become dry and cracked, and there is a greater chance of developing ulcers, inflammation, and blisters which heal to form pigmentation.


Among the most common causes of lip darkness is dehydration. Salty food and replacing water with other sugary drinks can cause dehydration in the body and also in the lips. This causes a lack of water to tissues, including lips, and affects the overall health of tissue and increases pigmentation.

Licking lips 

Some of us lick lips, which worsens the dryness because our saliva evaporates quickly and vanishes into the air-causing more dryness. Moreover, saliva contains enzymes and acids which render lips chapped and cracked, prone to pathogens and infections. The cycle continues, and the condition aggravates with time, leading to more rough and dark lips.

Picking chapped lips 

Picking your lips is a terrible habit, and you can’t do worse to your lips than this. Peeling away the cracked skin off your lips might give you pleasure but does no good to them in reality. While removing dead cells, you are exposing the underneath healthier tissue to the environment and leaving it unprotected from pollutants. It causes them to dry and darken at the same time.

Furthermore, it will hinder the healing process of lips, putting them at higher risk of infections.

Fragrance-based lip balms

As good as it is to use lip balms for a soft pout, on the other hand, scented or coloured lip balms must be avoided. Fragrance-based lip balms can irritate your skin. Always keenly look upon your lip balm ingredient list. It will help if you avoid alcohol, menthol, camphor, phenol, parabens, and phthalates.


Everything that comes in contact with your lips affects them, either in a good or bad way. Toothpaste, mouthwashes, and tooth powders might contain some ingredients that cause allergies to your lips. Look out for ingredients in them. Mineral oils, essential oils, and alcohol might be the reason behind lip darkening.

Vitamins deficiency

Also, if lips appear pale and brown, it might result from a severe deficiency of a vitamin such as vitamin B12 or due to low iron or folate available in the body. If any deficiency exists in the person, the person is anaemic. Treatment of the underlying cause is necessary to get a pink, healthy, and silky soft lip texture.

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If the covering over your lip is torn, or there is excessive saliva on your lips, it might put you at a higher risk of getting lip infections. Candidiasis, a fungal infection of the lips, is the most common, followed by bacterial infections. 

Bluish lips

Bluish lips, also called cyanosis, can be caused by many underlying diseases and easily get attention when present. They occur due to a lack of oxygen in the blood, giving it blue instead of red (red is present when adequate oxygen is available in the blood vessel). Several diseases present as cyanosis. Some of them are listed below

  • Respiratory problem such as COPD, emphysema, pneumonia
  • Heart failure
  • Shock
  • A blood clot in lungs
  • Blood poisoning due to a toxin/
  • Stroke
  • At high altitudes

Home care of lip darkening

Know better, choose better. It is the ultimate rule for treating any problem. If you know what works for your skin, you’ll be able to identify clear solutions to your issues. 

Lip darkening can be treated in many ways at home, but one must be consistent with their lip care routine. Consistency is the key! Always.


  • Adequate water intake
  • Lots of fruits to your diet
  • Quit smoking/tobacco

You got to thank us later for this small to-do list addition because this will not only improve your lip condition but also have an immense impact on your body in a positive way.

Here are some simple recipes you can easily apply to your dark lips. 

  • Exfoliate

Exfoliate with 1 tbsp of sugar and 1 tbsp of olive oil mixed. Mildly exfoliate your lips in a circular motion but remember not to over-exfoliate or put too much pressure on your lips. It might cause cracks or dryness.

  • Hydrate

It would help if you drank lots of water daily to keep your skin, face, and lips hydrated. Treat within to get all the glow back. 

  • Moisturise

You must moisturise your lips daily with either olive oil or coconut oil. And shea butter would be an even better choice. 

  • Aloe Vera

Name anything that Aloe Vera cant do. It’s a wonder plant and my favourite of all. It might not taste very pleasant, so add a little sugar or honey to it and apply it to your lips. It is so good in vitamins and hyaluronic acid that it’s a must in your skincare routine.

Medical Treatment of lip darkening

If you have consistently applied home remedies and are still unsatisfied, you can step on to the next step of medical treatments for yourself. If home remedies are not working, it’s time to see the best dermatologist in town to check for a suitable personal skincare routine that is made for your skin type and will safely treat your dark discoloration.

Protect them: 

Wear a good SPF lip balm while going out under the sun. It will save your lips from damage by almost 90%. Daily application of a mineral blocker SPF 30 is typically recommended, and for those with melasma, SPF 50+ is recommended by dermatologists. 

Further, it can be treated by following medical treatments based on how fast and effective you want it to be:


It’s also getting attention for lip darkening treatment because it is the fastest possible solution to lip darkening. In lasers, Q switched pico-second light wavelengths target the melanin in the skin, breaking it down into tiny pieces. With the darker melanin removed, the lips lighten to their natural colour. Not only on the surface, but it also downgrades the overproduction of melanin within the lips resulting in more lasting, beautiful lips. You can consult with a dermatologist for sessions, and it will do its job perfectly. 

Chemical peels:  

Chemical peels are a fruitful procedure that deeply increases collagen production and gives rise to pink, smooth, and plump lips. It’s a very pocket-friendly option and gives you good results.

Topical treatment: 

Topical creams are a good solution to dark lips. The doctor can also consider topical tranexamic acid and tyrosinase inhibitors because they lighten up hyperpigmentation in the skin and lips effectively. Hydroquinone is a chemical compound used in products that treat hyperpigmentation. It works by interacting with the melanin-producing cells in the skin and reduces melanin production. Consult your doctor before using lip darkening treatment hydroquinone.

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Take home message:

In conclusion, lip darkening is a common cosmetic issue that various factors, such as smoking, sun exposure, and certain medications, can cause. Fortunately, several treatments are available to help lighten and restore lips to more natural colour. These treatments include topical creams, laser treatments, chemical peels, and lifestyle changes, such as avoiding smoking and protecting your lips from the sun with a lip balm containing SPF. Even though lip darkening is a common issue, it can be treated successfully with the right approach.

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