Let’s talk about why some people have darker lips or darker upper lips. Within society, we typically visualise anything with dark pigments (e.g., dark spots) as automatically less attractive. This article explores why some people have noticeably darker lips, what it entails to be born with darker lips, and whether it is a condition suitable for treatment.
Pink vs dark lips
The general perception is that pink lip colour is considered to be healthy. Having dark lips or upper-dark lips is normal darker lips are due to hyperpigmentation as a result of sun exposure or through inheritance.
Causes of dark lips
Hyperpigmentation is not neglecting your lips; there are many reasons why you may have darker lips, some of which are discussed below.
Vitamin B12 deficiency:
- Dark lips are caused by a deficiency in vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 deficient patients develop dark spots on the lips. Studies show that it is more common in dark and brown-skinned individuals. The deficiency of vitamin B12 stimulates melanin production, causing lip darkening¹
- To see if we are deficient in Vitamin B12, blood tests can reveal our level of B12. Cobalamin (vitamin B12) tablets can treat the deficiency
- Lack of hydration can lead to darker lips. It is interesting to know that our lips are thin and prone to dry quickly. The skin on the lips tends to lose its moisture quickly; the outcome leaves dead cells that show as dark skin.
- Staying hydrated and using moisturising lip balms may improve the tone and texture of your lips
Smoking can also be the cause of dark spots on the lips. Exposure to tobacco stimulates melanosis, which is an excessive accumulation of melanin. Every time a smoker inhales nicotine, the inner lips get burned, and the smoker’s inner lip can turn dark.
The Indian Vogue shares that darkening of the lips can be initiated by an allergic reaction to new products (e.g., lipstick, lip gloss, or lip balm). When visiting or looking for a good conditioning lip product, it is advised to try it before buying.
Treatment for dark lips
- Individuals with hyperpigmented lips should consult a dermatologist if it is causing stress or if they believe it to be a skin issue.
- A blood test can determine if the person affected can take cyanocobalamin, which is given to treat B12 deficiencies. However, dark lips due to B12 insufficiency are rare.
- Our lips reflect sensitivity to stress; drinking hot drinks and being allergic to lip products can lead to lip hyperpigmentation. Lip balm or lip masks can soothe and hydrate the lips.
- Heavy smoking consumption can lead to dark spots on the lips. The treatment options are hydrating and promoting lip lightening with non-irritating lip balm or SPF blocking the UV rays.
How can I keep my lips healthy?
The skin on our lips is very sensitive when compared to facial skin. The lip skin is thinner and prone to absorb UV rays, which can result in dry or chapped lips with discolouration being present in the inner lip.
- Lip scrubs can target black spots that occur from smoking. The lip scrub is an exfoliator that removes dead cells that appear darker. Lip scrub is a lip product that can be homemade by incorporating sugar and lime juice (to induce new healthy cell growth). However, when scrubbing lips, the sugar granules produce micro-tears (invisible to the naked eye) and further damage your lip; therefore, care should be taken if you choose to use this method to lighten your lips.
- Lime juice, almond oil, coconut oil, and olive oil are excellent for tackling dark lips. Almond oil consists of fat that hydrates the lips. Coconut and olive oil, which are rich in vitamin E and fatty acids, nourish and maintain skin colour tone.
- Apart from the oils, kinds of butter can also do the trick. Shea butter treats lip tissues against dryness and dark spots. Shea butter and cocoa butter properties balance out the lip skin even for hyperpigmentation and inflammation caused by UV rays; they are rich in antioxidants such as Vitamin E and A.
Medical intervention for the darkening of the lips can be used to improve the hyperpigmentation.2 Laser treatment reverses melanin production. However, the neutralisation of black spots is temporary and indicates that melanin or factors triggering lip discolouration can return. However, there are a number of side effects associated with this procedure, such as scabbing and lymph discharge. Lymph discharge is a white leakage liquid that should be surgically corrected.
Pigmented lips can be healthy. However, dark lips may be an indication of dehydration or the effects of the weather. Lips need to be taken care of regardless of the lip colour.
Our immune system's defensive barrier can be sensitive to products put on the lips and face. It is necessary to know that many healthy home remedies are available and have the benefit of being alternatives that are organic whilst still promoting hydration to maintain lip health and promote lip care to soothe and hydrate the lips. There are many options to treat our lips and some benefits are better than others. But whatever treatment we are deciding on, we should include lip care as part of our routine.
- Kannan R, Ng MJM. Cutaneous lesions and vitamin B12 deficiency. Can Fam Physician [Internet]. 2008 Apr [cited 2023 Apr 21];54(4):529–32. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2294086/
- Singh A, Dubey S, Kaur B, Chandra J, Sekhar V, Malhotra S. Journey to a confident smile: Management of hyperpigmented lips with 940 nm diode laser along with topical vitamin C-A case series. Journal of Dental Specialities. 2022 Jul 1;10(2).Available from: https://www.jdsits.in/article-details/17299