Discoloration Of The Lips

A Complete Guide On Discoloration Of The Lips

Physical attractiveness is the most desired quality in human beings. Bright and soft lips enhance the beauty of the face. However not everyone has such desirable lips. Lips may get discolored or pigmented over a period due to various factors or the person with dark lips may belong to a particular ethnicity that is susceptible to dark lips.

Lips that are dry and chapped often turn dark. Such lips develop brown-brownish grey and yellowish tint causing the lips to appear discolored or pigmented. Dark lips are caused by a number of internal and external factors.

Some of the internal factors that cause dark lips are genetics, underlying medical issues, eating habits etc. External factors such as exposure to harmful solar radiation, toxins in the atmosphere etc may turn the lips dark and pigmented.

It is extremely important to know what causes dark lips as it could indicate a serious disorder that needs medical help. This article explores the various factors that cause dark lips and effective solutions and available treatments to manage dark lips.

Is Everyone Susceptible to Dark Or Pigmented Lips?

  • As per a study heredity is one of the major causes of dark lips. 98% of the dark lip instances are due to heredity. Ethnic groups such as Africans, African-Americans, and Southeast-Asians etc are found to be more prone to dark lips.
  • The remaining 2% causes are attributed to various factors such as underlying medical issues, lifestyle or diet etc.

What Causes Dark Lips?

Some of the factors that cause dark lips are:

1. Iron Deficiency Or Anaemia

As per the statistics, 1 in 77 suffers from Anaemia in United States. 3.5 million People suffer from Anaemia in USA making it one of the most common health disorders in the country.

Majority of the women in their reproductive years suffer from Anaemia. Hemoglobin deficiency in the body can significantly affect the lip color. In winters such discoloration of the lip may worsen.

2. Hormonal Changes in The Body

Hormonal Changes

Hormonal changes can affect the natural color of the lips. Such instances are observed in:

  • Pregnant women – During pregnancy the body produce high quantity of estrogens.
  • Women who consume birth control pills regularly.
  • Those who receive hormone treatments and therapies.

3. Cyanosis

Cyanosis is a serious disorder that causes patients to develop bluish lips. The blue colour is due to the high levels of deoxygenated blood content in the body. Cyanosis is caused by pulmonary, cardiovascular and blood disorders. If there are other symptoms aside blue lips such as shortness of breath, cold skin and altered consciousness, patients should seek immediate medical help.

4. Exposure to Sun

Over exposure to harmful rays of sun can also darken the lips. The risks of sun exposure are many. In America, there are more than 73,000 reported cases of skin cancer due to sun exposure.

  • As per a study conducted by Olson AL, Dietrich AJ, Sox CH, Stevens MM, Winchell CW of Darmouth Medical school, New Hampshire USA, it was found that excess exposure to sunlight in childhood causes a host of problems later in life such as skin cancer, skin pigmentation etc.
  • Lip Protection
  • In another study on solar radiation and lip protection conducted by Pogoda JM and Preston-Martin S, University of southern California School of Medicine, Los Angeles, USA, it was found that men had higher risk of lip cancer in comparison to women who used lipsticks and sunscreen agents for lips.

Excess exposure to sunlight encourages the production of melanin in the body. The face and lips are the most vulnerable parts that get affected by harmful sun radiation. Hence, it is extremely important to protect the face and lips against solar radiation by using a good sunscreen such as DERMAXSOL– daily moisturizing SPF 30 for every day use to fight against hyper pigmentation.

5. Smoking

Dark lips are often observed in chain smokers. Those who smoke regularly develop dry and chapped lips. The tobacco in the cigarettes dries out the moisture and oil from the lips. The tobacco also darkens the lips by staining it. Dark spots caused by smoking are known as smoker’s melanosis.

Though the exact percentage of people suffering from smoker’s melanosis in USA is not known many researchers believe that dark spots due to smoking are very prevalent in United States.

6. Lifestyle

There are few lifestyle practices that contribute to dark lips. Some of them are:

  • Caffeine And Tea – Hot beverages such as coffee and tea can stain the lips making it dark. Caffeine can dehydrate thereby reducing the moisture in the body.
  • Alcohol Consumption – Some varieties of alcohol contain acidic content in them. These acidic contents are added to speed up the fermentation process. Such acidic substances can cause dark spots and discoloration on the lips.
  • Narcotics – Cocaine, heroin etc have chemicals in them that can darken the lips and cause dark spots on the lips.

7. Medical conditions

  • Peutz-Jeghers Syndrome
    Peutz-Jeghers Syndrome is a rare genetic disorder with 1 instance per 60,000 – 300,000 people in United States. Hyper pigmentation of skin and mucosal membrane is one of the main characteristics of Peutz-Jeghers Syndrome. Lips develop dark patches and patients often experience dark and chapped lips.
  • Dermatitis
    Dark Lip

    Dermatitis or inflammation of the skin can occur due to various factors. One of the most common impacts of dermatitis on the lips is when women use old or inexpensive lipsticks and cosmetics on their lips. The dyes that are present in the inexpensive cosmetics can cause inflammation and dark patches on the lips.

  • Jaundice
    Jaundice is a liver disorder wherein most part of the skin develops a yellowish tint. Though lips rarely turn yellow in color, discoloration of the lips can be seen in the patients.
  • Actinic Cheiltis
    Actinic Cheltis is a form of skin disorder that affects most part of the skin including lips. It is caused due to over exposure to UVB rays.

8. Medications and Drugs

Discolouration of the lips is also caused by many medications and drugs such as:

  • Drugs used for chemotherapy in cancer patients.
  • Anti-malarial medications.
  • Anti-depressants such as imipramine and desipramine.
  • Drugs used for treating skin disorders. For example, isotretinoin and acitretin.
  • Anti-psychotic medications.
  • Hydroquinone used in skin lightening products.

9. Other Factors

There are many other factors that cause discoloration of the lips. Some of them are:

  • Environmental Toxins And Pollutants – Metals such as bismuth, copper, mercury and silver and strong acids and other poisonous contents can turn the lips darker. The chemicals present in such components burns the lips turning it dark in color.
  • Bulimia And Anorexia – Eating disorders such as bulimia or anorexia makes the patients nauseate frequently. Such repetitive and frequent nausea stains the lips.
  • Allergens – Allergens can trigger inflammation and cause darkening of the lips. People who are allergic to certain types of foods, nuts, drinks and cosmetics should ensure to discontinue consuming or using such products once they notice the discoloration on their lips.

Treatment For Dark Lips

Are there treatments for dark lips? The answer is not simple because treatment for dark lips is prescribed based on the underlying cause. There are many ways to manage dark lips.

  • Hormonal treatments – If the discoloration of the lip is due to hormonal imbalance in the body, hormonal treatment can help the lips to regain the natural color. Diagnosing the underlying medical condition- As mentioned earlier in this article, dark lips can be caused by a host of health issues. A proper diagnosis and treatment of such health issues can dramatically improve the lip color.
  • Dark lips due to sun exposure can be effectively managed by using a good quality lip sunscreen. Alternatively, if possible exposure to sun can also be reduced.
  • Rehabilitation- Smokers and alcoholics can resort to rehabilitation programs to quit the addiction. Such steps will improve their overall health thereby reducing skin issues including pigmentations.
  • Excess consumption of hot beverages should be controlled. Limiting or eliminating caffeine from the diet can help the body to retain hydration.
  • Dark lips due to anaemia is treated with necessary iron supplements. A physician will prescribe the right supplement to treat anaemia.
  • A good skin care routine can help to maintain the moisture and smoothness of the lips.
  • Consuming a healthy and balanced diet with vegetables and fruits can add a healthy glow and moisture to the skin. Toxins in the body can be flushed by consuming plenty of clear water.
  • Women should always use superior quality beauty products as they are carefully formulated sans allergens and toxins.


Dark lips can be hereditary or due to an underlying health issue, certain lifestyle practices such as smoking, drinking, caffeine and toxins in the environment. Identifying the underlying cause for dark lips is extremely important. Dark lips could be a symptom of a serious health issue that need medical assistance.

Many people who experience lip discoloration usually inherit the condition due to their ethnicity. However the remaining group of people with dark lips may need to watch for their lifestyle habits or health conditions. Such cases can be treated effectively once the underlying cause is identified. Hence the prognosis for dark lips is promising for those who have not inherited the discoloration of the lips.


  • http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8813434
  • http://wodenoptics.com/2015/09/10/5-things-you-need-to-know-about-smokers-melanosis/
  • http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3019754/
  • http://healthool.com/lip-discolouration/#causes-of-lip-discolouration
  • http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/sunanduvexposure/skin-cancer-facts
  • http://www.collectivewizdom.com/ReasonsforDarkSpotsonLips.html
  • http://www.healthhype.com/dark-lips-causes-of-lip-discoloration-brown-black-or-blue.html
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