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Skin pigmentation is a common manifestation, affecting different parts of the skin, including the lips, with varying intensities.
While your lips can naturally get darker with age, various other factors, such as UV rays, can result in increased pigmentation on the lips. This can also lead to hyperpigmentation, lentigines, and melasma of the lips.
This article talks about preventive measures and various home remedies that can help manage darkening of the lips.
Home Remedies to Lighten Dark Lips
Darkening of the lips caused by environmental or habitual factors, such as smoking, caffeine consumption, and sun exposure, can be treated with the following home remedies:
1. Apply vitamin C
Vitamin C is popularly used as a skin lightener as it helps inhibit melanin production. It also acts as an antioxidant against the free radicals produced by UV exposure. (1)
How to use:
You can apply fresh lemon or lime juice to your lips upon diluting it. Leave it on for 15–20 minutes and rinse. Apply a moisturizer after drying the lips. Alternatively, you can add lemon juice to any lip mask.
2. Use a honey scrub or mask
Honey is popularly used for lightening dark spots and freckles, both in traditional medicine and cosmetic products. Moreover, it contains polyphenols (2) that inhibit tyrosinase, thus reducing melanin production. (3)
You can use honey by mixing it with various ingredients such as sugar or rice grains to make a scrub or with lemon, yogurt, or milk to make a mask. (4)
How to use:
Apply a small amount of honey scrub to your lips and rub gently. Rinse your lips after 5 minutes and apply a moisturizer. Alternatively, apply a honey scrub to your lips, leave it on for 15–20 minutes, and rinse.
3. Apply alpha-hydroxy acids
These acids work by inhibiting the enzyme tyrosinase. (6) Such acids are also commonly used in chemical peels in clinical settings for the treatment of hyperpigmentation. (7)(8) At home, you can use berries, grapes, and dairy products including milk and yogurt as a source of alpha-hydroxy acids.
How to use:
Make a lip mask by mixing honey, lemon, and yogurt or mixing milk, turmeric, and rose, and apply it to the lips. Leave the mask on for 20 minutes before rinsing and applying a moisturizer. Alternatively, you can apply milk fats directly to the lips.
4. Rub oils
Rose hip oil and almond oil are helpful for skin lightening and work by inhibiting tyrosinase activity. (9)(10) Rose hip oil contains active vitamin C that contributes to its skin-lightening effects. (11) Almond oil contains vitamin E that can help lighten dark lips. (12)(13)
How to use:
Dab some oil on your lips and rub gently.
5. Rub pomegranate or beetroot juice
You can also use beetroot for the same effects. While its use is not yet studied scientifically, there is substantial anecdotal evidence to it. Beetroot juice is thought to contain polyphenols that can help lighten dark lips.
How to use:
Rub the juices on your lips directly or add them to your masks.
6. Apply a rose extract mask
How to use:
Soak rose petals in raw milk for an hour and grind. Add honey to the paste and apply on your lips for 15 minutes, twice a day. You can also add rose water to any of the lip masks discussed above.
Note: Avoid using alcohol for preparing rose extract at home as it can cause chapping of the lips. Use only OTC products for alcohol-based rose extracts.
7. Use aloe vera gel
Aloin, the active ingredient of aloe vera, is found to have a dose-dependent skin lightening effect. Aloe vera extract can be found in various over-the-counter (OTC) products for hyperpigmentation. (18)(19)
How to use:
Rub freshly extracted aloe vera gel on your lips, or buy lip balms containing aloin.
Caution: Avoid swallowing the gel as it can cause digestive distress.
8. Use OTC creams and balms
You can also use OTC lotions, creams, and balms to help manage hyperpigmentation of the lips. Check the labels for either of the following ingredients:
How to Prevent Lip Darkening
The following tips can help prevent skin darkening and keep your lips healthy:
- Apply sunscreen: The most common contributor to skin darkening is the UV radiation in sunlight. Therefore, it is essential to wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher every day, preferably one with zinc oxide and titanium oxide. Lip balms containing sunscreen are also available.
- Stay hydrated: Dehydration can result in slight discoloration of the lips.
- Consume a well-balanced diet: It is possible that lip darkening or hyperpigmentation may result from a deficiency of vitamins such as vitamin B12. (23)
- Use quality cosmetics: Apply only nonallergic, high-quality lip cosmetics as low-grade cosmetics can trigger sensitivity and increase hyperpigmentation.
- Avoid allergens: It is vital to identify ingredients that you are allergic to and avoid such cosmetics to prevent allergic contact cheilitis. (24)
- Keep your lips clean and moisturized: Exfoliate your lips regularly to remove dead skin cells and apply a moisturizer to help in healing the lips.
- Avoid sucking your lips: While wetting your lips with your saliva may seem to help keep them wet, it actually dries them out.
- Do not pick on your lips: Picking on the dry skin of your lips can cause more damage as the end of the dead skin may be attached to the lip, which may get torn while picking.
- Quit smoking cigarettes and tobacco: Smoking is one of the most common reasons behind lip darkening. (25)
- Limit your caffeine and alcohol intake: Both these beverages can significantly contribute to skin hyperpigmentation. (26)
Most-Asked Questions About Dark Lips
Is green tea effective in lightening dark lips?
Green tea is suggested to help treat melasma. However, there is limited evidence supporting its effects. More studies are needed to establish the effects of green tea extracts in hyperpigmentation. (27)
Can cucumber help lighten dark lips?
While cucumber is used anecdotally to help lighten the skin, there is no scientific evidence to support it. Cucumber is only believed to help hydrate the skin.
Is rubbing a potato effective in lightening dark lips?
Potatoes contain the enzyme catecholase, which is thought to inhibit melanin production. However, catecholase is itself involved in the production of melanin. (28) Therefore, it is not right to say that potatoes can help lighten dark skin.
Can apple cider vinegar or hydrogen peroxide be used for reducing hyperpigmentation of the lips?
It is best to avoid apple cider vinegar and hydrogen peroxide for hyperpigmentation treatment as these are acidic substances that can irritate the sensitive skin of the lips.
Lip hyperpigmentation can occur due to various internal and external factors. While mild cases of lip hyperpigmentation can be treated at home using natural ingredients, it is important to get a proper diagnosis if the pigmentation is increasing or spreading. It is best to take proper care of your lips in order to prevent darkening of the lips.