Here’s What You Need to Know About Lip Lightening Treatments

Lip lightening, as it sounds, is “when a patient has sun damage or brownish pigmentation on their lips and wants to lighten them,” explains Montclair, NJ dermatologist Jeanine Downie, MD. There are a handful of possible causes and a variety of methods that can reduce the pigment in the lips, from in-office procedures to over-the-counter products. Here, dermatologists share their experience with lip-lightening treatments and provide all the information you need to know before scheduling an appointment.

What are some possible causes of darker lip pigmentation?

There are a variety of ways the pigment in your lips can shift to a darker shade. West Palm Beach, FL Kenneth Beer, MD points to sun exposure and hormones such as estrogen as the most common causes. He adds that irritation, burns and anything that disrupts the skin may also be the culprit of post-inflammatory pigmentation. “Darkening of the lips can be caused by smoking, contact dermatitis from oral hygiene products such as toothpaste or mouthwash, medications (for example, Minocycline), and aging in the skin of color patients,” adds Glenn Dale, MD dermatologist Valerie Callender, MD. However, that’s not all. Dr. Downie says eczema, psoriasis, smoking or vaping, lip licking and an allergy to a food or product can result in darker lips.

What are some in-office treatments that may help reverse dark pigmentation on the lips?

There are a few in-office treatments to choose from if you’re looking to lighten your lips. Dr. Callender describes an “aesthetic procedure that introduces custom-blended pigment (ink) into the lips to lighten the area and mask the darkening of the lips, called Cosmetic Micropigmentation.” However, that’s not the only option. Dr. Downie notes that the use of chemical peels and lasers work well for lip pigmentation. In Dr. Beer’s office, he likes to use a combination of lasers and peels to get the job done.

Are there any products experts recommend to aid in lip lightening?

If you’d like to try to beat the hyperpigmentation on your own before heading to the dermatologist, or you want to pair treatments with products, there are a few that experts suggest. Dr. Downie says topical fading creams like Cyspera can do the trick as well as topical eczema treatments occasionally. Dr. Beer says products that contain retinol or vitamin C can help but note that lips are sensitive, so ask your doctor for safe recommendations. Dr. Callender says using lip balms that have emollients and SPF 30 in them is essential as well to help protect against further damage.

Experts have seen an increase in patients scheduling lip-lightening treatments

Dr. Downie and Dr. Beer both note that they’ve seen an increase in patients looking for this treatment. Dr. Downie’s biggest advice? If you smoke, quit immediately. “In the past year, as people have gotten out from their isolation, there is a lot of interest in this (as well as most other cosmetic procedures),” says Dr. Beer.