Lip Discoloration: 11 Causes, Treatment & Prevention

Lip discoloration can arise from taking certain foods and substances like wine, cigarettes, berries and some medications. However, the lip color appearance is dependent on the person’s natural skin color, if the skin is light, then there is every tendency that the lips will be light as well.

Other factors are exposure to sun and overall health related issues. The lips have only three or five cellular layers as compared to the skin that has many layers. The small layers of the lips makes it easier for the underlying blood vessels to be seen as the tissues are thinner. 


1. Iron Deficiency Anemia 

When the body does not have enough iron, the result is iron deficiency anemia, this can lead to many symptoms depending on how severe the loss is. Out of the many symptoms of this deficiency, lip discoloration is one of them. The lips will have a pale or whitish color with cracks around the corners of the mouth.

2. Oral Thrush or Oral Candidiasis

There can be an overgrowth of candida fungus in the mouth, the outcome of this excess fungi will be oral thrush. This will cause the lips to have white color. There can also be white lesions on the gum, tonsils, tongue, inner cheeks and on the roof of the mouth. 

3. Cyanosis

The blood has oxygen content and the amount of oxygen can change some features on the body. When there is low oxygen content, the lips will have a bluish color and this condition is known as cyanosis. Cyanosis occurs when the oxygen saturation levels in a person’s blood fall below 85 percent (Medical News Today, 2020). Other than the lips, the tips of the fingers and toes can also change to blue color.

4. Hemochromatosis

Just like the body can have low iron, it can also have excess iron and the result is a condition known as hemochromatosis. This condition is common and it affects over one million Americans ( One of the symptoms is brown or dark gray spots on the lips. 

5. Exposure to Sun

Constant exposing of the body to sun can cause dark bumps to appear on the lips. The color may range from light tan to dark red. Although these bumps are non-cancerous, it is very important that you see a doctor because other conditions like cancer can have similar bumps.

6. Laugier-Hunziker Syndrome

This condition makes the lips and lining of the mouth to have dark spots that are usually 2-5 millimeters in diameter (National Library of Medicine, 2018). These dark spots can be removed to improve the facial look but there is currently no medical treatment for Laugier-Hunziker syndrome. 

7. Allergies

Products like lipstick, latex, rubber, topical creams, leather and certain chemicals may cause allergic reactions. The reactions can be due to the ingredients that are used in making the substances. When the lips are reacting to an allergy, the color can change to red. 

8. Smoking

Smoking cigarettes and tobacco products can darken the lips and gum. A study by the National Institute of Health in 2013 reported that all smokers that were used for the study had lip discoloration.

9. Injury

The lips can be injured and scars can be left on them. Depending on the type of injury, the lips can change to purple, black or any other dark color.

10. Addison’s Disease

When the adrenal gland does not produce enough cortisol and aldosterone, the lips and akin can become discolored. The color will be dark or brown on the inside or outside. 

11. Medications

Certain medicines can change the color of the lips, this change is a side effect of the drug. Some of these medicines are tetracycline, antipsychotics, anticonvulsant and others. These medicines can make the lips to have dark spots. 

Lip Discoloration
Lip Discoloration

Other possible causes of lip discoloration are:

  • Low blood sugar
  • Choking
  • Severe asthma
  • Emphysema (disease of the lungs)
  • Severe sepsis
  • Poisoning from insecticides and other toxins
  • Acrocyanosis (extremely cold temperature)
  • Chemotherapy


There are many causes of the lower lip having a different color and appearance from the upper one. Some of these causes are:

1. Eczema on the Lips

It may come to you as a shock but eczema can attack the lips just like the rest of the body. This condition is also known as eczematous cheilitis, it makes the lip to be chapped, dry and also to have a red color even if the natural color of the lips is not red. Eczema is not contagious so it cannot spread to the upper lip. 

2. Allergic to Lipstick

Some ingredients that are used in making lipstick can be allergens or irritants. The allergic reaction can cause the lip to turn red if the person is light skinned and if dark, the lower lip can change from its normal color to purple, red or dark brown. Other symptoms can be dryness, itching, burning and crusting at the edges of the mouth.

3. Low Hemoglobin

Hemoglobin is the iron-rich protein that is found in red blood cells. The hemoglobin helps the red blood cells to move freely through the blood vessels. When there is not enough of this iron-rich protein, there will be symptoms and one of them is discoloration of the lower lips from the normal color to blue. 

4. Lip Licker’s Dermatitis

Most people lick their lower lip especially when it is dry but one thing many do not know is that this act will make the lips to dry up faster than it should have. This condition can cause the lip to look chapped, scaly and also have whitish patches. 


The upper lip can change from its normal color to another because of some reasons like: 

Melasma Mustache

This is a skin condition that causes brown or grayish-brown patches to occur on the upper lip. These patches do not cause any pain, they only give the upper lip a darkened, mustache-like appearance. 

Other causes are:

  • Injury
  • Excess exposure to sun
  • Side effects of some medications


Sometimes, the lips can become discolored after getting fillers the color can be white or bluish. The lips can turn white if there is lack of blood flow to the injected area. If the injection needle touches any artery, the effect can be whitening of the lips (blanching). When the filler is placed too close to the upper surface of the skin, the result can be bluish color on the lips. 


The first step to treating lip discoloration is to find out the underlying cause, this will make it easier for you. According to a review by the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology in 2018, there are some natural compounds that can help treat lip discoloration. 

  • Green tea extract
  • Aloe vera gel
  • Tumeric
  • Mulberry extracts
  • Vitamin C
  • Niacinamide
  • Kojic acid 
  • Lignin peroxidase
  • Liquiritin

Medical ways of treating lip discoloration are:

1. Light Therapy

Also known as phototherapy, this procedure uses light to enter the layers of the skin so as to treat various skin issues. The light reaches the fibroblast and other cellular layers in the lips. 

2. Laser Therapy

Laser therapy uses focused light and beam, the light is so intense that it can cut iron or steel but it is not harmful on the skin as it is controlled. It can be used for many health issues including to remove spots.

3. Chemical Peels

This is the use of chemical solutions on the skin to change the color and appearance. The chemical is applied to the skin to cause trauma, the skin layer will peel off the old skin to reveal new one.

4. Ointments

Medicated ointments like 5-fluorouracil and Solaraze work by destroying unstable and bad skin cells and cause the body’s immune system to repair the damaged skin. 

5. Liquid Nitrogen Spray

This method of treatment is known as cryosurgery. Liquid nitrogen is applied on the discolored area of the lips, the lesions or bumps are frozen and removed. If your discolored lips are caused by medications that you take, you can see your doctor for alternative drugs. For oral thrush discoloration, you can treat the fungi by using antifungal medicine or mouthwash. 


You can prevent lip discoloration on the following ways:

  • Avoid smoking cigarettes and tobacco products
  • Wear a lip balm to protect the lips against sun exposure
  • Eat healthy foods that can help fight against certain health conditions
  • Avoid products that your body is allergic to.


You should see a doctor if you notice some symptoms like:

  • Bleeding skin lesions that are tender and does not heal quickly
  • Chest pain
  • Skin discoloration
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Irregularly shaped skin lesions
  • Dizziness
  • Persistent headache
  • Numbness of the limbs


Lip discoloration can be caused by many factors like the substances we take, allergies, health conditions or sun exposure. The cause of the discoloration will determine the kind of treatment method that will be used. If you notice some symptoms like difficulty in breathing, chest pain or other irregular symptoms, you should see your doctor. 

error: Content is protected !!