Causes and home remedies for dark lips

Like skin tone, lip color can vary from person to person. No shade of skin on the lips is healthier than any other. In some cases, a change in the color or condition of the lips could indicate that the lips need more care. However, it is rarely a cause for concern.

Tobacco smoking, stress, medication, and medical issues can all cause lips to become darker.

Treating the underlying issue should resolve the problem. In the short term, there are a number of home remedies that may help lighten the lips.

In this article, we look at some potential causes of dark lips and list five natural remedies to help lighten or care for them.

What causes dark lips?

A man sat in the sun who might get Dark lips from sun exposure
Sun exposure is a possible cause of dark lips.

There is natural variation between people in their lip color.

A pigment called melanin gives the skin its color.

Less melanin creates a lighter skin tone, whereas more melanin means a darker skin tone.

If the skin begins producing more melanin than usual, it can lead to hyperpigmentation.

Hyperpigmentation causes patches of skin to develop that are darker than the skin around them. A common example of hyperpigmentation is age spots. This condition is related to sun exposure, and many people believe it to be harmless. It can affect almost any area of the body, including the lips.

Causes of hyperpigmentation include:

  • sun exposure
  • tobacco smoking
  • pregnancy
  • certain medications
  • a medical condition

Sun exposure

Exposing skin to the sun triggers the body to create melanin to absorb the ultraviolet rays. This protects the skin from some of the damage that sunlight causes. It also causes the skin to tan.

It is important to wear sun protection on the lips, as well as elsewhere the body. Lip balms with a sun protection factor of 30 or higher can protect the lips from sun damage.

Tobacco smoking

Nicotine and benzpyrene in tobacco smoke can encourage melanin production in the skin. This may cause the lips to darken. This can happen gradually over time.

Smoking has many other negative impacts on health. The National Cancer Institute have a dedicated website that provides information and advice for people who want to quit.


Some women may experience skin changes during pregnancy. This is due to changing levels of hormones in the body.

Areas of the body including the lips, nipples, forehead, cheeks, and nose may develop patches of darker skin. However, these areas should return to their usual color following pregnancy.

Certain medications

Some medications can cause hyperpigmentation. These include antimalarial drugs and the oral antibiotic minocycline.

The skin should return to its usual color once the course of medication finishes, but for some, the hyperpigmentation may persist.

Medical issues

Some medical issues can cause hyperpigmentation. One of the most well known is Addison’s disease.

Usually, it is a problem with the immune system that stops the adrenal gland from making enough essential hormones. The condition can cause dark patches of skin, dark lips, or dark gums. Other symptoms include a lack of energy, weakness, and low mood.

Home remedies

Having dry skin on the lips can make them appear darker or dull. Some simple home remedies can help keep the lips looking and feeling healthy.

1. Use a homemade honey scrub

honey scrub
Exfoliating the lips with a honey scrub can help remove dead skin cells.

Gently exfoliating the lips can help remove dead skin cells. A person can make a scrub at home using the following method:

  • Combine 1 teaspoon (tsp) of honey and 1 tsp of sugar.
  • Gently rub the mixture into the lips using small circular movements.
  • Rinse it off using warm water.

Exfoliating too often can cause irritation and sensitivity. Because the skin on the lips is delicate, people should exfoliate no more than once per week.

2. Have an almond oil lip massage

Massaging oil into the lips can help moisturize them and boost circulation. Blood vessels in the lips help give them color, and massaging them can boost blood flow to the area.

Use a good quality almond or coconut oil as a natural remedy for dry lips. Gently rub the oil into the lips a few times per day. The effects should be noticeable within a day or two.

People can find almond oil in drugstores, health stores, and online.

3. Make your own lip balm

Regularly using a lip balm can help the lips stay moisturized and healthy. Here is an easy recipe for homemade lip balm, using all natural ingredients:

  • Place 1 tablespoon (tbsp) of beeswax pellets in a microwaveable bowl.
  • Heat them in a microwave on high power for 45 seconds.
  • Add 1 tbsp coconut oil to the bowl and microwave for another 45 seconds.
  • Continue to microwave the mixture on high power for bursts of 30 seconds until all the ingredients have melted.
  • Add 3 drops of peppermint essential oil and microwave for another 15 seconds.
  • Pour the mixture into a small pot or tube.
  • Leave it for 5 minutes to cool and become solid.

Store the lip balm in a cool place to prevent it from melting.

A person can find these ingredients in drugstores, health stores, or online:

4. Hydrate

Drinking enough fluids is one of the best ways to look after the skin. The lips can be one of the first areas of the body to look dry and parched.

Add a slice of cucumber or lemon to a glass of water for a delicious and refreshing drink.

5. Use lemon, with care

People have long used lemon as a home remedy for skin lightening. Cut a slice of lemon and hold it to the lips for no longer than a minute, then rinse with warm water.

Lemon may have some effect on exfoliating the skin because it contains citric acid. This acid may help remove dead skin cells.

However, there is no scientific evidence to suggest that lemon works to lighten dark lips. Also, because it is so acidic, lemon can irritate the skin. Make sure that the lips have no cuts or irritation before using lemon.


Cosmetic treatments to lighten the skin include creams, chemical peels, and laser treatment. These treatment options reduce the melanin in the skin or stop the skin from producing it.

There is little evidence to suggest that skin lightening is safe or effective. Treatments can damage the skin, and any positive results may not last.

Side effects include irritation, scarring, and nerve damage. Also, skin lightening creams can contain mercury, which the American Academy of Dermatology say can be damaging to health.

Keeping the lips healthy

a woman using lip balm
Moisturizing the lips can help keep them healthy.

The skin of the lips is thinner than that of many other parts of the body. The lips do not have sweat glands or the protection of hair, so they can dry out quickly.

Dry skin on the lips can make them look duller than usual. Regularly moisturizing and staying hydrated can help keep the lips healthy.

The skin on the lips is very sensitive. It is vulnerable to the effects of sun, smoking, and the use of cosmetic products.

Always wear sun protection on the lips, as well as on the face, to protect the lips from burning.

Taking makeup off at the end of the day can help protect the skin. Also, quitting smoking can help improve the appearance of skin as well as improve overall health.


Lip color is natural and does not need treatment. Dark lips are not a sign of an underlying health problem unless the color has changed over time.

Keep the lips looking healthy by eating well, moisturizing, and staying hydrated. A person can also try some simple home remedies to gently exfoliate the lips and keep them moisturized.

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