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What Does It Mean if You Have a Black Spot on Your Lip?

What Does It Mean if You Have a Black Spot on Your Lip?

It’s morning and you’re preparing to start your day. While standing in front of the bathroom mirror, you clean your face, wipe the sleep from your eye, and staring back at you is a dark spot on your lip. Maybe your first reaction is panic. Skin discoloration can make your mind go straight to serious issues such as cancer. Take a deep breath: in most cases, these dark spots aren’t that dangerous.

Most causes of dark spots and discoloration of the lips can easily be corrected, but you must first determine the root cause. In this article, we’re going to break down some of the possible causes of this discoloration. We’ll also talk about some steps you can take to help treat these dark spots and prevent them in the future.

Of course, we’re not medical professionals, and if you’re still uncertain of the cause after reading this article, it may be wise to see a doctor. We’ve also made sure to include detail on the warning signs that can signal something more serious.

Possible Causes of Black Lip Spots

This intrusive spot may have been caused by a bad habit, another physical condition, or your environment. Here are a few of the most common reasons why you might be experiencing dark spots on your lips.

Environmental Causes

Sometimes your home environment or local climate can produce conditions that affect the health and appearance of your lips.

Dryness

If you live in a dry climate or are constantly exposed to dry indoor heat, you might notice your lips drying out from time to time. Exposure to cold and windy conditions can also cause your lips to become chapped.

Excessive dryness isn’t just uncomfortable, though. If your lips are scaly and prone to cracking and peeling, this can create the perfect environment for infections. Bacteria can live in your broken lip skin, and this can result in discoloration. The cracked skin can also scab over, causing it to look darker than usual.
woman with sore cracked lips

Sun Exposure

Excessive sun exposure can cause all sorts of damage to your skin. Especially as you age, you can become more prone to developing solar lentigo, or liver spots. These can appear all over your face, including your lips.

There is also a condition called actinic keratosis, or sunspots, which can cause scaly patches from abnormal skin growth. While these patches are harmless, the sun damage has the possibility of becoming cancerous. There are some changes in appearance that you should look out for if you believe you have this condition.

Physical Imbalances

Nutrition has a huge effect on how our body functions. This includes the appearance and texture of our skin. Here are a few ways that our eating and drinking habits could cause black spots on the lips.

Vitamin B

B vitamins are essential for our bodies. They are often referred to as “energy vitamins,” but they do much more than help manage our energy. B12, in particular, has a huge effect on skin tone. If you have a vitamin B deficiency, this could cause a change in your skin, possibly resulting in dark spots on your lips.

Iron

We often hear about iron deficiencies, particularly in women, but too much iron can cause problems too. Taking too many iron supplements can cause an excess in the body. Some people also have a rare condition called hemochromatosis. This can cause your body to absorb too much iron from food. Since humans don’t have a way to excrete excess iron, your body looks for places to store it, which can cause problems.

This can result in skin discoloration as well as other health issues. If you suspect this might be your problem, you should contact your doctor to find a treatment plan to help you discard excess iron and monitor your levels.

Hormones

Pregnant women and those on hormonal birth control pills are more likely to experience discoloration on the face and lips. Melasma is very common in women during pregnancy and often disappears soon after they give birth. It’s a very rare condition in men and is likely to be triggered by female sex hormones like progesterone.

If you have a hormonal imbalance, that is likely to be the cause of any dark spots on your lips. If they coincide with pregnancy or a new birth control pill, they should clear up on their own after your child is born or once you adjust your prescription.

Lifestyle Factors

Some of our habits from day-to-day life can cause issues with our skin. Changing these habits can often correct the negative side effects and help reduce or remove dark spots on your lips.

Dehydration

Most doctors agree that up to 75% of Americans aren’t drinking enough water. While dehydration can cause fatigue, headaches, and even over-eating, it can also cause changes in your skin.

Just as topical dryness can cause chapping, as discussed above, dehydration can cause your skin to dry out as well. When lips crack, scabs can appear, which can cause discoloration even after the scab has mostly healed.

Smoking

Along with many other ailments and long-term physical problems, smoking is a common culprit when it comes to discoloration around the mouth. This is known as smoker’s melanosis, whereby nicotine darkens tissue in the lips and gums.

Fortunately, for most people, this discoloration is reversible. There’s no way to treat the problem while you’re still smoking, but once you quit, your mouth will gradually return to its normal color.

Excessive Alcohol

Alcohol is a toxin, which is why too much can cause a hangover. Habitual alcohol use can also overtax many of your body’s organs. The biggest organ we have is our skin, and too much alcohol can change its appearance as well.

Alcohol can throw off your nutritional balance by adding extra toxins into your system, and your skin can suffer because your body is working hard to process it all. The more delicate skin around your mouth can experience changes that can cause discoloration. Alcohol also dehydrates you, making you more prone to chapped lips, which can also result in discoloration.

Medical Conditions and Treatments

Sometimes discoloration around your mouth can be a side effect of other medical conditions or even medical treatments.

Medical Conditions

Here are three medical conditions that may cause black lip sports.

Laugier-Hunziker Syndrome

Laugier-Hunziker syndrome is a hyperpigmentation disorder that mainly affects the lower lip area. Black and brown spots may appear on your lip and inside your mouth. Fortunately, this condition is a benign one.

Addison’s Disease

Addison’s disease, a condition affecting the adrenal glands, can also cause dark spots on the lips. This disorder can be dangerous because it may prevent your body from producing sufficient amounts of cortisol, and it must be diagnosed by a doctor through a series of lab tests.

Oral Thrust / Candida

A fungal infection, often known as Oral Thrush or Candida can also cause spotting and discoloration around the mouth. Typically, the spots are lighter in color, but if you have other symptoms such as redness and soreness in the mouth, cracked mouth corners, and a loss of your sense of taste, it could be the culprit. You’ll need a doctor’s treatment to cure this fungal overgrowth.

Allergies

If you have started using a new skin product or makeup around the lips, an allergic reaction could be the cause of your discoloration. Swelling in the lips could cause dark purple-ish or even black-looking spots. Topical medications applied to the face or mouth can cause skin reactions as well.

If your lips and mouth feel extra sensitive, swollen, or red, there’s a good chance that you’re having an allergic reaction. Clean the area thoroughly, removing any products or medication, and see if you experience any relief from your symptoms. If you have any trouble breathing or continue to experience discomfort, you should contact your doctor.

Dental Treatments

If you have braces or any other sort of oral fixtures, like dentures, these can cause issues if they aren’t fitted properly. These can cause pressure points on your lips, which may cause sores to develop. These sores can cause dark spots as they’re trying to heal.

Having your dentist or orthodontist fit things properly in the first place will help avoid these issues. However, if you suspect your oral devices might be causing irritation, get in touch with your orthodontist and ask for a fit adjustment.

Medications

Certain prescriptions can cause dark spots on the lips as a side effect. If you notice the change in your lips’ appearance happened when you began taking a new medication, let your doctor know. There are a couple of medications that are particularly noted for causing lip discoloration.

Cytotoxins can be used for cancer treatment and may cause spotting. Certain antipsychotic and anticonvulsant medications can as well. If you’ve been treated for malaria, black lips spots may be a side effect of antimalarial medication. Tetracyclines, used to treat bacterial infections, can sometimes cause lip spots as well.

Something More Serious

While there are plenty of fairly harmless reasons that you could be seeing black spots on your lips, there are some more serious causes as well. For example, discoloration could be an indicator of skin cancer (melanoma) in some cases.

Here are a few warning signs to look out for:

  • irregular shape and color
  • lack of healing
  • tenderness
  • bleeding
  • growth

If your dark spot has any of these characteristics, it should be checked by a doctor as soon as possible – better to be on the safe side.

How to Treat and Prevent Black Spots

If you already have discoloration on your lips, you’re probably looking for a solution to get rid of it. But you also want to make sure you take care of yourself, so they don’t keep coming back.

Of course, your specific action plan will depend on what caused your dark spot in the first place. Here are some general guidelines, though.

Treating Black Spots

There are a few steps you can take to help your lips get back to normal. Some are small changes, but others are more extreme.

Consult Your Doctor

If the spots on your lip are caused by an imbalance in your body’s nutrition or your hormones, you can have your doctor recommend supplements or treatment options. A nutritionist might also be able to recommend a diet plan that helps fill any dietary deficiencies you have.

They may also adjust any prescriptions that could be causing this change in your skin, or recommend a topical treatment that will reduce its appearance.

Adjust Lifestyle Habits

If you suspect that your discoloration is due to bad habits, the simple (but never actually that simple) answer is to change your lifestyle.

Quitting smoking and reducing alcohol consumption can do wonders for your health and greatly improve your skin. It may take some time to see your dark spots disappear, but studies have shown that they do go away, particularly in the case of smokers.

Aesthetic Procedures

In the case of pigmentation disorders, there isn’t typically much you can do to naturally reduce the appearance of lip spots. For people with hormone disorders as well, this discoloration is a side effect that may not easily be reversed. As such, you may wish to turn to aesthetic treatment procedures.

You may also consider an aesthetic procedure if you are feeling a bit impatient. It can take one to two years for dark spots that result from smoking to clear up, for example.

Some of the most common procedures to correct spots on the lips are laser treatments and light therapy. Treatments such as chemical peels can also be used to encourage the skin to rejuvenate itself.

Natural Ingredients

For a slightly gentler option, you may opt to use products with certain plant extracts to help encourage your lips to heal and look their best again.

Green tea is an amazing natural compound that is packed with anti-inflammatories and antioxidants that can help your skin. Vitamin C, a popular cosmetic additive, and aloe vera, a soothing moisturizer, can also boost your skin’s natural ability to regrow cells and repair damage.

Fortunately, these ingredients are easy to find both in sophisticated skincare products and in simpler forms. After a long day in the sun, you might dab a little alcohol-free aloe vera gel on your lips to help moisturize them and reduce sun damage.

Preventing Dark Spots

Once you’ve tackled your existing spots, you want to make sure those pesky discolorations stay gone for good. Unfortunately, if an underlying medical condition is the cause, it may be a recurring issue. Speak to your doctor about managing your disorder to help reduce your black lip spots.

Taking Care of Your Health

Ensuring that you’re getting a good balance of vitamins and minerals will help keep your skin, lips included, looking good. While supplements can help (do any of us really get enough vitamin D in winter without a supplement?), eating a nutritious diet with a good variety of fruits and vegetables is the best way.

Be sure to drink plenty of water every day, at least two liters, and more if you’re active. Of course, as discussed above, excessive alcohol and the use of tobacco products can damage your skin, as well as many other parts of your body.

Practicing good oral hygiene can also help keep your lips in good condition. It reduces your chances of developing a fungal infection if you regularly brush your teeth, floss, and use mouthwash.

Lip Care Basics

Just like the rest of your skin, your lips need to be cleaned and conditioned. In fact, the skin of your lips is more sensitive than most other skin on your body, and this makes it more prone to drying out in different weather conditions.

If your lips are already feeling dry and are peeling, you might want to work some gentle lip scrub exfoliation into your routine until your lips start improving. You can also apply a lip mask for a concentrated shot of moisture.

Day-to-day, applying lip balm is a good idea. You can do this at any time you feel like your lips are dry or you’ll be exposing them to sun and wind. Applying some before bed, too, will help repair your skin overnight.

Healthy Lips and a Healthy Life

While having a black spot appear can be really scary, panicking isn’t a good idea. In most cases, it won’t be serious and can easily be corrected with a little self-care and patience. While it’s unlikely that your lip discoloration indicates something dangerous, it can be a sign that you need to take better care of yourself.

By learning to listen to your body’s cues, you can keep track of your health before something becomes a problem. One of the most basic ways to stay looking your best is to eat healthily, sleep enough, and drink enough water. With our busy lives, though, it can be hard to keep up those good habits, as we should.

Having regular check-ups with your primary care physician is essential. Knowing your medical history and current state of health, they’ll be able to better determine the root cause of the problem. They can also advise you on a treatment plan, if necessary.

Fortunately, in most cases, a black spot on your lips can easily be resolved without intensive treatment or medication.

About the Author

Odessa Denby

Odessa Denby is a writer and editor born in the wilds of Pennsylvania. After studying abroad at Oxford University she caught the travel bug and ended up living in South Korea for 4 years. There, she learned about the wonders of skincare and started blogging. Now living in New York, she maintains a YouTube channel where she demonstrates how to create clothing and costumes by hand to have a more sustainable and personalized wardrobe. Encouraging more educated and conscientious consumption is one of her main passions. Her creative writing work has been published in a number of literary journals including Slipstream and Outside Culture. You can find more of her non-fiction work on Medium. When not writing, she fills her hours with tea snobbery, bubble baths, and period dramas.

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