Tricks of the Trade

Causes of and solutions to darkened lips

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Hi, Kelly! I’m 24 and I’ve been using lip products for over a decade now-lipsticks, lip gloss, lip tints, lip balms, lip lacquers, even petroleum jelly. Over the years, I’ve noticed a gradual darkening of the color of my lips. Why does this happen and how can I reverse this?—Rica

As easy as it is to blame lip products for the gradual darkening of your lips, you should know that there are also other reasons why this may happen. Smoking, excessive consumption of caffeine, exposure to sunlight and dehydration can all contribute to the darkening of your lips. And while its true that some lip products may cause this, it is most likely due to using products from disreputable companies or products that have already expired (if you’ve been using them for more than two years, its time to chuck them out).

Unless you’re allergic to your lip products, it is highly unlikely that your favorite lipstick, lip gloss or lip tint caused the change in your lip color. You see, makeup goes through a stringent process of formulation and manufacturing, so that they don’t cause problems or other health issues. But to be on the safe side, it may be better to switch to lip products made with natural ingredients in very sheer or transparent shades. Or stop using lip products altogether (at least for a few weeks) and see if there is any improvement.

Getting back your natural lip color may take some time, but the condition of your darkened lips is reversible. Below are list of preventive measures so as to lighten your lips and restore their natural tone.

Stop smoking. Apart from the long list of health problems linked with smoking, getting noticeably darker lips, teeth and gums should be among the many reasons to quit it (its association with heart disease and cancer should be enough reason). It also has known damaging effects on the skin, like an ashy complexion, dry skin and wrinkles formed around the eyes and mouth. So if you’ve been thinking of quitting, there’s no better time than today.

Limit your intake of tea and coffee. Just how caffeine can stain teeth, it can also make lips darker, depending of course, on how much you consume. Large doses of caffeine taken daily may get you through the day, but in time can give your lips a darker pigment. Counter this effect by drinking water with your coffee or tea, or try cutting back a cup or two daily.

Use a lip balm with SPF. We spend so much time protecting our skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays we completely forget to apply SPF on our lips. Our puckers can also burn (in fact, they are very sensitive to UV rays), especially with constant sun exposure. Using a lip balm with a minimum SPF of 15 will do the trick, and will keep your lips smooth and chap-free.

Drink more water. Not drinking enough water can cause our bodies to be dehydrated, and this manifests in rough, chapped, and to some degree, darker lips. We obviously need water to survive, but surprisingly, we aren’t drinking enough. The recommended two to three liters of water should be taken throughout the day to keep us hydrated and healthy, and our lips moisturized.

Exfoliate your lips. Gently removing dead skin on our lips is a must if you want it to go back to its original color. You can easily do this by using a wet baby toothbrush to slough away dry skin and apply petroleum jelly on your lips after. Or make a yummy lip scrub by mixing sugar and honey and applying it on your lips. Honey is a natural antioxidant that helps protect lips from damage and sugar will remove rough lip skin.

E-mail the author at ask.kellymisa @gmail.com.

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