Dark Pigmentation Around My Mouth

Whether it's an overabundance of freckles and spots or a mustache-like line across your upper lip, dark pigmentation around your mouth can make you self-conscious about your smile. If artful concealer and foundation aren't enough to hide your dark spots, you may be ready to try other measures to lighten up the skin around your mouth.


If you have dark spots, patches or areas around your mouth, it's a good idea to see a dermatologist who can help you determine the cause and best treatment for your hyperpigmentation and rule out the possibility of skin cancer.


Dark pigmentation around your mouth can have three different causes, dermatologist Dennis Gross explains in "Elle" magazine. Dark circles of pigmentation--also known as age spots or liver spots--appear as a result of sun damage over time. Uneven dark splotches, patches and spots are caused by fluctuating hormones and often appear during periods of hormonal upheaval, like pregnancy and menopause. If a dark spot shows up in a place where you've popped a pimple or burned yourself with a curling iron, it's likely post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, or a dark mark caused by a previous injury.


If your dark pigmentation only recently appeared around your mouth, there's a good chance you can treat it effectively with exfoliating scrubs and products, Washington, D.C.-based dermatologist Eliot Battle says in "O, The Oprah Magazine." Exfoliating treatments rub away the topmost layer of skin, revealing undamaged skin beneath. If your pigmentation is a long-term issue, the damage is probably deep beneath your skin and you'll need more invasive treatments to fade it, Battle says.


For recent dark pigmentation, a combination of at-home exfoliating scubs, topical retinol and monthly chemical peels at your dermatologist's office can significantly lighten up dark spots within two months, according to Battle. Laser treatments can lighten more serious dark spots--Battle recommends intense pulsed light for fair-skinned people and fractional nonablative lasers for people with darker skin. And bleaching creams that contain hydroquinone can improve the appearance of most dark patches, Kansas City dermatologist Audrey Kunin says in in "Elle" magazine.

Expert Insight

If you're treating dark pigmentation around your mouth, don't forget to apply sunscreen every day, too, Battle warns. Exposure to sun will undo any dark spot fading, make existing discoloration even darker and may cause new areas of dark pigmentation to form. For best results, opt for a broad-spectrum sunscreen that doesn't contain chemical blockers like avobenzone or oxybenzone, Jennifer Linder, a dermatologist in Scottsdale, Arizona, recommends in "Elle" magazine.