A dark upper lip can be cause for embarrassment and concern. If you previously had smooth, even skin tone, seeing a darkening of the skin above your lip will likely seem obvious when you look in the mirror. Before you panic or cover it up with makeup, see your doctor or dermatologist, who can deduce whether it's caused by a medical condition.
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What looks like a darkening of your upper lip may actually be a darkening of the hair above your upper lip. Hirsutism, the clinical name for excess hair growth on the body, affects mainly women and is evidenced by dark, coarse hair, especially on the face, notes the American Academy of Family Physicians. It may also be accompanied by a deeper voice, irregular periods, acne and decreased bust size. Your health care provider will likely want to examine the hair and possibly diagnose the problem as polycystic ovarian syndrome or another illness that causes hirsutism and, subsequently, the darkening of your upper lip.
Melasma, also known as "pregnancy mask," usually occurs when a woman is pregnant or taking birth control pills. The excess hormones in the body can often cause a darkening of the skin around the nose and mouth, known as macular hyperpigmentation, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Melasma is aggravated by sun exposure, so if you notice your upper lip is darkening, stay out of the sun or apply sunscreen each time you go outside. Most often, melasma goes away on its own after pregnancy or the end of birth control pills, but facial bleaching can also be an effective way to stop it. Always check with your doctor, though, for the final word.
Being out in the sun with little or no protection can result in a darkening of the upper lip through sun damage and sun spots, warns the American Cancer Society. In fact, sun damage as exhibited through brown sun spots around the face can be an early warning sign of a predisposition to skin cancer. If you already have sun spots, are prone to sunburn or sun damage, or spend a lot of time outdoors, always apply a sunscreen before you go outside. If regular sunscreen seems too greasy for your face, try an oil-free version and wear a hat to shade your face for fairer, more even skin. Again, always consult your doctor for a definitive diagnosis.