Smoking Causes Your Lips to Darken

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Update Date May 11, 2020
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Smoking is notorious for being an established risk factor for various health conditions. The relationship between the two shows that an increased exposure to smoke is associated with higher risk of developing detrimental diseases. On top of that, smoking cigarettes also affects you aesthetically. You may have even heard of the relationship between smoking and dark lips, and it remains one of the easiest and well-known aesthetic effects of chronic smoking.

Effect of smoking on the skin and mucous membrane

Smoking doesn’t just affect you on the inside, most chemicals found in tobacco can have damaging effects on the outside as well, specifically on your skin and mucous membrane. Smoking can lead to premature skin ageing, delayed wound healing, increased skin infections, as well as several skin disorders such as psoriasis, hidradenitis suppurativa and cutaneous lupus erythematosus. 

Chemical compounds found in tobacco cause stress to tissues and small blood vessels. In time, build-up of micro-inflammation takes place in the blood vessels, leading to occlusion (the blockage or closing of a blood vessel). Subsequently, this chronic insufficient oxygen supply to the skin results in death of the surrounding tissues (tissue ischaemia) and affects the skin’s appearance.

Furthermore, tobacco also reduces a smoker’s immune responses and induces an enzyme called ‘metallo-proteinase MMP-1’, that specifically degrades collagen. Collagen as we know is important for the maintenance of skin integrity and for the aesthetically pleasing tight and youthful skin appearance.

Smoking and dark lips

Reduced blood flow with exposure to tar and nicotine will leave the lips not only wrinkly, but also dark in colour. The resultant hyperpigmentation can be of serious aesthetic concern especially when the darkening appears to be uneven across the lips and gums. They may appear blotchy, purple, dark brown, or black.

The brown, pigmented spots inside the mouth are called ‘Smoker’s melanosis’ and occur in 5-21.5% of smokers. This hyperpigmentation is due to the stimulation of melanin production (in response to exposure towards chemicals in tobacco) as well as the binding of the melanin to the compounds in tobacco smoke. Hyperpigmentation of the lips and gums is usually seen in chronic smokers. Hence, smoking and dark lips is one of the most easily seen aesthetic effects of smoking, which some smokers may find rather disturbing.

What can you do about smoking and dark lips?

Smoker’s lips can start within months or years of smoking. If you are looking for a quick temporary fix, a simple bright red lipstick will do the trick. This is a popular, and simple method one can carry out to cover their problems of smoking and dark lips.

However, if you are looking for long term remedies, there are two things you need to take care of; your smoking habit and your lip care. As long as you keep on smoking  the same amount of cigarettes per day, your lips won’t be able to recover its youthful radiance. When it comes to smoking, the best way is to quit smoking altogether. Doctors can prescribe you Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) to counter the cravings for cigarettes and help you quit gradually. 

When it comes to lip care, you can either try home remedy or acquire professional help. The latter is highly recommended if your problem is severe and you are looking for effective solution.

Lip masks you can try to make and use at home. Anecdotal evidence shows that lip masks containing turmeric, lemon, or lime juice may help lighten the lips. Try combining one or more of these ingredients with vitamin A or vitamin E oil, and coat your lips for 15 minutes, once daily. You can even purchase lip mask from certain pharmacies.

Professional help here refers to the use of laser treatment. Done professionally by a dermatologist or plastic surgeon, laser treatments work by focusing concentrated pulses of light deep within the skin’s layers. These treatments can be used to restore lips to their natural color, target dark spots, remove excess melanin, stimulate collagen production, and erase vertical wrinkles around the mouth.

If you have issues or concerns regarding the health and aesthetic effects of smoking, consult your doctor for accurate and appropriate management. 

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

msBahasa Malaysia

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