Discoloration anywhere in the body is due to the increased melanin production in the skin. It leads to darkened areas that tend to develop in small patches on the skin.
Skin discoloration is not of serious concern but can be because of underlying medical conditions, lifestyle habits, and medications.
These patches of discoloration do not require any treatment, but people find these patches bothersome.
What Causes Discolored Patches Around The Mouth?
There are several factors that can affect melanin production. Sun exposure, medications, underlying medical conditions, and hormone fluctuations are a few that can affect melanin production, particularly on the face. This leads to spots of hyperpigmentation around the mouth.
Melasma leads to dark brown and greyish-brown discolored patches on the forehead, cheeks, and upper lips. These are also nicknamed pregnancy patches. It is seen occurring more commonly in women.(1)
Melasma occurs due to hormone imbalance that occurs during pregnancy while taking hormone contraceptive pills, or undergoing hormone replacement therapy.
It occurs mostly on the face and is seen on the areas such as the upper lip, chin, cheeks, nose, and forehead. If the face is exposed to the sun these patches get more visible.
Side Effects Of Medications
Oral contraceptive pills are known to cause melasma. Other medications that can increase the risk of discoloration around the mouth are:
- Hormone replacement therapy, especially estrogen hormone
- Doxycycline can increase sun sensitivity thereby increasing the risk of hyperpigmentation
- Chemotherapy drugs
The ultraviolet rays of the sun and tanning beds can increase the risk of developing discoloration on the face, chest, and arms.
This type of discoloration is also known as sunspots, liver spots, or age spots. The area around the mouth is at an increased risk as while applying sunscreen, you tend to skip this area.
There is evidence that indicates visible light can increase the risk of developing melasma.(2)
Any serious injury, acne breakout, burn, or infection around the mouth can also lead to discoloration. The spots can be brown or black after the skin has healed. It is also called post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
Discoloration around the mouth can also be due to lip balm or toothpaste. It is referred to as lip licker’s dermatitis.
A study found people suffering from melasma, were also deficient in vitamin D.(3)
Who Is More At The Risk Of Developing Discoloration Around The Mouth?
People with darker skin complexion are more prone to hyperpigmentation, as the melanin production is higher in them than in those with light skin.
Aging is another factor that increases the risk of hyperpigmentation. As you age, you may notice more spots on the skin around the face, chest, and other areas. The risk increases more if a person does not apply sunscreen properly in these areas.
The discolored spots increase around the summer months. It is due to increased sun exposure that can stimulate melanin and make hyperpigmentation more visible.
How is Discoloration Around The Mouth Treated?
Discolored patches around the mouth are difficult to treat compared to other areas. It could be due to the delicate nature of the skin in this area.
Sun protection measures can help in reducing discoloration around the mouth. Wearing sunscreen especially around the mouth can prove to be of help.
Exfoliating the area around the mouth with a gentle exfoliator can help in removing dead cells and lighten the skin.
Skin brightening creams contain antioxidants and vitamin C and can be helpful in reducing the discoloration around the mouth.
Retinoids and hydroquinone can also lighten the skin. You can use the products containing these compounds. Make sure that you do a patch test before using these products to check the skin sensitivity if present.
A dermatologist if consulted would recommend the following treatment options to get rid of the discoloration around the mouth.
Azelaic acid can reduce discoloration and inflammation
Kojic acid, which is used for melasma and age spots
Laser therapy to remove dark spots
Chemical peels that can help exfoliate skin and reduce hyperpigmentation
Prescription-strength retinoids and hydroquinone
How To Prevent Discoloration Around The Mouth?
The dark spots around the mouth can be prevented by keeping a check on the underlying condition. A few preventive measures include:
- Wearing sunscreen every day and applying it properly on every area, especially on those most exposed to sunlight
- Avoid tanning beds during peak sun hours
- Wear a brimmed hat to protect the face
- Address any underlying medical condition
Skin discoloration around the mouth is due to excess melanin production that can have several causes. Taking preventive measures and doctor’s advice can alleviate it or prevent it from worsening.