Hyperpigmentation Around the Mouth: Causes, Treatment, and Prevention

Cover Image for A woman with dark spots around her mouth
* 8 min readPigmentation

Table of Contents:

If you have discoloration around the mouth (especially darker areas of skin), you might have hyperpigmentation. While not a serious condition, hyperpigmentation can be bothersome depending on the size of the patches.

In this article, we will talk about the causes of hyperpigmentation around the mouth, how to prevent the condition, and the best ways to treat it.

How to Know if the Dark Spots Around Your Mouth Are Hyperpigmentation

Hyperpigmentation is a common condition that produces darker patches of skin. This can occur anywhere on the body, although it tends to be more visible or severe in the facial area. Overall, people with darker skin are more prone to hyperpigmentation, and so are pregnant women due to hormonal changes.

Hyperpigmentation can happen on your mouth, lips, and gums, and each of these areas will require a slightly different treatment. For example, gingival hyperpigmentation might require laser ablation, while sun spots or melasma can be dealt with using medication.

What Causes Hyperpigmentation?

Your natural skin color is given by a pigment called melanin, a substance that is also responsible for your hair and eye shading. Hormone fluctuations, sun exposure, medications, and some underlying conditions can cause a sudden increase in melanin production (this disorder is clinically termed hyperpigmentation, too). So, there are several possible causes for hyperpigmentation around the mouth.

  • Melasma: Melasma is typically caused by hormonal changes, particularly in women, and consists of dark brown patches on the cheeks, forehead, and upper lip. This is quite common while taking birth control pills and during pregnancy.
  • Side effects from medication: Some medications can cause hyperpigmentation. For example, hormone replacement meds with estrogen, chemotherapy drugs, and some antibiotics like doxycycline.
  • Sun exposure: As you age, exposure (from both the sun’s UV rays and/or tanning beds) can increase the risk of dark spots - typically on the face, arms, and chest. Your lips and mouth area can also show these spots if you don’t apply sunscreen to them.
  • Trauma to the skin: If you’ve suffered from infection around the mouth, burns, or a severe acne breakout, you might develop dark spots after the skin has healed.
  • Vitamin deficiencies: Vitamin D and vitamin B12 deficiency can also be associated with skin pigment changes and exacerbate melasma.
  • Hormonal Abnormalities: The fluctuation of estrogen and progesterone receptors can also cause hyperpigmentation, particularly during menstruation.
  • Inflammation: When your skin is healing and regenerating after infection, this can also lead to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation or PIH.
Skin with acne scars and sun spots
There can be different causes of pigmentation

Common Types of Hyperpigmentation Around the Mouth

There are different types of hyperpigmentation, and some of them are more common around the mouth. We can generally speak about three kinds: sunspots (or Actinic Lentigines, a line of defense against sun damage), melasma (caused by hormones, typically during pregnancy), and post-acne dark spots or post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH, a result of inflammation or cutaneous injury).

Will Hyperpigmentation Go Away on Its Own?

Some forms of hyperpigmentation may fade with time or stop appearing once you stop certain medications. Others, like melasma and sunspots, can become chronic.

We’ll go through treatments in the next section, but a good idea to determine whether any products you’re using are causing an issue is to keep track of them. You can try our inventory database where you can store all of your used products. Check it out!

Ingredients and Treatments for Hyperpigmentation Around the Mouth

There are several safe treatments you can try to address the problem of hyperpigmentation in this area of your face. These include:

  • AHAs such as Lactic Acid, Mandelic Acid, and Glycolic Acid (to increase cellular turnover by gently removing the dead skin cells on the surface of the skin, best used at night)
  • Vitamin C such as L-ascorbic Acid, Tetrahexyldecyl ascorbate, and Ascorbyl palmitate (evens out skin tone as well as prevention, best paired with your SPF of choice in the morning)
  • Tranexamic Acid (to promote even skin-tone)
  • Niacinamide (to decrease the intensity of dark spots)
  • Azelaic acid (to reduce inflammation and discoloration)
  • Kojic acid (for age spots and melasma)
  • Laser therapy (for dark spots)
  • Chemical peels (to exfoliate the skin around the mouth)

Can Some Remedies Worsen Hyperpigmentation?

Certain remedies and actions can, indeed, worsen the hyperpigmentation. For example, chemical peels, repeated and aggressive physical abrasion, laser treatments, and tanning may all increase hyperpigmentation and/or cause discomfort and side reactions. Excessive and repeated exposure to solar radiation can also intensify hyperpigmentation and should be avoided.

If you have any questions about these treatments or skin care products in general, you can join our community and get advice and recommendations for addressing hyperpigmentation.

When Should You See a Doctor for Hyperpigmentation?

You should see a dermatologist if home remedies don’t seem to decrease the discoloration around the mouth or if you suspect the hyperpigmentation might be caused by melasma or sun spots (and therefore requires treatment).

A doctor will help you unearth any underlying medical issues causing the problem discoloration and manage any side effects from new or existing medications.

Man with dark spots around his mouth
It can take a while for hyperpigmentation to fade

How Long Does it Take for Hyperpigmentation to Fade?

Once you have found the cause for the spots and patches and begin treatment, you can expect them to fade within six to twelve months. Some deeper spots might take longer (years, in some cases). It might take some time to see the fading. To not get discouraged from continuing the treatment, it’s recommended you take photos of the spots to see how the hyperpigmentation treatment progresses.

Can You Prevent Hyperpigmentation Around the Mouth?

You might be able to help prevent these dark spots from appearing around your mouth, but only if you can correctly identify the reason behind it. For example, if you know a medication might be causing the issue, you can ask a doctor to help you switch to another one that doesn’t. You should equally look into any possible nutritional deficiencies.

If you have hyperpigmentation, it’s advisable to avoid tanning beds and peak sun hours, apply sunscreen every two hours during the day (SPF 30 or higher, ideally containing iron oxide, which can help prevent melasma and hyperpigmentation), and wear wide-brimmed hats to avoid exposure to solar visible light.

Person squeezing sunscreen tube
Always use sunscreen to prevent damage to your skin


Hyperpigmentation can happen on any part of your body, but it’s more noticeable on your face and especially around the mouth. Even though you cannot cure all forms of hyperpigmentation and skin discoloration, you can usually prevent them from reappearing by using sunscreen, treating underlying conditions, checking out nutritional deficiencies, and potentially switching to alternative medications.

The first step towards getting rid of hyperpigmentation around the mouth is to find the cause behind the condition and eliminate it. A dermatologist can help you identify the correct treatments to get the best results.

If you are interested in discussing hyperpigmentation or want to share your skincare routines with others, Join our community!

Related Stories

Cover Image for Red acne spot on woman's jawline

Jawline Acne: What Is It And How Do You Treat It?

Jawline acne is quite a common condition, with breakouts that can be caused by a variety of reasons - such as hormonal fluctuations, shaving, medications, certain cosmetic products, and excess oil or dead skin cells building up....

Cover Image for Woman with drawing of the sun with sunscreen

Mineral Sunscreen vs. Chemical Sunscreen: Which is Better?

Using sunscreen is essential if you want to prevent sunburn and premature aging and reduce the risk of skin cancer. There are many products out there that can do the job, but each has slightly different mechanisms of action. In this article, we will explain...

Cover Image for A white glass dropper bottle

Retinoid vs. Retinol vs. Tretinoin

Retinoids are compounds that can help your skin look thicker and smoother. You can use retinoids topically to clear some skin aging signs, but it’s important to know the different subtypes of products and how they help with certain conditions....