Smoker’s lips are characterized by vertical wrinkles around the mouth. The lips and gums may also become significantly darker than their natural shade (hyperpigmentation).

Smoker’s lips can begin to occur after months or years of smoking cigarettes or other tobacco products. If you have smoker’s lips, the best thing you can do to reduce their appearance is to stop smoking. There are also treatments that may help.

Smoking can cause periodontal disease and several types of oral cancer.

In addition to these serious health conditions, smoking can affect your appearance, causing the skin around your mouth to sag and wrinkle. It can also darken your lips and gums.

Smoking accelerates the skin’s aging process, causing wrinkles. One reason for this is nicotine. Nicotine causes blood vessels to shrink and narrow, reducing blood flow and starving skin of oxygen and the nutrients it needs to remain healthy and supple.

Reduced blood flow and exposure to tar and nicotine can also cause the melanin in your lips and gums to darken, leading to uneven pigmentation. They may appear blotchy, purple, dark brown, or black.

The chemicals in cigarettes also have negative effects on the skin. In one cigarette, there are over 4,000 chemicals in the tobacco smoke.

These chemicals damage collagen and elastin, which are two proteins that help maintain your skin’s elasticity and structure. Without enough collagen and elastin to keep it strong, your skin’s fibers weaken, causing sagging and wrinkles.

The repeated puckering of the lips when smoking and the heat generated by burning cigarettes can also cause smoker’s lips to form.

Quitting smoking can often stop further damage to the lips and mouth.

Whether you stop smoking or not, drink lots of water to flush the toxins from cigarettes out of your system, and make sure to keep your lips protected from the sun. Shop for smoking cessation aids.

Lip darkening

There are several treatments for hyperpigmentation. They may help return your lips to their natural color.

tips to lighten lips
  • Exfoliation. Lip skin is delicate and should be treated with care. You can make a DIY exfoliator at home, or use a store-bought brand. Try mixing coarse salt or sugar with almond oil or coconut oil and gently massaging the mixture into your lips once a day. You can also use a soft bristle brush or washcloth dipped in oil to exfoliate. Use a moisturizer or lip balm after each treatment. Shop for almond oil and coconut oil.
  • Lip mask. Anecdotal evidence shows that lip masks containing turmeric, lemon, or lime juice may help lighten 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. Shop for vitamin E oil.
  • 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.

Wrinkles

Lip wrinkles caused by smoking are also referred to as lipstick lines. These wrinkles may be made worse by drinking alcohol, not getting enough sleep, too much sun exposure, and eating a poor diet.

There are treatments that can help reduce or eliminate vertical lines around the mouth. Some of these treatments are especially beneficial for reducing lip wrinkles and hyperpigmentation.

tips to reduce lip wrinkles
  • Moisturize and hydrate skin. Using a rich moisturizer that contains tretinoin, such as Retin-A, may help build collagen and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles around the mouth. A daily moisturizer that contains a broad spectrum SPF can reduce exposure to UVA and UVB rays. Shop for retinol.
  • Acid peels. Mandelic acid is a gentle type of alpha hydroxy acid that’s derived from bitter almonds. There are at-home and professional versions of Mandelic acid peels of varying strength. Many can be used on and around the lip area to reduce fine lines and wrinkles and to lighten dark patches. Shop for alpha hydroxy acid for face.
  • Anti-wrinkle injections. Your doctor may suggest using an injected medication, such as Botox, to smooth wrinkles and relax facial muscles.
  • Dermal fillers. Fillers often contain hyaluronic acid. They’re used to plump up the appearance of lips by filling in wrinkles and lines around the mouth.
  • Laser resurfacing. Also called lasabrasion or laser peeling, laser resurfacing is done by a dermatologist or plastic surgeon. Laser treatments remove the uppermost, damaged layer of skin. Some treatments are done after injecting temporary fillers or fat grafting directly into deep wrinkles.

Lip and mouth cancer

Oral cancer can develop in the lips, gums, tongue, and on the inside of the mouth. Smoking cigarettes and using other types of tobacco are high risk factors for oral cancer. Quitting smoking can help reduce your risk.

Treatment for mouth or lip cancer often requires surgery to remove tumors and cancer cells that have spread to other areas of the body, such as the neck. You may also need surgical reconstruction of the mouth, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy.

Smoker’s lips can start to form within months or years of smoking. Your lips may start to wrinkle and darken for a long time before you realize it.

The time it takes for smoker’s lips to develop depends on multiple factors, including how much and how long you’ve smoked, your age, skin type, and other lifestyle habits.

If you have faint wrinkling and mild hyperpigmentation, at-home treatments may be enough to improve your skin’s appearance. Deep wrinkling, sagging skin, and dark pigmentation may require medical treatments.

Cigarette smoking is dangerous to your health and causes cosmetic concerns, such as smoker’s lips. This condition is characterized by wrinkling and discoloration of the lips and mouth.

When mild, this condition may respond well to at-home treatments. If you have deep vertical wrinkles around your mouth or severe hyperpigmentation, medical treatments may be a better option.

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