Skin discoloration, or hyperpigmentation, can leave you with unattractive dark areas on your face. When the hyperpigmentation occurs on your upper lip, the condition is called melasma. Although caffeine and nicotine use, as well as genetic predisposition, can play a role, the two major causes of melasma are sun exposure and hormones; in fact, melasma is sometimes referred as "the mask of pregnancy." According to the Bioskin Refiner website, an estimated 6 million people -- 90 percent of them women -- suffer from melasma. Fortunately, there are treatments -- both natural botanical lighteners and prescription medicines -- that can significantly lighten and brighten the skin on the upper lip.
Combine 1/8 cup of fresh lemon juice, 1/8 cup of honey and 1/8 cup of plain yogurt, stir well and apply to your upper lip for 30 minutes once a day for six weeks. The ascorbic acid in the lemon juice works as a natural lightener.
Apply 1/16 of a cup of fresh cucumber juice mixed with 1/8 of a cup of fresh lime juice to your upper lip. Repeat daily for several weeks for most effective lightening.
Grind fresh, well-rinsed coriander leaves in a blender along with a little water. Extract the resulting liquid with a clean cloth and apply the juice to your upper lip. Repeat daily.
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Use a cream containing licorice root extract. Licorice root has antioxidant and antiflammatory compounds called glycosides that can lighten skin.
Use 2-percent hydroquinone cream -- which uses a lightening agent found in the herb uva ursa, or bearberry -- on your upper lip daily. Hydroquinone works by decreasing production of melanin pigment granules; the 2-percent formulation can be purchased over the counter.
Consult your doctor if you feel your upper lip is still too dark, in spite of your efforts. She may prescribe a more intensive lightening treatment in the form of 4-percent hydroquinone. She may also prescribe a topical steroid for its anti-inflammatory effects, which can calm pigment-causing inflammation. Other options she might discuss with you include glycolic acid chemical peels and microdermabrasion.
Prevent further upper lip darkening by using SPF 15 sunscreen when out in the sun. A good-quality mineral makeup with SPF is also a good idea.
Prolonged use of hydroquinone can have side effects, including skin irritation. When used over a prolonged period of time, hydroquinone can cause permanent de-pigmentation, which makes the area overly sensitive to sunlight.
Carol Sarao is an entertainment and lifestyle writer whose articles have appeared in Atlantic City Weekly, The Women's Newspaper of Princeton, and New Millennium Writings. She has interviewed and reviewed many national recording acts, among them Everclear, Live, and Alice Cooper, and received her Master of Fine Arts degree in writing from Warren Wilson College.