Young woman puckering lips, close-up
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Dark, patchy spots on your upper lip can resemble a faint mustache. This is embarrassing for many women, but the discoloration isn't necessarily permanent. Commonly, dark spots develop due to a hormonal condition called melasma. This condition is associated with higher estrogen levels, so it may crop up if you're pregnant or taking birth control pills. Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is another possible cause. This condition develops after a skin trauma, such as acne, cuts or burns. You can treat both issues with a regimen of lighteners and skin cell-renewing cream.

Avoid plucking, waxing or shaving upper lip hairs. These hair removal methods can irritate delicate skin and cause dark spots to develop. Laser hair removal is less irritating, so it's not as likely to cause pigmentation.

Apply sunscreen to your upper lip and the rest of your face daily. Sun exposure may cause dark spots or make existing ones worse. Use a sunscreen that's SPF 30 or higher for the best protection.

Wash your upper lip and face morning and night with an exfoliating cleanser. Ingredients such as salicylic acid, glycolic acid, and papaya and pineapple enzymes help remove skin cells that contain excess pigment.

Treat skin with a peptide-rich lotion or serum after exfoliating. Peptides brighten skin, even out skin tone and stimulate collagen.

Dab discolored skin nightly with a lightening cream containing kojic acid, azelaic acid, arbutin or hydroquinone. Rub the cream into upper-lip skin using gentle, circular motions. Do not rinse off. These ingredients work by inhibiting tyrosinase, a melanin-producing enzyme. If used daily, the cream should fade spots in about four to six weeks.

Apply a topical retinoid every other night after using skin-lightening cream. Do not rinse retinoids off. If you experience irritation, mix the retinoid with your usual moisturizer before applying. Retinoids, a form of vitamin A, fade discoloration by prompting rapid skin-cell turnover. The strongest retinoids require a prescription from a doctor or dermatologist. Many over-the-counter products include a gentler version of retinoids, called retinol. Look for products that contain retinyl acetate, retinaldehyde or retinyl palmitate.

Ask your doctor or dermatologist about LED red light therapy. Red light therapy stimulates collagen production and may improve skin spots. It has limited side effects, but requires multiple treatments to work. Sessions can cost between $50 and $200 each at a doctor's office. At-home light therapy devices are also available, but they're not as strong.


Pigmentation can develop in women due to pregnancy. Discoloration usually fades by itself within one year of giving birth.

Use mineral powder makeup to cover up dark spots. Apply it sparingly with a small makeup brush.


Some dark-skinned genetic groups, such as southern Europeans, Italians, Greeks and Indians, have a higher risk of hyperpigmentation. Discoloration typically appears in their late 40s to mid-50s. This pigmentation is permanent.