By Shauna Heathman

Discoloration on the upper lip is a common problem among women. Defined as melasma, the embarrassing brown spots above the lip can cause a lot of frustration and insecurity. However, there are several treatments on the market that can be used to effectively manage and fade the discoloration. Above all, prevention of melasma is key.

Woman looking at mouth in mirror


Woman applying lip moisterizer

Discoloration of the upper lip and other areas of the skin is called melasma. Only 10 percent of those experiencing discoloration of the upper lip are men. Those of Latin, Asian, Indian, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and North African descent as well as those with darker skin often suffer from melasma more than others.


Woman talking with doctor

Dermatologists diagnosis melasma on the upper lip by looking at the area and noticing brown patches on the skin. A skin biopsy is a rare but sometimes necessary diagnosis to confirm upper lip melasma.


Woman using birth control pills

Sun exposure is the biggest cause of melasma. Items such as birth control pills, cosmetics, hormone therapy, phototoxic drugs and anti-seizure medication make the skin more susceptible to sun damage and therefore also trigger melasma. Discoloration of the upper lip is often seen during pregnancy as well. Any skin care products that irritate the skin may also darken melasma on the upper lip. Melasma is also hereditary, and those with a family history are more susceptible to skin discoloration.


Woman applying sunscreen

Prevention is the best way to avoid melasma. Sun avoidance and daily sunscreen use on the face and upper lip is essential to avoid brown spotting. Also avoid any cosmetics, creams and cleansers that irritate the skin.


Mother with newborn

Melasma can fade on its own, especially after pregnancy or when birth control pills are no longer taken. However, if it does not fade there are other solutions. A cream containing hydroquinone, which is a skin-lightening chemical, is effective in fading the upper lip discoloration. A dermatologist can provide a more powerful cream than can be purchased over the counter. Other ingredients in creams that are effective in treating melasma are tretinoin, corticosteroids, glycolic acid, azelaic acid and kojic acid. Chemical peels, microdermabrasion and laser surgery are also used to treat discoloration of the upper lip.