We all know that appearances and our image play a role in society. But what if we told you that our lip colors are more than just for looks? Here are some tell tale signs to take note of in order to keep your lips healthy.

Your Natural Lips

Before we dive into lip color, let’s cover the basic ground by talking about our natural lips. In the real world, not everyone has pink lips that we all love and covet. Just like how your face and skin changes on a daily basis, your lips too vary in color. That’s why you might see pink lips one moment and super red lips the next moment. 

For those of you with olive or darker skin tones, you’re likely to see some pigment or notice a slightly darker upper lip. Why is this? It’s because your skin’s melanin is showing through. 

As a quick refresher, melanin is what gives our skin, hair, and eyes color based on our genetic makeup. Generally melanin is what our body naturally creates to protect our skin against harmful UV rays and sun damage. But for our precious lips, that melanin production to protect the thin skin is little to none. 

Lip Conditions

Blue or Purple

You may be aware that the telltale sign of blue or purple lips stems from choking or hypothermia. And you are correct! 

On a normal day, your blood is bright red when there’s a rich amount of oxygen. When your lips suddenly turn blue or purplish however, it’s a sign that you body has poor blood circulation. 

There are a lot of reasons for your blue lips. They can range from minor imbalances in the body to severe conditions that require medical assistance. Sounds scary, right? 

For starters, there’s conditions including lung disease, anemia, choking or other traumatic incidents, and exposing yourself to extremely cold temperatures. 

Then there are lifestyle habits connected to poor blood circulation. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, blue lips are seen as a sign that you’re not eating enough, not moving around enough, or if you’re feeling extra fatigued. And if you think about it, it actually makes complete sense! 

In addition to the shortage of oxygen in your body, it’s also likely that the blood isn’t circulating well either. That’s why when you’re sitting for long periods at a time or if you’re not eating properly, you might notice swelling, inflammation, and even bloating in other areas of your body. Overall, it’s not a pleasant feeling!

All in all, it seems that in order to keep our lips healthy, we need to keep our bodies healthy as well!

White or Pale

You know those moments when something is wrong with your body and people notice your face is pale and ask if you’re okay? This is one of those times. 

Similar to the blue lips, white or pale lips can show that your circulatory system isn’t functioning properly and your red blood cell count is low. On the surface, pale lips are usually associated with an equally pale looking face and cold hands and feet. But for your body, pale lips can signal that your body is reacting from anemia, blood loss from heavy menstrual periods, low blood sugar, frostbite, medications, or vitamin deficiencies like iron and vitamin B-12. 

Black and Wrinkled

This is not to be mistaken with normal pigmentation. As mentioned earlier, normal pigmentation is when some of the melanin from the skin is showing through the upper lip. When we mention black, we’re talking about a severe discoloration of your lips. The discoloration can show up all throughout the lip and is many shades darker than your normal skin color. 

But unlike other lip colors, which are caused by internal deficiencies, black discolored lips indicate that your body is overproducing pigmentation in reaction to external factors. This includes smoking, injury or trauma, other severe forms of damage, and exposure to environmental changes such as polluted air, chemicals and smoke. 

Red Ring Around the Lips

This isn’t a change in lip color – per se, but it’s something to take note of, especially since we’re approaching the cold winter months very soon. 

Remember those times when our moms repeatedly told us not to lick our lips when we were young? Yep. 

If you see a red ring around the lips and it’s painful, itchy, inflammed, and scaly, you might have perioral dermatitis. It is also known fondly as “lip licker’s dermatitis.” And similar to other forms of contact dermatitis such as eczema, this is a condition that doesn’t have an exact cause. 

But for those who do have this form of dermatitis, there are common triggers. These can range from excessively licking your lips (hence the name!) to allergies from your skincare products, toothpaste, and even applying hydrocortisone or steroid creams. Since western medicine pretty much tells us that there’s no clear cause, what does eastern medicine tell us?

According to traditional Chinese medicine, the main cause of your flare ups has to do with excess levels of toxins (and what TCM calls heat) in your system. When you have poor lifestyle habits, diet, and allergies, it’s said that the body gets a blockage that prevents toxic waste from draining out of your system. With nowhere to go, that waste material eventually gathers and accumulates in your liver and spleen. These organs also happen to be the two that filter out toxins and waste products. Since the collected waste materials are preventing the liver and spleen from doing their job, the growing toxins eventually emerge as inflammation on your skin…which can also include acne! Yikes!

Maintenance to Keep Your Lips Healthy

In the end, all of these lip colors seem to result from internal issues in the body. So what can you do to keep your lips healthy? 

The answer is simple: keep your body healthy! Remember, a flower can’t grow if the roots aren’t well nourished! 


Since your lips are indicators of your health, it’s important to keep your body healthy as possible. Try to eat less processed, greasy, and sugary foods (this can also help with acne!) and stick to a whole diet with protein, fruits and steamed vegetables. 


Since our bodies are naturally made to move around, try to incorporate 5-10 minute movement breaks if you’re sitting around for too long. This will help your circulatory system and other parts of your body functioning normally.  It doesn’t even need to high intensity workouts because light stretching and walks work just as well. 


Another big component to our health problems is stress. When you’re overly stressed, this activates the body’s stress hormones, including cortisol. And when there’s an excess amount of cortisol in your body from prolonged stress, your body can react in very negative ways and lead to a variety of health problems. Not good! 

Try to find ways to manage your stress levels by engaging in relaxing activities like meditation or giving yourself a well-deserved self-care pamper session when needed! While it might not help solve all the problems you have at the moment, we’re hoping that it will help give you some breathing room to deal with the issues afterwards. Your mind and body will also thank you!


Since your lips are made up of thinner skin than the rest of your face, it’s important to keep it hydrated and well moisturized whenever possible. This is especially so during the colder and dryer months, when there’s little moisture in the air. Focus on drinking lots of water and avoiding harsh ingredients or potential irritants to prevent from further damaging the thin skin. Also, we highly recommend you follow your mom or dad’s advice: don’t lick your lips!

Keep in mind that these color changes to your lips are mostly temporary. As long as you figure out what your body is trying to tell you and you work to treat it, your lips should turn back to normal. Keep your lips healthy this winter!

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  1. I love the Laneige lip balm 🙂 Thanks for the tips on general all round health, sometimes it’s easy to forget that our appearance is an indicator of our overall health and that an important part (maybe the most important part!) of any skincare routine is to stay healthy. I also find that staying hydrated really helps my lips – if I don’t drink enough water or if the air is dry then my lips start to crack.