A blackhead is a clogged pore in the skin. Also known as comedones, blackheads develop when dead skin cells and oil build up in the pore and form a dark plug.
People often associate blackheads with acne, though they can also develop in people without acne.
Blackheads can occur anywhere on the body, including the lips. People can treat blackheads on the lip using certain over-the-counter (OTC) acne products, such as benzoyl peroxide or retinoids.
People can help prevent blackheads by maintaining a good skin care routine and not touching the face with unwashed hands.
Keep reading to learn more about what causes a blackhead on the lip. This article also covers some treatments and prevention measures.
When a skin pore overproduces oil, or sebum, the excess oil can mix with dead skin cells and debris to cause a plugged duct.
As the sebaceous glands continue to pump oil into the duct, it forces the plug up above the skin’s surface, forming a bump.
As the clogged pore widens and partially opens, the pore’s contents react with the air. This gives the plug the brownish-black color that people typically associate with blackheads.
Blackheads can occur with or without acne. Except for the palms of the hands and soles of the feet, blackheads can form anywhere on the body where there are oil glands — including the lips.
Some causes of a blackhead on the lip include:
- an overproduction of sebum
- seborrheic dermatitis
- excessive moisturizing or overuse of oily skin care products
- humid conditions
- excessive sweating
- exposure to grease in the environment, including air pollution and cigarette smoke
- damaging a hair follicle by squeezing a pimple or scrubbing the facial skin too hard
- holding a cell phone too close to the face or the mouth
- wearing tight fitting masks
People cannot easily remove a blackhead by squeezing it or picking at it. In fact, squeezing a blackhead on the lip could cause damage to the thin skin in the area.
Specifically, putting too much pressure on a lip blackhead can result in bruising, bleeding, redness, and swelling, as well as infection.
If a person has a blackhead on the lip for a long period of time, the plug in the pore may harden. This can make it harder to treat.
The best treatment method for a blackhead on the lip is to soften the plug and exfoliate the dead skin cells in the area.
People can try the following options:
- Use a salicylic acid-based face wash. Lather it at the blackhead, let it sit for a few minutes, then rinse it off. This will help break up the plug. Then, apply an oil-free moisturizer.
- Apply either a benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid acne cream to the blackhead. These creams help exfoliate and unblock the pores, and they are available over the counter.
- Apply a retinoid cream directly to the blackhead. Retinoids help reduce the size of existing blackheads and stop new ones from forming. Retinoids are available in both OTC and prescription strengths.
- Apply a few drops of tea tree oil mixed with a carrier oil to the blackhead. Tea tree oil may help soften the blackhead and reduce swelling in the area.
- Apply a dab of warm honey directly to the blackhead. Wipe it off with a warm washcloth once it dries.
Blackheads that persist or return may require a visit to a dermatologist. A dermatologist may use a special tool called a comedone extractor to unblock the pores.
Excessive oil production and a buildup of dead skin cells can cause blackheads.
To prevent a blackhead from forming on the lip, people should adopt and stick to a good skin care routine.
Some steps that may help reduce or prevent blackheads include:
- washing the face twice daily with a gentle, soap-free, pH-balanced facial cleanser
- only using skin care and makeup products that are noncomedogenic
- not scrubbing the face, as this can cause irritation and worsen blackheads
- using a clay mask containing bentonite clay two or three times per week
- using exfoliants twice per week
- eating a healthful diet that includes plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables
- avoiding processed and greasy foods
- avoiding alcohol
- avoiding exposure to cigarette smoke
- not touching the face with unwashed hands
- choosing only noncomedogenic lip products and avoiding lip balms and lipsticks that contain pore-clogging ingredients, such as dyes and emollients
- not wearing heavy makeup that could block the pores
- keeping all makeup brushes and applicators clean
- gently removing all makeup before going to bed
- washing the face after every workout
- wearing oil-free sunscreen every day
A blackhead may develop on the lip when a skin pore on the lip line becomes clogged with oil and dead skin cells.
Adopting a good skin care routine can help treat and prevent blackheads. Together, topical skin care products and gentle exfoliation can help soften blackheads and clear blocked pores.
It is best to avoid squeezing a blackhead on the lip, as this can damage the delicate skin in the area.
If a person finds that treatments or home remedies for blackheads on the lip are not effective, they can see a dermatologist for treatment.