Whiteheads on Lips, around Lipe Line, Inside, Upper- How to Get Rid & Causes

Whiteheads might be your form of scare when it comes to its strong link with acne. The commonly appear as small bumps that are white and occur along the lip line.

They can however occur on both upper and lower lip either below or above the lip line respectively. Sometimes they persist through your tireless use of facial cleansing, home remedies or treatment which leaves you wondering whether the differential, herpes, could be a probability.

Fortunately, this material will help you dig further into causes, differentials and treatment of whiteheads.

Lip Line/ Around Lip Meaning

Whiteheads are considered a form of acne as they appear as small bumps that are a result of clogged pores that contain thick white fluid.

whiteheads on lips line, around, upper, lower, small causes and treatment
Small and large whiteheads picture

Whiteheads may have varying pathophysiology but are most commonly caused by clogging of pores by skin debris that allows the formation of pus and entrapment of skin oils.

Pimples might actually be what you call whiteheads and this can be used interchangeably though the latter is a kind of comedone that may be either a pustule or papule. To put it more vividly, a pustule is a raised lesion that contains pus but a papule does not.

A whitehead is a comedo, a comedo referring to a hair follicle that is clogged in the skin and can be open or closed. Open comedo is known as a blackhead while a closed one is known as a whitehead. They can occur with or without acne which raises the fact that having a whitehead does not necessarily mean that you have acne according to the National Library of Medicine.

Acne is a long term skin disease that is characterised by microcomedo, closed and open comedo affecting many pores especially on the face but can also occur on the shoulders, back, neck and upper arms (WebMD).

At times, you may confuse milia with whiteheads while they are two very different skin conditions. While a white head is normally lodged deeper in the skin than blackheads within the epidermis and are in hair follicles or pores. Milia however, appear as a tiny ball under the skin and do not have a pore opening to the surface of the skin. They are more superficial as compared to whiteheads. They are common in infants and adults.

It is important that before you are put on any medication regimen, the exact morphology of the lesion determined and diagnosed. This involves eliminating the differentials including contact dermatitis which at times occur on the commissure which is the corner of the mouth. At this point, the vermillion border of the superior of the upper lip meets that of the inferior, lower lip. Therefore, scheduling a physical examination with your physician is indicated.


There are many reasons that you could use to explain the occurrence of whiteheads on your lip line. These include but are not limited to the ones enlisted below.


Psychological stress

Research by Yosipovitch G et al, 2007 reveals that there is a link between sebum production and psychological stress. The sebum is a known cause of clogged up pores and the incidence of acne vulgaris especially in adolescents.

In this particular study, during a high stress condition say prior to examinations yielded an increased prevalence of self-reported acne with 95% in males and 92% in females. The contrary was observed in low stress conditions such as summer holidays.

causes of whiteheads on lips stress
Stress can cause white heads on lips

Hormonal variances

Age matters when it comes to whiteheads. During adolescence, there is an upsurge of testosterone and this leads to overproduction of sebum in the skin. At this age, whiteheads are common and so is acne in general.

Therefore, it is normal to have such acneiform eruption during your puberty stage. An estimated 80% of all people who are of the age of 11 to 30 years have acneiform eruptions at some point but reduces as they approach 30s.

It is rare to have it after 30 though still happens. Pregnant mothers have a hormonal change and this may lead to formation of whiteheads.

They have a fetus growing with them and unwanted toxins and wastes such as nitrogenous wastes can lead to skin disorders.

Make-ups you use

Those that are most prone to causing pimples including lip balms that are commonly used. What lip balms do is prevent the flow of sebum through the pores.

They may also lead to allergic reaction especially to chemical products your body doesn’t get along with.  There are however non-comedogenic lip balms that you can use. Check them up on the internet.

Fordyce’s Spots/Brooke-Fordyce trichoepithelioma

These are small raised, yellow or white spots that normally occur on the labia, penis scrotum and the vermillion border. The vermillion border is that which divides the skin of the face and the lips and it is what this material is interested in.

They could also be a reason behind the occurrence of whiteheads on the lips. They have been documented by Hong Kong Medical Association as being smooth and white.


According to PubMed Health, there are myths that haven’t been proven to have an implication to whiteheads. Such include maim blames on chocolate and greasy foods though with little evidence and dirty skin too.

Herpes or cold sores

Healthline indicates that herpes infection is mostly characterized by pimple formation, the Herpes Simplex Virus 1.

Some people do not get them and they may be itchy and painful. It hides in the nerves and reveals itself when you are in stress, exposure to sunlight and when getting your period. It also has a genetic predisposition.

Poor hygiene

When you do not maintain the cleanliness of your skin, chances are that it habors bacteria that may lead to whiteheads. Such include the Propionibacterium acnes which is known to proliferate highly when skin is clogged by debris that is not washed off and therefore sebum that builds up supports its growth.

Oily skin

The relation between your skin type and the type of skin conditions you are exposed to. Such skins are prone to whiteheads as there is a higher risk of buildup of sebum in the pores especially if not eliminated. Therefore, this is the point at which the food you take really matters and so does this apply to what you apply on your face.

Waxing lip hair

if this is your technique of hair removal, then you should be aware that it can cause ingrown hairs, clog up the pores and result in a whitehead in the upper lip.


If your whitehead is painful to touch and has pus, then it has an infection. Sometimes, it even results in lip swelling, this being brought about by piercings in the upper lips especially if you do not take care of it or it was done by a quack.

Causes:-Small whiteheads around, Inside, Upper, Inner Lip

The causes of small whiteheads whether on or inside or outside or on the upper or lower lip are moreso the same of course eliminating the more superficial reasons such as makeup, sunlight and waxing.

Among the causes of whiteheads in the mouth include:

  1. Canker sores: they are also known as aphthous ulcers characterized by shallow lesions. These lesions develop on the soft tissues of the mouth mostly on the gums and the inner lips. They result from minor injury to the mouth during dental work, excessive brushing, dietary insufficiency of vitamin b-12, and hormonal shifts during menstruation, allergic reaction and emotional stress. (Mayo Clinic)
  2. Mucous cysts: they develop in the inner lips and also in the tongue and the palate. They normally occur as a result of piercing or sucking lips between the teeth.
  3. Oral lichen planus: this is a chronic inflammatory disease that results in white lacy patches that form open sores in the long run. They may not really resemble whiteheads, but may form them in the early stages.
  4. Anxiety and Dermatophagia: many people bite their lips when anxious since it provides a coping mechanism. Dermatophagia is an OCD that makes you want to chew the lips among other parts of the body.

White Heads or Sores or Herpes on Lips?

How can you differentiate white head, sores and herpes on lips?

Through the morphology of the lesion, it is easy to determine whether what you are dealing with is a white head, sore or herpes on the lips.

White heads – this is a papule plugging sebaceous follicle containing sebum and cellular debris with a white center. It is harder than a sore and may contain pus. It is contained beneath the skin contrary to a blackhead.

Sore – are more commonly referred to as cold sores or fever sores. They are not caused by the cold but rather, a virus and particularly the HSV-1. It results from damage to the skin that forms blisters (fluid filled lesion of any size) that upon draining, forms a sore, with an indent in the center.

A sore can also be a canker sore that is not caused by a viral infection but rather, the causes stated in the previous section. Unlike cold sores, canker sores don’t occur on the outside of the lips.

Herpes on the lips is mostly a cold sore as afore-explained and occurs on the lips as blisters that later form sores.

How to get rid of whitehead on lip

You shouldn’t be popping whiteheads as this is bad. When you open them forcefully, they result in blackheads that form black spots on your face. They could also get further infected. You should wait for the whitehead to form the white spot in the middle before you can pop it. However, if you must pop one, then follow this method:

  1. Make sure that you wash clean your hands with soap and dry them.
  2. Wash your face gently. You could exfoliate the lips with an exfoliating agent.
  3. Since you are using a sharp object, sterilize it by disinfecting and rubbing it with ethanol 70%.
  4. Wipe the area with the whitehead to prep it.
  5. Then pierce gently across at an angle with the sharp object and make a crossing tear while lifting upwards.
  6. To release the pus, push towards the sides and use a clean cotton wool to wipe it off lest it drains and infects other parts of the skin.
  7. Use a cotton swab to clean the area once you are finished.

Home Remedies to get lip whiteheads naturally

Some home remedies that could help include:

  1. Exfoliation: you could make a sugar scrub and rub it gently on the affected area. This should reduce dead skin and debris that clog up the pores.
  2. Wash your skin: do this routinely to remove dirt and debris. Use soap. You could also make natural preparations containing lime which has anti-oxidant and antimicrobial activity.
  3. Use a makeup remover: since makeup can result in whiteheads if worn for long, there is need to ensure that you remove it before going to bed to remove the whitehead.
  4. Stop using chemical products: if you see no change with removing makeup, then stop and change to another that suits you. Care should be taken against concealers, certain shampoos and some harsh beauty soap you use.
  5. Ease the pain: you could use cold compress to ease the pain. The other type of compress, hot compress, is important when it comes to preparing your whitehead before popping it.
  6. Limit foods/products with lots of fat-Avoid certain foods especially those that are too fatty.

Medication/Treatment Options

Some conventional medication that could be prescribed to you include those that are in standard used for mild acne such as (Karin Sartorius, Jurr Boer, and Gregor B.E. Jemec):

  1. Resorcinol – this is a strong keratolytic and comedolytic agent. Concerning the latter, it is more powerful than retinoids and azelaic acid
  2. Benzoyl peroxide – Kills  acnes, and may also reduce oil production
  3. Salicylic acid – sheds cell linings of hair follicles, has mild antimicrobial effect and prevents comedogenic growth.
  4. Antibiotics – they kill acnes. Such include clindamycin and minocycline. Flucloxacillin and other isoxallyl antibiotics such as cloxacillin could also be indicated if the infection persists.

Drug treatments for oral lichen planus include corticosteroids, retinoids, calcineurin inhibitors, and antibacterial agents. These bumps may also be treated with light and laser treatments.

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