And Is One Woman Pioneering The Way For Self-Love and Expression
For the past year and a half, we have perfected the look on the top half of our faces. We plucked our eyes, extended our lashes, colored our eyelids, and covered any blemishes. And for the lower half of our faces… we put on our masks. Well, the mask is coming off and our insecurities are coming back out, and amongst those insecurities are dark lips. As someone with dark skin and dark features, I must admit that I spent many days as a child fantasizing about what life would be like if I had a lighter complexion? Now, before I dive into my 86 failed attempts at using “natural remedies” to lighten my lips, let me share with you something unique that I managed to stumble across…Lip Lightening Services, also referred to as lip neutralization. This service was first introduced to me by Kendreeka “The Brow Savior” Carrington, a permanent make-up artist out of Raleigh, North Carolina. Being the intrigued journalist that I am, my curiosity was peaked and I began doing my research while using Carrington as a point of reference. The more I dug into what this procedure was, the more the publicist in me began to also get peaked…how is the black community going to respond to a procedure that removes melanin from any part of our bodies? Well, it didn’t take me long to find the answers to my questions.
What is Lip Lightening Services
Though more commonly referred to as “Dark Lip Color Correction”, lip lightening is a procedure that is provided to those who wish to correct unwanted darkness of the lips. Using advanced color theory and administered in a method similar to that of a tattoo, pigments are custom blended in an effort to “neutralize” the darkness of the lips with an end goal of returning them to natural even-toned color. While traveling down the rabbit hole of information that I found online, I felt a wave of relief as I learned that thousands of others were also expressing a desire to reverse or eliminate the uneven pigmentation that’s decorating our smiles. While the reasons for wanting to have lighter lips varied, some of the more common reasons included:
- Wanting to return their lips to their natural color prior to the darkening,
- Wanting a more even-toned and uniformed appearance of both lips,
- and wanting to achieve the desired color when wearing lipstick
Although lip lightening is a form of cosmetic procedure, it was refreshing to learn that men are just as open and interested in receiving the procedures as women are, if not more. Unfortunately, while searching for more information about the procedure online, it was also disheartening to notice the abundance of misinformation that can also be found online. Diving into some of the misconceptions a little down the line, let’s first acknowledge some of the reasons that someone would experience dark or darkening lips.
Causes of Darkened Lips
Giving my severe allergy to water and my newest habit of smoking cigars, I’ve had the unpleasant experience of gradually watching my lips turn to a color that can only be described as burnt charcoal. While my own lifestyle choices left me with no room to question why this change was happening, I couldn’t help but wonder why others who aren’t smokers would need the procedure. Regardless of race or gender, over time, people will develop darker lips due to a range of medical and lifestyle factors, including smoking, medication use, prolonged exposure to the sun, genetics, pollution, diet, aging, hormonal changes, pH imbalances, allergies, illness, and even stress. After learning more about the causes of dark lips, I’m now convinced that it may be something that’s just impossible to avoid. Though the causes for darkening lips is a list that’s a mile long, some of the most common reasons include:
1)Cosmetics: Low-quality cosmetics which contain sub-par ingredients are one of the leading causes of dark lips in women. Additionally, sleeping without washing or removing lipstick will negatively affect the coloring of the lips.
2)Consumption of hot beverages- Another reason for darkening lips is an increase in the consumption of hot tea, coffee, and other heated beverages. With an increased sensitivity level of the skin around the lips, consuming hot beverages slowly burns the skin, making them appear darker.
3)Wrong toothpaste- Yep, that’s right. As I mentioned earlier, the skin around your lips is quite sensitive. Upsetting the pH in your lips with too much baking soda could lead to rashes and burning. Sodium lauryl sulfate, another ingredient often found in toothpaste as well as cleaning products, can be harsh on your lips and cause them to appear darker.
4)Nutritional Deficiencies - Low hemoglobin levels, lack of certain vitamins, and a higher level of melasma in the blood or body is also a leading cause of darker lips.
5)Use of antibiotics — The excessive use of antibiotics not only causes side effects on organs within the body but may also affect the skin of your lips. The most common symptom of antibiotics is dehydration and dryness of lips. This dryness takes away moisture from the lips, turning the skin darker.
The Misconceptions Around Lip Lightening Services
Although you may be unfamiliar with lip lightening services, this topic originally gained traction when a woman in Brazil went viral after removing what she felt to be, was excess melatonin in her lips. After receiving the procedure, before and after images were then shared online by popular influencers…with one of them using the term “lip correction” in his caption.
Now, many would argue that this post was single-handedly responsible for the uproar in backlash received from Black Twitter. The implementation that the young lady’s lips needed to be “corrected” due to their dark tone hurled waves of insults and trauma which was directed at a community that is commonly ridiculed for our dark features.
Without the proper experts available to guide the conversation, this discussion birthed a wave of misinformation that left many with more questions than answers…
Is the procedure dangerous? Should I even be asking that? Is it normal to have dark lips? Is it wrong of me to want even colored lips? Natural looking lips? Lighter lips?
Based on the conversations that were spread across social media, it seemed that many were unaware of the fact that it is common for people to have darker skin around the lips, in the bikini line area, and under the arm-pits. Affecting both men and women of various races and ethnicities, it’s always been a personal choice to either leave these areas as they are and allow them to darken with time (which again, is completely normal), or to seek out products, services, or procedures that can either return these areas to their natural color or provide a more desired look or color which is preferential to the requester. This act is no different from dying your hair, wearing lipstick, getting a tan, or even dare I say it, bleaching the butthole. More so, makeup artists and beauty professionals will frequently use the term “color-correction” as it applies to covering unwanted dark spots and uneven tones. The use of this term in relation to lip lightening is in no way insinuating that darkened skin colors need to be corrected.
Though creams, sugar scrubs, and lip balms are commonly known home remedies for improving unwanted dark lips, there are still common instances when receiving lip lightening services will be more beneficial than the aforementioned.
“Oftentimes we would like to lighten our lips whether it’s due to smoking or just genetics and that’s absolutely ok,” Carrington stated.
KenDreeka ‘The Brow Savior” Carrington has made it her mission to educate the community about the procedures and services that are available, safe, and flattering for darker complexions.
We have become a society that now attacks and criticizes anyone who wishes to adjust or enhance our features in ways that we desire. If that adjustment resembles any feature of any race outside of the black community, that person is automatically criticized for being “brainwashed”, full of self-hate, or overly admirable of our white counterparts.
The truth is that sometimes I like my hair straight and sometimes I like it curly. Sometimes I like to wear jeans and other times you’ll find me in a maxi dress. Some people even choose to express their uniqueness and creativity by getting colorful tattoos or eccentric piercings. Whatever reason someone may have for wanting to eliminate some of the excess melanin in their lips, let’s all agree that this new popular beauty trend is not a form of colorism. In fact, the more that I thought about it, the more that I began to admire the path that Carrington is on. By speaking out and educating others on this procedure, she is allowing us a chance to decide for ourselves what we want to look like without fear of being ridiculed or called out. I guess it’s true when they say that heroes don’t always wear capes…sometimes they wear lab coats and carry a needle.