Lip Prints and Identification: The Uniqueness of Lip Prints for Identification Purposes

In a world where identification and security are paramount, various biological and physical attributes are utilized for verification and identification purposes. Among these, one of the less commonly known but incredibly intriguing methods is the use of lip prints. Just as fingerprints, lip prints are unique to each individual and can serve as a reliable personal identifier. This post delves into the fascinating world of lip prints and their role in personal identification and forensics.

Understanding Lip Prints

Lip prints, also known as cheiloscopy, are the patterned lines, wrinkles, and grooves that traverse the human lip. These lines and grooves are called sulci labiorum and are as unique as one’s fingerprints. The study of lip prints is not just a novelty; it’s a forensic investigation tool that has been instrumental in solving crimes.

The History and Science of Lip Prints

The concept of using lip prints for identification purposes dates back to the 1930s. A Japanese scientist named Dr. Suzuki was the first to mention the possibility. However, it wasn’t until the 1960s that lip prints began to be recognized as a potential tool in forensic science.

The lips have numerous natural lines and fissures, which form patterns that are generally classified into several types. Forensic scientists use these classifications to analyze lip prints left at crime scenes or on objects like cups, glasses, or cigarettes.

Types of Lip Print Patterns

Forensic experts have categorized lip prints into various types based on their patterns:

  • Type I: Clear-cut lines running vertically across the lips.
  • Type II: Branched grooves.
  • Type III: Intersected lines.
  • Type IV: Reticular pattern.
  • Type V: Grooves that do not fall into the other categories.

These categories help experts to systematically compare and analyze lip prints for identification purposes.

Collection of Lip Prints

Collecting lip prints is a non-invasive process that can be done using everyday items such as lipstick and transparent tape. The individual applies lipstick, presses their lips against a piece of paper or glass, and then the print is lifted using tape and placed onto a contrasting background to be studied.

The Uniqueness of Lip Prints

Lip prints are unique for a number of reasons:

  • Individual Variability: No two lip prints are the same, even among identical twins.
  • Permanence: The pattern of an individual’s lip prints remains unchanged throughout their life.
  • Detail Richness: The natural lines and grooves provide a wealth of detail for forensic analysis.

Fingerprints are found on every individual and remain unchanged throughout a person’s life (barring injury). While lip prints also exhibit a high degree of variability and uniqueness, they can change due to various factors such as cuts, sores, or the presence of makeup, which can alter or obscure the natural lines of the lips.  Lip print analysis is a more specialized field, and fewer professionals are trained in this area.

forensic science detective

Lip Prints in Forensic Science

In forensic science, lip prints can be used in much the same way as fingerprints. They can be collected from a crime scene and compared with the prints of a suspect for identification. The presence of a suspect’s lip print on an item at a crime scene can link them to the crime, often with a high degree of certainty.

Legal Admissibility

The admissibility of lip prints as evidence varies by jurisdiction, but many courts have accepted them, especially when they are supported by additional corroborative evidence. The reliability of the techniques used for analysis and the expertise of the forensic examiners are crucial factors in the acceptance of lip prints in legal proceedings.

Challenges and Limitations

While lip prints are a valuable tool in forensic identification, there are challenges:

  • Lack of Awareness: Many law enforcement agencies are not fully aware of the potential of lip prints.
  • Standardization: There is a need for more standardized methods for collecting and analyzing lip prints.
  • Database: Unlike fingerprints, there is no extensive database for lip prints, which can make comparison and matching more difficult.

The Future of Lip Print Identification

As forensic science advances, so does the potential for lip print identification. Researchers are exploring new technologies, including digital imaging and computerized mapping, to enhance the accuracy and reliability of lip print analysis.


Lip prints offer a unique and effective means of identification that can play a significant role in forensic investigations. While they may not be as commonly used as fingerprints or DNA, their uniqueness and permanence make them an invaluable tool in the forensic toolkit. As technology progresses, we may see an increase in the use of lip prints, not only in criminal cases but also in security systems and biometric authentication. The science of cheiloscopy is still developing, and its full potential is yet to be realized, but it remains an exciting and promising field in the sphere of personal identification.