What is the skin on your lips called?

Lips are a soft malleable anatomical structure that creates the mouth edge of most vertebrates, comprised of a surface epidermis (skin), connective tissue, and (in typical mammals) a muscle layer. The outer skin of a man has sebaceous (oil) glands, sweat glands, and hair. The vermilion border—a term used to describe the crimson skin that covers the lips’ edges—is densely dotted with delicate nerve endings. The reddish skin serves as a barrier between the inside mucous membrane and the exterior, hair-bearing tissue. A mucosal membrane that is wet along the inside surface of the lips. A mucosal membrane that is wet along the inside surface of the lips. The inner surface is much thicker and has sebaceous glands and tiny projections known as papillae on newborn infants. These structural modifications appear to facilitate sucking.

The orbicularis oris muscle, which surrounds the aperture, supplies most of each lip’s material. The numerous changes in shape and expression of the lips are made possible by this muscle and others that extend out into the cheeks. Diseases that mainly affect the lips include herpes simplex (fever blisters, or cold sores) and leukoplakia (white patches, which may be precancerous). On the vermilion border of the lower lip, ulcers in older men are frequently cancerous. Additionally, the weather’s excessive drying, chemical irritants, an infection’s inadequate moistening, or an antibiotic’s response might cause the borders to crack and swell.


Vermilion Border

The distinctive reddish-pinkish hue and texture that distinguish the lips from the surrounding skin on the face are referred to as the “vermillion” or “vermilion border” of the skin on your lips. In addition to having a lot of blood vessels, the vermillion border also has a very thin layer of skin that is extremely sensitive to touch, temperature, and other stimuli. It has a prominence on the face, establishing a focus for cosmetics (it is where lipstick is sometimes put), and is also a place for various skin illnesses. Its functional properties, however, remain unknown.


The whole lip is made of soft tissue. The skin covering the lips, where blood vessels are closer to the surface, is thinner than the skin covering the face. Because of this, the vermilion border on the lips’ margins depicts a change in skin thickness. As a result, the pigmented border of the lip and adjacent skin are separated by a sharp line. Both a red line and a delicate, white, rolling border have been used to characterize it. This small line of pale skin emphasizes the color contrast between the vermilion and regular skin. Two adjacent elevations of the vermilion border on the upper lip combine to produce Cupid’s bow.


The vermilion border marks the change in the epidermis from highly keratinized external skin to less keratinized inner skin. It lacks facial hair, sweat glands, and sebaceous glands.

The border in some people appears red for two reasons:

  • The blood vessels are closer to the surface because the epithelium is thin.
  • Because the blood vessels are close to the surface of the papillary layer and this epithelium contains transparent eleidin, the “red blood cell” color can be seen. The Fordyce spots are sebaceous glands lacking hair follicles at the mouth’s angles.

Clinical significance

  • In dentistry and oral pathology, the vermilion border is crucial as a disease marker, such as in actinic cheilitis
  • Related illnesses
  • Perioral dermatitis is a rash commonly around the mouth, that spares the vermilion border
  • Burning may be one of the symptoms of cheilitis glandularis across the vermilion border. Lip skin thinning and ulceration are symptoms of this chronic, progressive illness
  • The vermilion border may be affected by infections. One common infection is cold sores. Another is impetigo
  • The vermilion border is also susceptible to skin cancer
  • Face deformities brought on by fetal alcohol syndrome include a smooth philtrum and a narrow vermilion border

Physical appearance

The transition between the vermilion border and the skin might seem blurry after exposure to sunlight. Lip balm hydrates lips while sunscreen shields them from the sun.


The surgical excision of the vermilion border is known as a vermilionectomy (sometimes written vermilionectomy). Sometimes, it is used to treat lip cancer. Any damage to the vermilion border is repaired with great care. A vermilion misalignment of even 1 mm might be seen.