Lip Bumps Causes & Treatments: White, Red, Small or Big, Inside or on Lip Line 

How often do you get small bumps on lip line, edges or around the mouth? Little, tiny lip bumps can be harmless and may heal on their own. If they are painful and recur you desperately need to know what causes them, the signs, symptoms and whether they can be a health concern or not.

What are they?

Before moving on to know the causes, look at these pictures and see what you can make of each.

Are they canker sores or cold sores

Cold sores and canker sores are mistaken sometimes but are not one and same. How do they differ in terms of appearance and location?

To begin, cold sores are caused by herpes simplex virus (HSV-1). Burning and stinging sensation, itching, soreness, and tautness are the initial signs of a herpes simplex virus infection on the lips.

A clear indication of a cold sore as a lip bump is the blister stage. You can see small or tiny clusters or multiple fluid-filled blisters. The blisters are slightly raised.

On the other hand, a canker sore is a mouth ulcer with a whitish or yellow center and a red surrounding area. Canker sores are more painful when they rapture (weeping stage)

The exact cause of canker sores is unknown, however, the following are factors associated with formation of canker sores.

  • Hormonal shifts during menstruation
  • Emotional stress
  • Sodium Lauryl Sulphate mouth rinse or tooth brush
  • Spicy or acidic beverages
  • An allergic response to certain bacteria in your mouth

While both affect the lips, canker sores form on the inside lip (inner side) or on the tongue. Elsewhere, cold sores form mainly outside mouth which includes areas under the nose, on the mouth, on lip edges and border.

Cold sores are contagious when the virus can be spread from an infected person to another.

Lip allergy bumps

Can allergy cause lip bumps? Those due to allergy are common because no one knows their hypersensitivity perfectly. In many circumstances, people who use cheap lip products like balms, lipsticks, or creams are at risk. Sometimes, the ingredients put in some of these products can cause a reaction with lip mucosa resulting to irritation. Hence, bumps start to form a response to that reaction.

Symptoms may vary from one person to another. For instance a rash around the mouth (itchy bumps), swelling, numbness in lips, etc. could occur in response.

Allergic reactions can also potentially take place as a result of medication, after lip waxing, kissing another person who has applied an ingredient/metal in lip product which they are allergic to, using feeding equipment made of allergic material and so on.

Milia or ‘milk spots’ on lips

If you see little or tiny white bumps on lips of your infant they are indicative of milia. In essence, occurrence of milia is regarded as dead skin cells under skin. However, they are more common on the face especially on the nose or sides of nose.

Milia spots are not health-risky and usually resolve on their own naturally (in a few weeks) as the child grows up.

Lip acne pimples

According to, these bumps could signify a premature acne development especially individuals who are ignorant of skin care.

Acne breakouts are common during puberty when hormonal shifts normally stimulate glands to release more sebum. Androgens in girls for instance, “the male hormones present in women, can contribute to acne flares by over-stimulating the oil glands.” []

Fordyce spots on lips

Do you have small skin-colored, yellow-whitish hard bumps on the lip line? They could be Fordyce spots or granules. What causes these small bumps to appear here?

Fordyce spots are considered a type of abnormal glands referred to as ectopic sebaceous glands which can be located on the lips, gums and inner cheeks. (The genitals as well). Otherwise, from a biological point of view, they are “misplaced” in this areas.

Normally, they are tiny white and painless bumps on the upper lip. In some individuals, they can appear similar to the color of skin when they occur on lip border or appear white-yellow.

Fordyce granules can also be located on scrotum and shaft of penis in males. In females they occur on labia. Go through and on to know whether there is need to get rid of Fordyce spots.

Are they a sign of oral cancer?

There is a likelihood that a bumpy painless lesion that has taken longer to heal be is a sign of oral cancer. However, if you develop lip cancer symptoms promptly go check up with your doctor or oral dentist. Nevertheless, go for cancer screening when your condition doesn’t show any symptoms.

Major (trigger) causes of this cancer include

  • Tobacco chewing and smoking
  • Alcohol abuse
  • HPV infections
  • Exposure to UVR for a long-term

If they are red

What causes red bumps on lips?  Red ones, including on lip line signify a number of conditions or some causes we have looked at.

If the bumps are red, painful and tender would indicate a lip sore (especially if sores are a result of trauma). A sore will even appear blood-red if irritated or injured accidentally. Sometimes, they may bleed when frequently irritated.

Secondly, pimples can look like a red bump when poked or licked more often. These pimples swell causing aching-like which is a painful experience.

When they are white

I have little whitish bumps on my upper lip. Is it something to worry about? In our discussion, white bumps could be caused by milia spots. Remember that milia spots can also develop in grownups as well but are nothing of health concern.

Another reason for white small bumps is Fordyce spots (upper lips). Like milia, Fordyce spots may not necessitate ant treatment unless they cause emotional stress. Otherwise, some people see the need to rid of them to fulfill cosmetic desires.

The last and perhaps health concern is oral cancer lesions.

How to get rid of those on or inside lips

What is the best way to deal with these bumps? Are they treatable? Yes. Medicines for lip bumps are more effective when a particular underlying cause is identified.

In many cases little or tiny bumps like milia may go away naturally or disappear. However, if the small bumps do no resolve on their own you can seek medication.

Treating those due to allergy or dermatitis

Some treatment to be effective in some special cases, a diagnosis is necessary to help rule out other possible causes basing on similar symptoms. An example is allergy lip bumps or contact dermatitis.

After a careful examination, your doctor would prescribe medications to counter and reduce adverse reactions. These include immunosuppressant drugs,

IMPORTANT: Allergy treatments in children should be approached with caution.

Fordyce spots/bumps removal and treatment

Do Fordyce spots on lips go away on their own? They go away even without treatment but tend to appear abnormally.

Doctors don’t encourage patients to get treatment or remove these tiny spots because they are not painful. Neither are they harmful to health, a sign of oral cancer risk. However, if you are worried about them or for the sake of cosmetic reasons, you can optionally go for removal.

Prior to treatment to remove the Fordyce spots, talk or consult your dermatologist in case there is a health-related issue that may hinder you from certain treatment procedures.

Common treatments include

  1. Carbon CO2 laser
  2. Pulsed-dye laser
  3. Micro punch treatments

Canker and cold sores remedies

Due to the tendency of canker sores to recur, treatment becomes difficult but is manageable with remedies.

treating pimples

Treating and getting rid of lip pimples or pimple-like bumps can be more challenging. Yet again it could be as simple as avoiding the lip products that trigger formation.

However, typical pimples around your mouth can be cured. Using acne medications combined with antibacterial creams are effective. Moreover, dermatologists insist that individuals stop applying these products (lip balms, gloss, etc.) until the problem is resolved.

Other medications

As we stated before, treatment becomes more effective especially after the underlying cause is identified and known. For instance, patients diagnosed with genital or oral herpes infection may require a treatment with antiviral medicines. Nevertheless, these medicines only serve as symptom relievers and not cure for the virus.

Acne medications for pimples or acne bumps around mouth include benzoyl peroxide, Salicylic acid, creams, and gels. Oral Isotretinoin creams and Azelaic acid are also effective treatments when prescribed by a doctor.

Above all, take curative or preventive measures against infections including remedy or get antibacterial medication from a drugstore near you.

Remedies including on lip line

Bumps can also from around your mouth – the normal skin around the lips. Mouth sores especially the cold sore (fever blisters) and pimples are the main causes of the red and painful lip bumps. Do these simple DIYs to reduce redness, inflammation or pain.

Ice to reduce pain

To help reduce pain due to fever blisters (cold sores) one can either carefully place ice-cold chips or suck them.

Steam to reduce inflammation

Steaming is an old method but old is good. Reduce swelling by steaming when it is cold. This remedy is working quite reasonably for the pimples around lips.

Wipe or brush them gently

Use facial cleansers to clean areas around lips regularly more so after meals. If you use benzoyl peroxide ensure that you have selected the recommended concentration. Alternatively, you may soft bristle toothbrush to remove dead skin and food residues.

Apply licorice tea

This is quite useful for healing the canker sores on the inside lips. Boil some water and then prepare licorice tea. Leave it to cool. Sip and cover the sore for 5 minutes or as you wish and spit.

More health tips

Anyone is expected to follow and stick to the advice given by doctor even after treatment. Here are additional tips for individuals with these bumps esp. cold sores.

  • Restrain from intimate and deep kissing to prevent transmission of herpes viruses to your loved ones
  • Avoid sharing utensils such as spoons and forks
  • Avoid hot beverages when you have canker sores or fever blisters from cold sores.
  • Clean the blisters to keep germs at bay
  • Apply a plain petroleum jelly to prevent the skin around from cracking
  • Dabbing milk of magnesia for lip sores (canker sores) will also help relieve symptoms like burning
  • Stop smoking and abusing alcohol if you want to minimize chances of oral cancer

When to see a doctor

See your doctor if you frequently get lesions and bumps on lips with no pain and numbness. If you experience bleeding, throbbing pain or aches from recurring bumps seek medication urgently.

Citations and Reference
  1. Fordyce Spots: Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatments
  2. Lip sore: What is a lip sore?
  4. Lip Cancers