Why Does Red Wine Stain My Lips?

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Have you ever enjoyed a glass or two of red wine, only to find yourself with an embarrassing case of “wine mouth”? You’re not alone. Wine mouth, or wine-stained lips and teeth, is a frustration shared by wine lovers everywhere.

But why does wine drinking cause “wine lips”? And what can you do about it? If you’re bothered by purple or red lips after drinking, here are a few helpful tips!

Why Does Wine Stain My Lips?

two people clinking wine glasses
Photo by Nate Johnston on Unsplash

Naturally occurring chemical compounds called tannins and chromogens give red wine its bitterness, astringency, and staining effect. These compounds may cling to both tooth enamel and lips, especially if your lips are dry or chapped.

Tannins are often used to make ink. Meanwhile, chromogens are the main substance in many colorful plants used to create dyes. And they like to stick together—literally. Tannins tend to “hold” chromogens, so they stick to your lips or teeth more stubbornly. As a duo, these compounds stain aggressively.

Red wine lip stains aren’t permanent. Still, they can cause momentary embarrassment, or even live on forever in photos posted to social media. Plus, it’s hard to enjoy your evening if you’re feeling self-conscious about wine lips.

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How to Get Wine Stains Off Lips

Fortunately, there are a few ways to quickly remove wine stains and continue enjoying your evening.

Next time, try the following tips:

  • Gently wipe with wine wipes, wet wipes, or facial cleansing cloths.
  • Bite down on a lemon or lime. The acidity can help dissolve some of the stains on your lips. (A word of caution, however: Acidity also wears down the enamel on your teeth, making them more vulnerable to stains.)
  • Cover it with dark lipstick. If you’re not into the dark lipstick look, try a lip balm or lip gloss to make your lip stains look intentional.

How to Stop Red Wine From Staining Your Lips

Even better, you can prevent wine-stained lips from happening in the first place. Make sure you drink water with your wine, which can save you from both lip stains and a headache or hangover.

woman with purple lipstick smiling
Photo by Eye for Ebony on Unsplash

It also helps to eat while drinking. Eating produces saliva, and saliva washes away some of the staining effects of wine. If you also want to fight tooth stains, cheese is an especially good bet. Cheese contains calcium, strengthening enamel and making it less vulnerable to stains.

Stains cling more easily to dry and chapped lips, so exfoliate before a night of drinking. Hydrate your lips with a quality lip balm, and reapply throughout the evening as needed.

Another idea is to drink your wine through a straw. This can keep your lips stain-free, untouched by tannins and chromogens. You may sacrifice some degree of sophistication, but you’ll save your lips.

Finally, you can avoid red wine lip stains by switching to lighter drinks or cutting back on alcohol. Spending an evening out minus the wine frees you up to focus on enjoying your time with friends and loved ones, instead of feeling anxious about stained lips or teeth. Worries about saying or doing something embarrassing, getting sick, or suffering through a hangover the next day are also eliminated.

If you want to change your relationship with alcohol, Ria Health is here to support you. You decide whether you want to stop drinking completely or cut back, and we’ll give you the tools to help you reach your goals. Best of all, the whole thing is available through a convenient app on your smartphone.

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Written By:
Ashley Cullins
Ashley Cullins is a writer with a passion for creating engaging, understandable content on complex topics like addiction and mental health. She has over five years of experience writing for healthcare websites and publications. Having experienced addiction first-hand in her family, Ashley deeply connects with Ria Health’s mission to make treatment easier and more accessible. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her daughter, reading, and cooking.
Reviewed By:
Evan O'Donnell
Evan O’Donnell is an NYC-based content strategist with four years’ experience writing and editing in the recovery space. He has conducted research in sound, cognition, and community building, has a background in independent music marketing, and continues to work as a composer. Evan is a deep believer in fact-based, empathic communication—within business, arts, academia, or any space where words drive action or change lives.
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