Red Wine Lips & Other Dental Tips

Red wine lips are the worst aren’t they? All red wine lovers have either experienced the attractive red wine lip stain themselves (or as it’s commonly called: Wine Mouth) or they’ve had the pleasure of gazing upon someone else’s. It happens to the best of us and is right up there with “you’ve got something stuck in your teeth.”

Most friends are kind enough to tell you when there’s a clingy piece of oregano in plain sight. Dental friends are more specific. They’ll give helpful, exact directions, such as: “Hey, foreign object, interproximal, #7 & #8.” But, no one likes to tell us we have the wine lips! It’s only later, when we get a glimpse of them the mirror and think “Oh gawwd.

Dry Lips = Wine Mouth

When we have dry lips and we’re drinking dry, red wine, the potential for the wine lip is there—a weird, semi-sticky deep reddish-purple stain that makes itself comfortable, silently mocking you as you speak.


I just don’t think I could’ve taken a better picture than Alle Connell (pictured). Follow her on Twitter @helloalle. She has a very funny video on “wine contouring”!

No Longer a Mouth Janitor

In my past life I was a R.D.H. (Registered Dental Hygienist, aka: “Mouth Janitor”). I have an applied science degree, and spent my days doing deep cleanings, administering local anesthesia, probing gum pockets, and removing biofilm. Unfortunately, at times this included the removal of ghastly, festering, smelly food particles, and mystery meat strands from the flossing impaired—which almost drove me to become a vegan extremist.


Gross, but true. (*I borrowed this grainy image from Pinterest. Please don’t sue me;)

On a happier/less gaggy note

The good news is that wine is not necessarily bad for your teeth. Yes, it’s an acidic beverage and acid erosion is a real thing. All acids have the potential to wear down enamel: soda, orange juice, lemon, coffee, acid-loving sugar, etc. The only time in almost eighteen years of being in dentistry that I witnessed visible, clinical damage to tooth enamel from acid was from a few drug using patients who had chronic, poor hygiene, a woman in her 20’s who had been diagnosed with Bulimia, and a young girl who sucked on lemons—a lot. There are always exceptions, but for the majority of us, drinking our daily wine and coffee will not harm your teeth.

Seriously though, go see your dentist or hygienist at least once a year. And, for the love, use the floss.  

Tips to avoid wine mouth

  • Exfoliate your lips daily. Especially important before an event or dinner where you know you’ll be drinking or tasting red wine. There are some fancy (and fairly costly) lip scrubs out there you can purchase, but just using a soft, cotton wash cloth to gently scrub your lips while showering works fine. Also, if you apply a generous amount of a Vaseline/Aquaphor type ointment on your lips and use a Q-tip to exfoliate, it will grab the dead skin & leave them feeling soft and smooth.

Natural alert: If you prefer using only natural products, Alba Botanical has a petroleum-free version called Un-Petroleum Jelly, which looks and works just as well as Vaseline-type ointments.

  • Try a DIY sugar scrub. There are tons of recipes on Pinterest, but my favorite is this simple and natural one: Add a small pinch of brown (or white) sugar in a little bowl, drizzle some honey, drizzle some olive oil, and voilà—a non-toxic, sweet tasting, inexpensive lip scrub!

Natural lip scrubs work great!


Wearing any type of lip moisturizer will help prevent the lip stain/ring. When lips are dry, the dead skin will absorb any staining substance. Ladies, a long-wearing lipstick with a clear gloss helps. Classic ChapStick or Burt’s Bees type balms work well too.

Lipstick Tip: Try to sip from the same spot on your wine glass to avoid having a smudgy lipstick mess all around the rim of your glass.

Keep those lips moisturized people! No one likes cracked, dry lips! *Except red wine…

To brush or not to brush your teeth before wine? 

For me, brushing right before drinking wine makes everything taste off. So, it’s a definite no. However, if you are one of those (you know who you are) who tend to skimp on your oral hygiene, you should at least brush with plain water before consuming the fermented grape juice in public. If you’ve ever noticed someone’s teeth looking quite purple and stained after drinking red wine, it’s not because of the wine. The fuzzy plaque (biofilm) attached to the teeth can also absorb pigment, just like flaky skin on dry lips.

Canker Sore Tip: If you tend to get canker sores inside your mouth (flat, white, painful lesions) try Sensodyne, ProNamel, Tom’s of Maine, or any SLS-free toothpaste for a month and see if it helps. It more than likely will. Also make zinc & L-Lysine part of your daily supplement routine.

Other random and perhaps useful tips

Need a good dentist in Arizona? If by chance you’re living in Arizona, or travel there for golf or relentless sunshine once a year and are in need of a good, honest dentist, you must see Dr. Dana Weinreich. Dr. Dana is awesome and his hygienist, Yalda, is a friend of mine and is wonderful!

Odd bump or color in your mouth? If you notice any unusual lesion, bump, or odd discoloration in your mouth, and it’s not gone within two weeks (Two Week Rule!), make a dental appointment and don’t put it off!

Water always helps! While drinking/tasting wine, keep water or sparkling water handy. Swishing and drinking water in between glasses or sips of wine is not only good for you, but good for your teeth.

In conclusion, keep enjoying your wine, wine friends. And if you see anyone with wine lips, be nice and tell them… just not in front of everybody while pointing and laughing.

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I write about wine as well as the unique stories behind each label. I'm a R.D.H. with an applied science degree in dental hygiene, and have been geeking out about wine for over 20 years. Before obtaining a Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) certification, I learned about wine just by trying different styles and regions. I've also worked with a local distributor in wine sales. Wine brings people together and makes the world a smaller, friendlier place... Cheers!

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