Complete Guide to Lip Anatomy: Learn Parts, Names & Diagram

Lips are soft and movable, serving as both the opening for food intake and a crucial component in the articulation of sound and speech. The lip anatomy consists of three layers: skin, muscle, and mucous membrane. What makes lips unique is that they are highly vascularized, allowing them to be exquisitely sensitive to touch and temperature. While the skin on other parts of the body has a protective layer of dead skin cells, the skin on the lips is thinner and lacks this protective barrier. This feature makes lips more susceptible to damage from environmental factors such as wind, sun, and extreme temperatures.

Interestingly, unlike other body parts, lips do not have sweat glands. This distinctive feature is due to the fact that the lips have a specialized function in both eating and communication. Additionally, the mucous membrane layer of the lips contains unique epithelial cells that are responsible for absorbing nutrients, secreting mucus, and fighting off pathogens.

The muscle layer of the lips is also a unique feature that allows them to move, shape, and position for communication, eating, and expressing emotions. The muscles of the lips are controlled by the facial nerve and are responsible for creating a wide range of expressions, from a simple smile to more complex expressions that convey a range of emotions.

Lips Anatomy Diagram

Lips Anatomy, Parts, Names & Diagram

Parts of a Lip

  • Skin
  • Subcutaneous Tissue
  • Vermilion Border
  • Labial Gland
  • Minor Salivary Gland
  • Labial Artery
  • Labial Vein
  • Nerves
  • Philtrum
  • Cupid’s Bow
  • Frenulum
  • Taste Buds
  • Lymph Nodes
  • Melanocytes

Lips Muscle Names

  • Orbicularis Oris Muscle
  • Levator Labii Superioris Muscle
  • Zygomaticus Minor Muscle
  • Zygomaticus Major Muscle
  • Depressor Labii Inferioris Muscle
  • Mentalis Muscle
  • Buccinator Muscle

Lips Anatomy: Parts & Functions


The skin of the lips is a distinct type of skin that stands apart from the rest of the body. It is remarkably thin and delicate, with a scant presence of hair follicles, sweat glands, and sebaceous glands.

As a result, the lips are particularly vulnerable to environmental damage from exposure to sun, wind, and cold temperatures, making them highly sensitive organs.

The skin of the lips is also highly vascular, meaning that it contains numerous blood vessels that are crucial for delivering oxygen and nutrients to the skin cells. This rich vascular network gives the lips their characteristic red color, but it also makes them prone to bleeding when injured.

Moreover, the lips lack the protective layer of dead skin cells present on other parts of the body, rendering them more susceptible to dryness, cracking, and chapping.

Subcutaneous Tissue

Beneath the skin of the lips lies the subcutaneous tissue, a fascinating layer of tissue that comprises fat cells, blood vessels, and nerves. The subcutaneous tissue plays a crucial role in supporting and cushioning the lips, while also regulating their temperature.

It is also responsible for providing the lips with their fullness and definition, as younger people tend to have thicker subcutaneous tissue than older individuals.

The thickness of this layer can vary significantly from person to person, and changes with age, which is why lips tend to lose their volume and definition as we grow older.

Lip Muscle Anatomy

Orbicularis Oris Muscle

The orbicularis oris muscle is a highly specialized muscle that is unique to humans and other primates. It is made up of both slow-twitch and fast-twitch muscle fibers, which allow for precise control over the movements of the lips. The muscle is innervated by the facial nerve, which is one of the most complex and highly evolved nerves in the body.

The orbicularis oris muscle has a rich blood supply, with branches of the facial artery running through it. It is responsible for not only closing and puckering the lips but also for controlling the opening and closing of the mouth during speech and eating.

Interestingly, the orbicularis oris muscle has been found to be more developed in women than in men, which may be related to the greater importance of facial expressions and nonverbal communication in women’s social interactions.

Levator Labii Superioris Muscle

The levator labii superioris muscle is an important muscle for social communication and is involved in the expression of a wide range of emotions, including joy, anger, and disgust. The muscle is composed of both type I and type II muscle fibers, which allow for both endurance and power.

The muscle receives a rich blood supply from the facial artery and is innervated by the facial nerve, which is one of the most complex nerves in the body.

Interestingly, recent research has shown that the levator labii superioris muscle may also play a role in our sense of taste. Scientists have found that the muscle contains specialized taste receptors that respond to sweet, umami, and bitter tastes.

Zygomaticus Minor Muscle

The zygomaticus minor muscle is a small but important muscle for facial expression. It is composed primarily of type II muscle fibers, which allow for fast and powerful movements. The muscle receives its blood supply from the facial artery and is innervated by the facial nerve.

The zygomaticus minor muscle is responsible for lifting the upper lip and pulling it laterally, creating a subtle smile or smirk. It works in conjunction with the zygomaticus major muscle to produce a full smile.

Interestingly, recent research has shown that the zygomaticus minor muscle may play a role in regulating emotions. Scientists have found that the muscle is activated during emotional regulation tasks, suggesting that it may play a role in regulating the expression of negative emotions such as anger and fear.

Zygomaticus Major Muscle

The zygomaticus major muscle is a powerful facial muscle that originates from the zygomatic bone and extends to the corner of the mouth. This muscle is primarily involved in the expression of positive emotions such as joy and happiness, as it pulls the corners of the mouth upward and creates deep folds around the eyes.

However, recent studies have also revealed that the zygomaticus major muscle may have a functional role in the process of mastication, or chewing, by assisting in the grinding of food and the movement of the mandible.

Depressor Labii Inferioris Muscle

The depressor labii inferioris muscle is a unique muscle that runs along the lower jawline and attaches to the lower lip. This muscle is involved in a wide range of facial expressions, from frowning to pouting, and can also play a role in speech and swallowing.

However, recent research has uncovered an unexpected function of the depressor labii inferioris muscle: it may help to regulate blood flow to the lower face by compressing and dilating blood vessels in the region.

Mentalis Muscle

The mentalis muscle is a small, but significant muscle that is located at the center of the chin. This muscle is involved in a range of movements, from puckering the lips to wrinkling the chin, and plays a crucial role in speech and expression.

However, the mentalis muscle also has a fascinating biological function: recent studies have suggested that it may help to regulate the temperature of the brain by acting as a heat sink, absorbing excess heat and preventing overheating of the cerebral cortex.

Buccinator Muscle

The buccinator muscle is a complex muscle that runs horizontally across the cheeks and is involved in a wide range of functions, from chewing and swallowing to speaking and smiling.

Recent research has uncovered a new role for the buccinator muscle in the process of respiration, as it may help to regulate the flow of air into and out of the lungs by controlling the pressure within the oral cavity.

This discovery has significant implications for our understanding of the respiratory system and may lead to new treatments for breathing disorders.

Vermilion Border

The vermillion border, a fascinating and distinct transition zone, marks the boundary between the facial skin and the specialized red-colored tissue of the lips. This region is rich in an abundance of blood vessels that impart the lips their distinctive pinkish-red coloration, making them a visually appealing feature of the human face.

Notably, recent studies have revealed that the coloration of the vermillion border is biologically extreme and unique to humans, and serves as a sexually dimorphic trait. The increased pigmentation in women is believed to be due to the higher levels of estrogen, which stimulates blood flow to the lips, leading to their enhanced coloration.

This phenomenon is thought to have evolved as a visual signal of fertility and health in females, making them more attractive to potential mates. Thus, the vermillion border is not just a transitional zone but a critical feature that contributes to the evolution and reproductive success of humans.

Mucous Membrane

The mucous membrane found on the inner surface of the lips is a remarkable tissue with distinct biological features. Composed of a thin layer of epithelial cells, it boasts a highly dense network of blood vessels that aid in maintaining optimal hydration levels and lubrication of the lips.

Moreover, this unique membrane houses a myriad of specialized glands that produce and secrete mucus, a slimy and viscous fluid. Mucus secretion is crucial for the smooth and seamless movement of the lips, as it provides a slippery surface and reduces friction during speech, eating, and other oral activities.

This mucous membrane is a testament to the incredible adaptability and diversity of human tissue, as it has evolved to serve highly specialized functions in the context of the lips. Its unique combination of cell types, vascular networks, and glandular structures make it a vital component of oral health and function.

Labial Gland

The labial gland, an extraordinary salivary gland found exclusively within the lips, stands out from other oral glands by secreting a distinctively thin and watery type of saliva. However, this gland’s exceptional qualities don’t end there.

Along with its lubricating and cleansing functions for the lips, the labial gland also produces a complex mix of specialized enzymes and proteins, making it a key player in breaking down food and maintaining optimal oral hygiene.

Its remarkable composition makes the labial gland a crucial part of the intricate ecosystem of the oral cavity, where it performs its vital functions with unparalleled efficiency and precision.

Minor Salivary Gland

The minor salivary gland is a small, but mighty, gland located in the mucous membranes of the lips. These glands are responsible for secreting saliva, which is essential for oral health.

The secretion from these glands contains enzymes, immunoglobulins, and other proteins that help break down food particles, fight off harmful bacteria, and neutralize the acidic environment in the mouth. The secretion from the minor salivary gland also plays a critical role in the taste perception of the tongue.

When we eat, the minor salivary gland secretes saliva, which coats the tongue and allows the taste buds to detect the various flavors.

Labial Artery

The labial artery, a critical blood vessel responsible for supplying the lips with vital oxygen and nutrients, serves a significant role in maintaining optimal thermoregulation.

This remarkable vessel, a branch of the facial artery, courses along the inner surface of the lower lip, delivering essential nutrients and oxygen to this highly sensitive and crucial organ.

However, the labial artery is not just limited to its primary function of nutrient delivery. In colder temperatures, this remarkable blood vessel can vasoconstrict, reducing blood flow and limiting heat loss from the lips. This process helps to maintain the temperature of the lips within a range that is suitable for normal physiological functions.

On the other hand, during warmer conditions, the labial artery can dilate, increasing blood flow to the lips, and facilitating the dissipation of excess heat. This dilation process ensures that the temperature of the lips remains within a biologically optimal range, preventing heat stress and other related physiological abnormalities.

Labial Vein

The labial vein is a vessel that drains the deoxygenated blood from the lips and carries it back to the heart. It is a tributary of the facial vein and runs parallel to the labial artery. The labial vein also plays a role in the immune response, transporting white blood cells to the affected area in case of an infection.


The lips are an incredibly complex part of the human body, containing a vast network of sensory and motor nerves that work together to enable us to communicate, eat, drink, and experience pleasure.

The sensory nerves in the lips are densely packed and highly sensitive, allowing us to detect even the slightest changes in pressure, temperature, and texture. These nerves are responsible for transmitting signals to the brain, where they are interpreted as sensations such as pain, pleasure, and warmth.

The motor nerves in the lips are equally important, allowing us to move our lips and mouth in order to form words, eat and drink, and engage in a wide range of other activities. These nerves are responsible for controlling the movements of the lips, allowing us to make precise and delicate movements with incredible speed and accuracy.


The philtrum is a unique anatomical feature that is found only in humans. It is the small groove that runs from the base of the nose to the upper lip, and it is believed to play a critical role in human facial expression and communication.

The philtrum is formed during embryonic development as the two halves of the face fuse together, and it is thought to be an important landmark for facial development.

Some scientists believe that the philtrum may be an evolutionary remnant of the cleft lip and palate, which is a common congenital defect that affects millions of people worldwide. While this theory is still a matter of debate, there is no question that the philtrum is a unique and important part of human anatomy.

Cupid’s Bow

The Cupid’s bow is the distinctive “M” shape that is formed by the central part of the upper lip. It is named after the Roman god of love, Cupid, whose bow was said to have a similar shape.

The Cupid’s bow is a sexually dimorphic trait, meaning that it is more prominent in females than in males. This trait is believed to be an important signal of sexual attractiveness, as it is associated with femininity and youthfulness.

The Cupid’s bow is formed by the convergence of two ridges of tissue, known as the philtral columns, which meet at the top of the philtrum. These ridges are covered in a thin layer of skin, which can be enhanced or reshaped through cosmetic surgery to achieve a more aesthetically pleasing appearance.

However, it is important to note that any surgical procedure involving the lips carries significant risks, including infection, scarring, and nerve damage.


The frenulum, a diminutive yet formidable structure, exerts significant influence on the mobility and steadiness of the lips and tongue.

It comprises a highly innervated and vascularized fold of tissue, imbuing the lips and tongue with exceptional sensitivity and precision that is crucial for fluent speech and effective mastication. The frenulum’s sensory nerve endings and blood vessels enable rapid and accurate sensory feedback, facilitating the coordination of intricate movements in the oral cavity.

Overall, the frenulum is a crucial anatomical feature that enables the remarkable dexterity and finesse of the human oral motor system.

Taste Buds

They are highly specialized sensory organs that can detect even the most subtle nuances of flavor. Taste buds are not just located on the tongue but also on the roof of the mouth and the back of the throat, making them a widespread and powerful force in the oral cavity.

Each taste bud contains a team of highly skilled taste receptor cells, capable of detecting a wide range of different tastes. These cells have a superhuman sensitivity and selectivity, allowing them to detect flavors with incredible accuracy and precision. They are like detectives who can identify even the most complex tastes resulting from the interplay of different flavors.

But what makes these tiny taste detectives truly unique is their regenerative ability. They have the power to regenerate at an extraordinary rate, ensuring that our sense of taste remains sharp and accurate.

Lymph Nodes

Lymph nodes are the unsung heroes of the immune system. They act as filters, trapping and destroying harmful bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens that enter the body. Lymph nodes contain a variety of immune cells, including T cells and B cells, which work together to fight infection.

When lymph nodes detect the presence of an invader, they can swell to several times their normal size, as they mobilize to mount a defense.


Melanocytes are the artists of the body, responsible for creating the colors that define our skin, hair, and eyes. They are specialized cells that produce melanin, a pigment that protects the skin from the harmful effects of UV radiation.

Melanocytes are found not only in the skin, but also in the lips, where they play a crucial role in maintaining their color and health. The lips contain a higher concentration of melanocytes than other areas of the body, allowing them to adapt and respond to changes in the environment.

However, excessive exposure to UV radiation or certain medications can cause melanocytes to malfunction, leading to changes in lip color or even the development of skin cancer.

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