The lips frame the mouth and are a major focal point for the lower face. They are an important aesthetic component of the face. The main lip concerns that we come across are generally related to having thin lips, asymmetry and poor definition.
The lips are an important part of the face and have a vital functional as well as aesthetic role. As the centrepieces of the face, our lips captivate attention, express emotions and can even signify health and vitality. As such, the demand for lip enhancement has been steadily increasing. This has accelerated a range of treatments all promising to enhance the shape, size and definition of the lips. However as with anything related to beauty, there is never a one-size-fits all solution. To get the best results, it is important to understand the structure and function of the lips and respect your unique facial structure. When considering any type of treatment, you must have clear and reasonable goals. We explore the possible options for lip enhancement, their benefits, risks and limitations.
What Affects the Appearance of Your Lips?
Most people are simply born with thinner, asymmetric or less defined lips. So the shape and size of your lips is a genetic trait. There are however some environmental factors which can cause thinning of the lips or loss of definition. The two biggest causes are ageing and smoking. Other things that can affect the look of your lips include illness, trauma, certain medications and hormonal changes. Understanding the root causes behind these changes or inherent features can help you make informed decisions about potential treatments or simply come to appreciate the natural process of ageing and genetics. Below are some of the main factors that affect your lip size, shape and volume.
Just as we inherit the colour of our eyes and hair, the size and shape of our lips are largely determined by genetics. If your parents or grandparents have thin lips, it’s likely that you might too. The same is true for the shape of your lips. Additionally, genetic syndromes that affect the face may also directly or indirectly impact the appearance of the lips.
Health Conditions & Medications
Our lips, like other parts of our body, can be influenced by our overall health and well-being. Conditions like cleft lip or palate are an obvious example of this. In these diseases, the lips fail to develop properly and children born with them require surgery to address this. Depending on how severe it was, they may have lip asymmetry and a visible scar after treatment. Additionally, connective tissue diseases can also affect the shape and size of your lips. As can strokes or facial palsies which usually cause lip asymmetry if they affect the face. Lastly, trauma from surgery, injuries or burns can also obviously affect lip shape.
Medications such as blood pressure drugs can cause facial and lip swelling. Steroids, on the other hand can cause skin thinning or shrinking which can affect the size and definition of the lips. In the case of medications, this is usually a side effect of excessive or improper use.
As we age, the body’s production of collagen and elastin decreases. These two proteins are responsible for the skin’s elasticity and volume. This reduction leads to a loss of volume and firmness in various parts of the face, including the lips. Over time, the lips become thinner and lose their natural definition. Ageing can also cause wrinkles including around the mouth area. These vertical lip lines further reduce the definition of the lips and are often called “smokers’ lines”.
Beyond its well-documented health risks, smoking has several adverse effects on the skin. The repetitive motion of pursing the lips when smoking, combined with the toxins in cigarettes, can speed up the breakdown of collagen. Like with skin ageing, this results in thinner lips and the formation of fine vertical lines around the lip border.
Chronic exposure to the sun’s harmful UV rays can lead to collagen breakdown. This causes skin ageing and reduces the fullness and definition of lips.
Fluctuations in hormones, especially during menopause, can impact skin hydration, volume and elasticity. This can lead to changes in the shape and size of the lips.
Why People Consider Lip Enhancement
There are a number of reasons for why some people consider lip enhancement. Obviously the main reason is dissatisfaction with the look of their existing lips. This might be something that has been going on for a long time in the case of inherited thin or asymmetric lips or more recent in the case of illness, trauma or ageing. There is also pressure to have an ideal lip shape due to beauty trends and social media. This distinction is important in figuring out which, if any, treatment is best. Below are the broad reasons why people usually look to enhance their lips:
- Thin or small sized lips
- Reduced volume or plumpness
- Lack of definition
- Gummy smile
- Wrinkles on the lips or smokers’ lines
- Unhappy with lip shape
What is Lip Enhancement?
Lip enhancement, often referred to as lip augmentation, is a cosmetic procedure. It aims to enhance the size, shape, definition and overall appearance of the lips. This should be a highly bespoke procedure to address your concerns and respect your overall facial structure. Whether you are seeking a fuller pout, a more defined Cupid’s bow, correction of asymmetry or a combination of changes, lip enhancement can help. There are a number of treatment options depending on your needs and goals. However, no two lips are the same and results vary from person to person. It is also important to be aware of the risks and limitations of each treatment option to avoid disappointment. Below we discuss the options for lip enhancement.
Treatment Options for Lip Enhancement
The lips frame the mouth and are a major focal point for the lower face. As you will have realised by now, the appearance of our lips is a complex interplay of genetics, lifestyle choices, environmental factors and natural ageing. Understanding these causes, your specific concerns and goals is key to getting good results.
Hyaluronic acid dermal fillers are highly effective if you wish to better define lips, reshape lips or increase lip fullness. They can also be used to correct lip asymmetry and any deep marionette lines below the lips. These fillers are temporary and can be dissolved if required. The results are immediate but you will need to wait for 2-4 weeks for any swelling to reside in order to see the final results. If done by a qualified practitioner, this is a safe and effective treatment. However, as with any medical treatment there are risks including allergy, infection, lumps, swelling, bruising and asymmetry. Whilst rare, there is also an important risk of the filler compressing a blood vessel called vascular occlusion. If not identified and treated immediately this can lead to tissue necrosis and permanent scarring.
This treatment is a combination of Botox and low viscosity hyaluronic acid dermal fillers. It is designed to smooth out lines around the mouth and restores lip structure. It is a subtle procedure that creates a well-defined lip margin and a gentle enhancement of the lips.
Injectable Skin Boosters
Treatments like Volite hyaluronic acid dermal skin boosters can help improve lip hydration and gently restore structure without significant change in lip volume. This is a good treatment if your main concern is lip wrinkles or thinning but don’t want to change your lips too much. This is a temporary treatment that can be reversed. If done correctly, it is safe and effective. There are however the same risks and downsides of dermal fillers discussed above.
For those seeking a more permanent solution, lip implants may be an option. These are made of biocompatible materials like silicon. They are surgically inserted into the lips to help enhance the shape and size of the lips. The downside is that this is a surgical procedure and hence carries obvious risks like scars, infection, bruises and scars. To complicate matters, as these are foreign body implants there is a risk of them being rejected and extruded. Moreover, permanent implants may need removal if they leak, get old or you simple don’t like the appearance of them as your face ages.
Surgical Lip Lift
This is a surgical procedure that shortens the space between the nose and the top of the lip. This also increases the amount of visible pink lip and better defines the vermilion border. It is done to accentuate the lips and give them a more elevated appearance. This procedure is great for people with a long philtrum, thin upper lip that curls inwards or flat or ill-defined cupid’s bow. It provides long term results but as it is a surgical procedure and hence carries some of the risks discussed above with implants.
Adipose grafting or far transfer, involves taking fat from another part of the body and injecting it into the lips. This is a great procedure to shape and plump up the lips if you want a long lasting result and are not keen on foreign body implants. It is however a surgical procedure that carries all the general risks of surgery discussed earlier. Moreover, fat grafting involves two procedures (the removal of fat from one part of the body and transfer to another). this means that there are two surgical sites that need to heal. Also, its not possible to predict the final outcome as not all the fat might survive. Also, the fat tissue that is transferred behaves like fat anywhere else in your body. Hence it will increase or shrink if your weight fluctuates.
Last but not least on our list is lip tattooing. This semi-permanent makeup technique can be used to enhance the colour and define the outline of the lips. If done correctly it can make the lips look more shapely if you are not keen on more invasive measures. However it requires a skilled technician.
Whilst there are a lot of options for lip enhancement, it doesn’t mean that all or any are appropriate for you. First of all, there is nothing wrong with having thin lips or lack of lip definition. In fact, many people have a face structure which is better suited to this. If you do want to enhance your lips, it is extremely important to ensure that you consult with a qualified and experienced professional. They will advise you which options, if any, are best to address your skin concerns and goals. They will also ensure that any treatment is designed to suit your general face shape and appearance.