Also known as lip injections and lip augmentation
Having full, plump lips is often considered a sign of good health, beauty and youth. Whether you were born with thin lips or your lips are thinning due to the natural aging process, there are many ways to enhance them. Lip injections using natural or synthetic fillers can keep your lips plump for months at a time. Lip implants and other surgical procedures can also be performed for a more permanent solution. Other options include lip lifts, vermillion (lip) advancement and permanent makeup. Every year, thousands of people undergo successful lip enhancement and are pleased with the results.
When to Consider Lip Enhancement
- Your lips have always been thin and disappear when you smile
- As you age, your lips have become thinner and less full
- You feel self-conscious about how your lips look
- Having fuller lips will help balance out your face
- Some lip injections are temporary and can be modified to your preference
- Implants and surgical enhancement provide a permanent solution
- Quick one-day recovery for injections and a week for most lip surgery
- Temporary fillers will require injections every few months
- Lip asymmetry is a possibility
- Removal of implants is difficult
These are the top three pros and cons to weigh when considering lip enhancement. If you want to focus on what is unique to you, please consult with your aesthetic plastic surgeon.
Are you a good candidate for a lip enhancement?
The following are some common reasons why you may want to consider lip enhancement:
- Good candidates for lip enhancement want to plump up thin lips or create a fuller look. If you smile and your top lip or both lips disappear, you may benefit from lip augmentation.
- Some techniques can improve uneven lips, the shape of your mouth and gum-show when you smile.
- On the other hand, if your lips are too large and overwhelm your face, speak to your plastic surgeon about lip reduction surgery.
If you are in good general health, have a positive attitude and realistic expectations, you are most likely a good candidate for this procedure.
- Thin, poorly defined lips may be hereditary or the results of aging.
- After lip enhancement, your lips will be fuller and have a better contour.
How is a lip enhancement procedure performed?
There are many methods for lip enhancement. Your surgeon will offer you options depending on your aesthetic goals and recovery time frame. It might be appropriate to have two or more of these procedures to achieve the right look for you.
Injections – fat transfer
In fat transfer, autologous fat (fat from your own body) can be taken via liposuction from another area of your body and injected into your lips. Injections may need to be repeated until you get the desired result.
Injections – fillers
Fillers made from natural or synthetic biocompatible material acts as a fat substitute to plump up the lip. One treatment is usually sufficient to produce the desired result. The results, however, may be temporary and require repeat injections.
Surgery – dermal graft
A permanent method of augmenting the lips is accomplished by surgically advancing the lip forward, with incisions placed inside the mouth. A dermal-fat graft, taken from the deeper layers of the skin, may then be positioned under the mucosa (the lining of the lip) to add additional plumpness.
Surgery – vermillion advancement
This procedure involves making an incision along the border of the colored portion of the lips, removing a strip of skin outside the border and then pulling the colored portion to increase the area of the lips.
Surgery – lip implant
Lip implants can be inserted through tiny incisions inside the corners of the mouth. There are many natural or synthetic implant options available. Your surgeon will discuss which option is best for you.
Surgery – lip lift
Removing extra skin and lifting the lips will help those with loose skin or those who have a downward sloping mouth. To increase the upper lip, an incision is made under the nose and the skin is shortened to pull up the lips. Other lift techniques can shorten the upper lip to expose more teeth. To lift a downward turning mouth, small incisions are made on the side of the mouth and the extra skin is removed. Very small sutures are used for this procedure and removed four to five days later.
What are my options?
There are many different options to enlarge or enhance the size and shape of your lips: fat injections, filler injections, dermal grafting, vermillion advancement, lip implants and lip lifting. Injections, grafting, and implants can physically change the plumpness and volume of your lips, while lip lifts and vermillion advancement can change the shape and increase the amount of colored area of your lips.
Also, many have found that permanent makeup can also help accentuate the lips and increase their visibility without having surgery or applying makeup every day.
Silicone injections – patient safety warning
Silicone injections are an unsafe and unacceptable option to use as a filler. These injections are not FDA approved and often offered by unlicensed individuals and should be avoided. Always consult with a board-certified plastic surgeon, preferably an ASAPS Member, if you have questions about a particular type or brand.
Select a surgeon you can trust
It’s important to choose your surgeon based on:
- Education, training, and certification
- Experience with lip enhancement
- Your comfort level with him or her
After finding a board-certified plastic surgeon in your area who is experienced in performing lip enhancement, you will need to make an office appointment to set up your consultation. Generally, because of the in-depth nature of the consultation, there is a cost associated with the initial visit.
Your initial consultation appointment
During your initial consultation, you will have the opportunity to discuss what you want to achieve. Your surgeon will evaluate you for lip enhancement. Once the surgeon understands your goals, he or she may suggest additional or related procedures. It is important to be completely honest during the consultation. It’s a good idea to be fully prepared to answer these questions:
- Do you have any medical conditions or drug allergies? Are you being treated for any medical conditions?
- Have you had any previous surgeries?
- What are your current medications and vitamin and herbal supplements?
- What is your current use of alcohol, tobacco and recreational drugs?
- What is your history with any noninvasive cosmetic procedures?
- What outcome do you expect from the surgery? What is your chief motivation in undergoing it?
Your surgeon may also:
- Ask you to look in a mirror and point out exactly what you would like to see improved.
- Take pictures for your medical record, measure your face and use computer imaging to show you improvements you can expect
- Evaluate your health status, including pre-existing health conditions or risk factors
- Evaluate the elasticity of your skin
- Discuss your options and recommend a course of treatment
- Discuss likely outcomes, including risks or potential complications
- Discuss the type of anesthesia that will be used
Your treatment plan
Based on your goals, physical characteristics and the surgeon’s years of training and experience, your surgeon will share recommendations and information with you, including:
- An approach to your procedure, including the type of procedure or combination of procedures
- The outcomes that you can anticipate
- Your financial investment for the procedure
- Associated risks and complications
- Options for anesthesia and surgery location
- What is needed to prepare for the surgery
- What you can expect to experience after surgery
- The doctor will also share before and after photos of cases similar to yours and answer any questions, so you can make the most informed and intelligent decision.
Questions to ask your aesthetic plastic surgeon
For a general list of questions to ask your surgeon about his/her background, find out about plastic surgery safety and to plan your procedure. We developed these questions to help you:
- Make the most informed and intelligent decisions about your procedure
- Confirm that you have the right surgeon for your procedure
- Make your initial consultation as rewarding as possible
- Understand your options, potential outcomes, and risks
It is important for you to take an active role in your surgery, so please use this list of questions as a starting point for your initial consultation.
- Am I a good candidate for lip enhancement?
- Are the results I am seeking reasonable and realistic?
- Do you have lip enhancement before-and-after photos I can look at for this procedure?
- How many lip enhancement procedures have you performed?
- Where will you perform my lip enhancement surgery and how long will it take?
- Will my scars be visible?
- What kind of anesthesia do you recommend for me?
- What will be the costs associated with my procedure?
- What will you expect of me to get the best results?
- What kind of recovery period can I expect, and when can I resume normal activities?
- What are the risks and complications associated with my procedure?
- What are my options if the cosmetic outcome of my lip enhancement procedure does not meet the goals we agreed on?
How do I prepare for a lip enhancement procedure?
Preparation for lip enhancement will depend on what kind of procedure you and your aesthetic plastic surgeon have agreed upon. Your surgeon will provide thorough preoperative instructions, answer any questions you may have, take a detailed medical history and perform a physical exam to determine your fitness for surgery.
In advance of your procedure, your surgeon will ask you to:
- Stop smoking at least six weeks before undergoing surgery to promote better healing
- Avoid taking aspirin, certain anti-inflammatory drugs, and some herbal medications that can cause increased bleeding
- Regardless of the type of surgery to be performed, hydration is very important before and after surgery for safe recovery
Lip enhancement is usually performed on an outpatient basis. If you are having a surgical procedure, be sure to arrange for someone to drive you home after surgery and to stay with you at least the first night following surgery.
What can I expect on the day of lip enhancement treatment?
Injections with fillers and permanent makeup can be performed in the office with little to no downtime and minimal preparation. The surgeon or specialist will prep the area to be treated and may apply numbing cream. The procedure should take less than an hour in most cases, and you will be given instructions to follow once you leave the office.
Fat, collagen and other natural or synthetic materials may be injected safely into your lips to add volume.
Surgical lip enhancement
Your lip enhancement procedure may be performed in an accredited hospital, free-standing ambulatory facility or office-based surgical suite. Most procedures take at least thirty minutes to two hours to complete.
- Medications are administered for your comfort during the surgical procedure.
- General anesthesia is commonly used during your lip enhancement procedure, although local anesthesia or intravenous sedation may be desirable in some instances.
- Your surgeon will follow the surgical plan discussed with you before surgery.
- If you are having fat transfer surgery, liposuction will be performed to remove viable fat to be injected into your lips.
- After your procedure is completed, you will be taken into a recovery area where you will continue to be closely monitored. After surgery, you may have stitches.
You will probably be permitted to go home after a short observation period unless you and your plastic surgeon have made other plans for your immediate postoperative recovery.
Aftercare and Recovery
The downtime from nonsurgical options (filler injections and permanent makeup) is minimal. You may experience some bruising or swelling which will subside with time.
Your surgeon will discuss how long it will be before you can return to your normal level of activity and work. After surgery, you and your caregiver will receive detailed instructions about your postsurgical care, including information about:
- Drains, if they have been placed
- Normal symptoms you will experience
- Potential signs of complication.
Immediately after lip enhancement (surgical)
You will experience postoperative bruising and swelling, with mild to moderate discomfort for a day or two. A cold compress can be applied to the operative site to reduce swelling, bruising and pain. You may be restricted to a liquid-only diet for one or two days. You will most likely be mobile the day of your surgery, but your activities will be restricted.
Recovery time frame
It is vitally important that you follow all patient care instructions provided by your surgeon. This will include information about wearing compression garments, care of your drains if placed, taking an antibiotic if prescribed and the level and type of activity that is safe. Your surgeon will also provide detailed instructions about the normal symptoms you will experience and any potential signs of complications. It is important to realize that the amount of time it takes for recovery varies greatly among individuals.
The first two weeks
- You should be able to return to work and other normal activities within a week.
- Stitches are removed in four to six days; sutures placed inside the mouth will dissolve in a similar period of time.
- You may be restricted to a soft diet for up to ten days.
Week two to eight
- After four to six weeks, vigorous physical activity can be resumed.
How Long Will the Results Last?
How long the results last from your lip enhancement procedure depends on the treatment chosen and your reaction to the treatment.
- Fat injections may require multiple injections but could lead to permanent lip enhancement.
- Filler injections results depend on the type of filler used. Some fillers last from three to six months, while others last almost a year.
- Dermal grafting, lip implants, lip lifting, and vermillion advancement provide essentially permanent results.
Maintain a relationship with your aesthetic plastic surgeon
For safety, as well as the most beautiful and healthy outcome, it’s important to return to your plastic surgeon’s office for follow-up evaluation at prescribed times and whenever you notice any changes in your facial implants. Do not hesitate to contact your surgeon when you have any questions or concerns.
The cost of lip enhancements varies depending on the techniques used, from doctor to doctor, and from one geographic area to another.
Because lip enhancement is an elective procedure, insurance does not cover these costs. Many surgeons offer patient financing plans to make the procedure more affordable.
Choose your surgeon based on quality, training, and experience—not cost.
Limitations and Risks
Fortunately, significant complications from lip enhancement are infrequent. This procedure is usually performed without any major problems.
Risks and potential complications of surgery is a subject you should discuss during your consultation. The risks in most surgeries are similar. Some of the potential complications of all surgeries are:
- Adverse reaction to anesthesia
- Hematoma or seroma (an accumulation of blood or fluid under the skin that may require removal)
- Changes in sensation
- Allergic reactions
- Damage to underlying structures
- Unsatisfactory results that may necessitate additional procedures.
You can help minimize certain risks by following the advice and instructions of your board-certified plastic surgeon, both before and after your lip enhancement procedure.