Lip Enhancement in the Office
Lip enhancement usually focuses on augmenting the lips. As such, I have already presented options you can try at home without ever visiting a facial plastic surgeon. However, these “over the counter” choices have limits. They require constant, repeated application so that their ingredients can irritate the lips and make them swell. The addition of lip liner and lipstick will aid in visual enhancement of lips. However, the inherent limitations of these methods (short acting, very temporary, not always effective for every pair of lips) leave many wanting more. Therefore, I’ll describe safe, simple, in-office procedures that can produce amazing results.
Many of my patients who see me for lip enhancement are primarily focused on their upper lips. As we age, the effects of thinning, flattening, and loss of border definition are particularly noticable on the upper lip, which is curved in a so-called “Cupid’s Bow.” The vertical wrinkles that can form, especially in those who smoke, also contribute to sad, tired, and old appearance.
Therefore, the principal goal of lip enhancement is to refresh the lips by providing excellent definition and appropriate, proportionate fullness. This, in turn, means that both the upper and lower lip must be treated together so as to provide a vibrant, natural look. Our eyes and minds are hard-wired to notice assymmetries and disproportionate objects in the face, and therefore lip enhancement, except in very specific circumstances, is a subtle, nuanced art.
In my office, I most commonly use Juvederm or Restylane, both hyaluronic acid dermal fillers, for lip enhancement. Hyalurnoic acid itself occurs naturally in the face, and forms a framework on which your body can build collagen. Each patient is unique, and I consider a number of factors before embarking on a planned lip enhancement session. These always include the patient’s concerns, age, gender, cultural and ethnic ideals of beauty, facial proportions, skin tone, presence of lines and wrinkles affecting the appearance of the lips, and local anatomy. I have found that 25 year olds have very different wants and needs than 45 year olds, who in turn are different from 65 year olds. In fact, every decade is different. Because of these differences, I approach each set of lips differently. However, certain basic principles exist.
The goal of lip liner is to outline the lips, making them more prominent and more three dimensional (plumper). Lipstick and lip gloss also enhance the importance of the lips, providing a healthier, more youthful appearance. Therefore, my first goal is often to augment what is called the “white roll” of the lip. This is the border to the lips, and doing so not only gives them a fuller, more attractive appearance, providing definition to the “Cupid’s bow” mentioned earlier, but can also break up any fine vertical creases that form in the skin and extend into the red lip, providing a more vibrant, less aged look.
Volume in the red lip can be provided as well for enhancement, and I always remind my patients that the upper lip is usually proportionately smaller than the lower lip. This means that both must be enhanced together (though not always to the same extent) in order to promote an attractive result.
I often provide some numbing medication before injecting fillers, depending on patient preference and medical necessity. The procedure itself takes just a few minutes, though the office visit may take a half hour or so. I recommend that patients use the cold gel packs I provide them on their lips as much as possible to reduce any swelling or bruising that may occur.
I have found that most patients rarely bruise, but that mild swelling always occurs and reaches its maximum two days after injection. Some patients love this, and even plan their injections around specific social events! Even so, many of my patients visit during their lunch hour and return to work immediately afterwards without incident.
Hyaluronic acid injections in the lips can be expected to last between six to twelve months. Liquid silicone, which is FDA-approved for injections in the eye only, can also be used in some circumstances to provide permanent augmentation. Multiple treatments are usually required. Speak with your doctor carefully about the risks and benefits of any lip enhancement procedure.
Overall, lip enhancement with fillers is a safe, effective way to plump up your lips.