Lip augmentation is a process that involves using injectable or implantable materials to add volume or shape your lips, helping to enhance their appearance. Just as each person’s lips are different, so are the materials and techniques that can be used to fill and shape the lips. Your plastic surgeon will evaluate these approaches and discuss your best options for cosmetic enhancement.
The Lip Augmentation Consultation
A consultation is a way for a plastic surgeon to evaluate your medical history and skin health to determine if lip augmentation is the right procedure for you. The consultation also is a time when you can discuss your goals. These can include:
- Enhancing overall fullness in your upper, lower or both lips
- Reducing wrinkling around the lips due to a loss of lip volume over time
- Slightly altering the shape of your lips, such as increasing the volume at the top or “bow” of your lips
A good place to start is showing your physician pictures of how your lips used to look if you are hoping to rejuvenate them or looking at pictures of lip augmentation procedures your surgeon has performed for previous patients. Having this conversation can help your surgeon understand your goals for the procedure and the type of look you are hoping to achieve.
“Cosmetic surgery is 90 percent art and 10 percent surgery — it’s art, like sculpting,” says Dominic Brandy, MD, a board-certified cosmetic surgeon and founder of The Skin Center medical spa in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. “That’s why it’s important to see before and after photos so you can get a feel for the artistic judgment of the physician.”
Lip Augmentation and Fillers
A common lip augmentation technique is using injectable fillers. These are smooth materials made that can be injected into the lip to create a look of fullness. The same fillers your physician may use to reduce the appearance of lines on other parts of your face also are commonly used in the lip area for lip augmentation.
Some common fillers include:
- Artefill, a synthetic filler made from cow collagen and microbeads of a polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA). Because it is synthetic and from cows, it has an increased risk for allergic reactions, but also lasts longer than other lip augmentation fillers.
- Autologen, which is your own body’s collagen. Once it is extracted from your tissues, the collagen is sent to a lab for processing into a more injectable form. The risks for an allergic reaction are minimal because this filler comes from you, but this also means that the collagen will be reabsorbed by the body within about six months.
- Zyderm and Zyplast, a bovine collagen, or collagen extracted from cows. This form is temporary, lasting only a matter of weeks, so it is useful as a way to test looks before undergoing a more permanent lip augmentation procedure. It does carry a higher risk for allergic reaction because it comes from cows, so most surgeons will recommend a test dose or allergy test to be sure you will not have any adverse reactions.
- Dermalogen, a form of collagen taken from human donors. This carries similar benefits and drawbacks to using your body’s own collagen, including minimal allergic reaction risk but likely reabsorption by the body.
- Restylane, Perlane and Juvaderm, fillers made from a sugar found in the human body called hyaluronic acid. This clear gel is used for many other dermal filler procedures and has a smooth consistency for more natural-looking lips. Injections typically last about six months.
Lip Augmentation Fillers: Two Common Approaches
If you do choose fillers as your lip augmentation method of choice, there are two approaches commonly taken for points of injection. The first is to inject at the area where the skin under your nose meets the top of your lip. This approach is frequently used for filling and shaping the upper lip. Because the needles utilized are very fine, you should not experience significant scarring or a noticeable area where the needle entered your skin after a few days.
Another area where injections are commonly placed is the area of your lips where the wet, inner portion meets the dry, outer portion. Your physician may use this approach when filling both lips.
Surgical Lip Augmentation Techniques
Because fillers do not offer a long-lasting solution to lip augmentation, you may choose to undergo a more invasive surgical procedure such as a lip implant to add permanent fullness to your lips. When more invasive lip augmentation is the approach of choice, your physician will determine where incisions can be made that are the least noticeable. For example, a physician can make incisions on the inner portion of the lips.
Because so many approaches, materials and techniques are available to you, the best place to start is your physician’s office for a consultation where you can evaluate your treatment goals and find the approach that works best for you, your desired appearance and recovery time.