Appearance medicine treatments should be administered by trained professionals. Any benefits and risks should be clearly explained to you prior to any treatment. Please seek individual advice, this article is not intended to taken as medical advice.
If eyes are the windows to the soul, our lips surely are the front door. Of course, what comes out of our mouths should be where true beauty is measured.
But consider where our gaze falls as we converse with others and it’s easy to understand why our lips are an area we are keen to enhance. Once a daub of lipstick was the extent of that action, but in recent times, what’s possible – albeit often now with the prick of a needle – has changed significantly.
It’s fair if your perception of professional lip treatments is that they involve over-inflated ‘trout pout’ plumping that can be spotted a mile away. Despite the expertise available, there are still those who are willing to circumvent guidelines and nuanced application approaches for a ‘bigger is better’ result to injectable lip fillers.
It’s worth considering though, that an equal number of tweaked and smoothed, fabulous-looking lips may be among us everywhere, passing unnoticed thanks to judicious application by experts and new treatment options to gently enhance a smile.
Latest lip trends to know
Beauty trends in general come and go, but those that impact our anatomy on a whim are worth a little more consideration. Despite this, one look at social media will reveal an abundance of ‘hot-right-now’ approaches to getting your lips done. While each may have merits, they also capture our attention without necessary guidance around the limitations or advisability of the look for our own faces, or the risks.
“The main lip trends that patients are looking at are the ‘Cherry Lip’, the ‘Tented Lip’ and the ‘Lip Flip’,” says Dr Ellen Selkon, cosmetic medicine doctor at Auckland’s Clinic 42. “All three produce a natural result in the correct hands. However, not all are suitable for all lip types.”
Dr Selkon says sometimes the lip technique a patient has heard about is not suitable for their lip shape and will result in an unnatural looking result. “Lips need to be congruent with other facial features to look natural.”
Dr Selkon explains ‘Cherry Lips’ are where filler is injected into the centre portion of the lips only. “This gives a central plump like two cherries.” She says ‘Lip Tenting’ involves very small amounts injected all over vertically through the lip to
subtly increase the size and evert (or turn out) the lip.
“The thickness and firmness of the product used determines how big the lips will be,” says Dr Selkon.
A ‘Lip Flip’ does not add volume, but uses Botulinum toxin injected into the muscles just above the lip to temporarily relax them, prompting lips instead of rolling in, to subtly flip outward to provide a fuller look. “It is easy to do, but does not last as long as lip filler and the results are more subtle,” says Dr Selkon.
Despite the buzzy coverage of these approaches, Dr Selkon asserts every person should be treated with an individualised approach. Clinic 42 uses a specialised lip consultation tool to clearly understand the desires of each person and what they may have heard and then guides them through possible options and any benefits or risks.
Filler may last longer than you think
Dr Sarah Hart is a cosmetic medicine doctor, international industry speaker and trainer and also serves on the advisory board of Allergan, the makers of Botox and the Juvéderm range of dermal fillers. Known for developing her own ‘Hart
Lip’ injecting technique for a natural, individual result, she is familiar with a number of lip trends dominant on social media, like the voluminous, doll-like ‘Russian Lips’ trend.
“It uses a row of vertical threads of filler running from the centre of the lips to the outside edge,” she explains. “This gives the lips vertical height, which looks good, but can at times also cause a bulky, stiff lip border because of filler migration into the space above the lip edge.”
She says it can look impressive initially (particularly in Instagram photos soon after application) but often looks unnatural in real life, particularly when the face moves and while speaking.
“Just like those of us who plucked our brows away in the ’90s, when it comes to your face, you might regret following a trend,” says Dr Hart.
She points out not only might it not suit you, when fashion changes, the trending filler ‘look’ could be harder to correct than you thought.
“Although it’s possible to dissolve filler, it can be expensive and painful to do so,” she says of the hyaluronic acid-based injections.
“Many practitioners don’t offer this as a service, so you may struggle to find a provider who will do it. Furthermore, some patients report that after years of overfilling their lips, the tissues appear to have been stretched and don’t return to their pre- treatment state after dissolving.”
While generally expected to last a matter of months, filler can sometimes last much longer. “Recent MRI studies show it can last for years,” shares Dr Hart.
“So, if you have your lips injected every six months, filler can gradually build up without you really being aware.”
Smooth and hydrated lips
Just as hair and makeup have diverging appeals of both ‘natural’ and ‘bolder’ ideals, Dr Hart concedes that filler will follow the same pattern.
She says that her style is firmly in the ‘natural’ camp, creating a gentle enhancement of one’s lip features. It’s an ideal that is growing and there are further signs that in 2023 ‘size isn’t everything’. Restoring or adding volume has always been the primary objective of injectable dermal fillers for lips. But more conservative usage to refine, shape and hydrate lips rather than giving them more oomph is now on the up according to reports from overseas.
Dr Selkon says it’s possible to smooth some of the texture and crinkle that lips can gain with age. “We inject the smallest amount of filler into the lip to smooth out the wrinkles and provide hydration without changing the shape of the lip,” she says.
The variety of filler products available, with varying degrees of density and viscosity, can now deliver a softer look or a more bold, juicy pout. Balancing out one lip that is larger than the other, or balancing out a lopsided shape, are also common desires.
“Almost everyone’s lips are slightly asymmetric, and carefully placed filler can make them more symmetrical,” says Dr Hart.
“Even a small improvement insymmetry is very pleasing to the eye. We can also sharpen the border of the lips, and the Cupid’s bow, creating a defined edge that reflects light. Patients with scars from injury or surgery, like cleft lip repairs, can also benefit from specific lifting of puckered areas,” she adds.
Treating ‘Barcode’ lip lines
The fine lines above your lips are also a natural part of ageing, but there are some habits that can contribute.
Much has been made of the repetitive pursing motion that can add to the deepening of vertical lines around your lips. Some are unavoidable, like eating and drinking, but there’s also a reason they can be referred to as ‘smoker’s lines’. This refers to both the way a pursed motion necessary to drag on a cigarette or vape can contribute, and the way nicotine can play a part in skin damage.
Nicotine is thought to constrict blood vessels, which restricts the flow of oxygen and nutrients to your skin cells and leads to an increased production of an enzyme that breaks down collagen. So while prevention is more effective than any cure, the area is also a focus for lip treatments.
Dr Selkon says lines above the lip can often be treated with a combination of very fine filler application and botulinum toxin.
“This can either be injected right across the lip or specific lines can be individually targeted. It is important to also treat the lip border as this stops the bleed of the lines.”
Microneedling treatments including Dermapen can also be beneficial to prompt the production of new collagen and elastin in the area for a smoothing result. Similarly, laser treatments can be used to penetrate the deeper layers to help
prompt skin regeneration.
If you are contemplating any injectable appearance medicine treatment, seeking a reputable provider is key. The experience of the injector in particular and their knowledge of anatomy, ability to choose the right product, injection technique and how the filler will work with your face immediately and over time, is of paramount importance.
You should also be certain your provider has a comprehensive policy for managing risks, how likely they are with the injector and clinic providing the treatment, and how the more serious risks would be managed if they occur.