Lip enhancement

Written by Dr Jill Tomlinson on .

Why consider lip enhancement?

female lower face hand and neck

Lip enhancement with fillers can improve the definition and volume of the lips, creating more beautiful lips and a more attractive smile. When people look at another person's face they preferentially look at the eyes and the lips; full lips with a defined border are associated with youth and beauty.

As we age the muscle that surrounds the mouth (the "orbicularis oris") acts to shrink the lips and create fine lines and wrinkles above the top lip. Lip enhancement addresses these changes.

What can lip enhancement improve or treat?

In both instances the exact method of treatment is determined by the individual's features and preferences. The factors that can be addressed and are considered when determining your treatment recommendations are:

  • your lip volume
  • your lip lines (wrinkles)
  • the definition of your lip border
  • your philtral columns
  • your Cupid's bow
  • the corners of your mouth, particularly any downturning
  • your preferences

What product do you use for lip enhancement?

The dermal filler that I use in office-based lip enhancement is a hyaluronic gel preparation. Hyaluronic gels are made of natural polysaccharides that are found in connective tissue, synovial fluid and other body tissues. The product used has a low potential for allergic reactions and was approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration in 2008.

I also offer lip enhancement with fat grafting. This procedure can provide long-term enhancements to lip volume although the effect is less predictable than with hyaluronic gel fillers. Lip enhancement with fat grafting is performed in an operating theatre under anaesthetic and is most commonly performed at the same time as other surgical procedures on the face, such as blepharoplasty or facelift.

How long does lip enhancement last?

The duration of the lip enhancement effect can be quite variable. Generally the effect is visible for 4-8 months; sometimes the effect lasts up to 12 months. Dermal fillers are absorbed more quickly from areas that are mobile (such as the lips) and from very superficial areas (such as the lip line). Lip enhancement can be repeated as often as is desired. Photographs of your lips are taken before and after treatment to provide you and I with clear reference points.

Who can have lip enhancement?

Lwomanprofilelipsip enhancement can be performed in both women and men.

Generally a female lip can be enhanced by defining the upper and lower lip line ("vermilion border") and by increasing the volume of the upper and lower lips. The definition of the "philtral columns" (the two lines that naturally run between the nostrils and the upper lip) can also be enhanced. A careful and artistic eye is needed to ensure that the lips are harmoniously enhanced, so as to avoid an unnatural appearance or "trout pout". It is normal that the lower lip projects 1-2mm in front of the upper lip; changing this balance may look unnatural. In an ideal lip the lower lip is larger than the upper lip (said to have a ratio of 1.6:1 or of 2/3 to 1/3) and changing this balance can also look unnatural.

When enhancing a male lip I avoid enhancing the lip lines as this tends to produce a "feminised" appearance, which is undesirable. Balanced placement of filler within the upper and lower lip augments the lip volume and corrects a "thin-lipped" appearance, giving a more youthful appearance.

Who should not have lip enhancement?

Patients who are taking blood thinners (such as aspirin, warfarin and clopidogrel) are more susceptible to the complications of bleeding and bruising. If you are allergic to dermal fillers you should not have lip enhancement or any other procedure using these products. Patients who are extremely needle phobic are not advised to undergo lip enhancement. If you have an infection at the injection site your procedure will need to be delayed until after this infection has cleared. The safety of dermal fillers in pregnant and breastfeeding women has not been established.

woman lipsIs lip enhancement painful?

No one likes needles but there are a number of options available to you to minimise the pain of the procedure. I recommend that patients take paracetamol before the procedure. Additional pain control options that will be discussed with you at your consultation include the use of nerve blocks, local anaesthetic cream and/or ice application. If you elect to have a temporary nerve block you will not feel pain with the lip enhancement injections. You are always in control and can say "Stop!" if you wish. I am yet to have someone say "Stop!".

What can go wrong (complications)?

It is normal to have some lip swelling for 48 hours after the procedure. You can minimise this by i) avoiding aspirin and other blood thinners in the week before the procedure, ii) by applying cool packs to your lips after the procedure, and iii) by avoiding strenuous exercise for 24-48 hours after the procedure.

Unexpected complications include:

  • significant bruising and bleeding;
  • significant swelling and redness at the injection site;
  • persistent itching;
  • skin discolouration;
  • bacterial or viral infection. If you get cold sores the procedure may precipitate one; antiviral treatment with tablets or ointment will minimise this. If you have frequent cold sores I recommend taking preventative medication at the time of lip augmentation;
  • ulceration of the skin around the injection site;
  • lumps or nodules under the skin or in the lip; and
  • an allergic reaction.

Like to find out more?

Call us to arrange an appointment for lip enhancement to discuss how we can help you to achieve your desired goals. If you would like to undergo the procedure on the same day please be sure let us know so that we can allocate sufficient time for the procedure. We ask that all patients who undergo lip enhancement to return for a no-charge review appointment approximately 2 weeks after the procedure to assess the results so please plan your schedule to accommodate this.

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This website is authored by Dr Jillian Tomlinson, a fully qualified plastic, reconstructive and hand surgeon who practices in Melbourne, Australia. This website aims to inform patients and health professionals about hand surgery, illness prevention and the practice philosophy of Dr Jill Tomlinson. This website's content is designed to complement, not replace, the relationship between a patient and his/her own doctor. The information is not intended to replace the advice of a health professional. This website does not host or receive funding from advertising or from the display of commercial content.