Lip Enhancement Options

Getting Beautiful Skin Image Gallery Sometimes lipstick and liner aren't enough to achieve the perfect pout. What other options are there? See more pictures of getting beautiful skin.
Getting Beautiful Skin Image Gallery Sometimes lipstick and liner aren't enough to achieve the perfect pout. What other options are there? See more pictures of getting beautiful skin.
© Gilder

As far as beauty trends go, the preference for plump, pouty lips seems to have staying power. Every time you turn around, some starlet is sporting her newly "enhanced" kissables for the camera. Maybe it's because soft, full lips seem sensuous and sexy, or because they give the appearance of youth and health. In any case, eye-catching lips certainly have a long history of appeal.

Women have been using color to increase the visual impact of their lips for hundreds of years. It is even said that Cleopatra wore lip color made from crushed beetles, though it wasn't until the 1900s that bright red lips were the beauty standard set by movie stars and models [source: Care Fair]. Now, there are many more options for lip color, but today's lip enhancement techniques have moved way beyond color. There are plenty of ways to get full, sensuous lips even if Mother Nature neglected to give them to you. The number of lip plumpers, lip fillers and other lip-enhancing procedures is growing by the day. People use these methods for two main reasons: Either they want to even out what they view as uneven or asymmetrical lips, or they simply want a plumper overall effect.


Whether you are looking for a temporary way to increase the volume of your lips for a night out, or you want a more lasting effect for all-the-time volume, several products claim to meet these needs. You might stick with a simple lipstick that's advertised to plump your lips for a natural pick-me-up, or you might want to mirror your favorite starlets and go for the longer-lasting effects of filler injections. Keep reading to learn more about how to achieve the luscious lips you've been looking for.

Cosmetic Lip Enhancement Products

For temporary lip enhancement, there are many "lip plumpers" on the market. These products usually work in one of two ways: by irritating the skin or adding moisture to the skin. They often contain common, natural ingredients.

Products that work by irritating the skin are applied topically to the lips in a balm or gloss, and irritate the topmost layer of skin with an ingredient such as cinnamon, peppermint, or capsaicin (the spicy chemical in cayenne pepper) [source: Chung]. This results in increased blood flow to the lips, giving them a plump appearance and a more vibrant color [source: Goldfaden]. While this may work to increase the volume and softness of your lips, the result is short-lived. Most of the effects will wear off in about an hour. So if you're on a date, to avoid deflation mid-dinner, you might want to reapply.


The other type of lip-plumping product produces more volume by adding moisture to the lips. These lip plumpers usually contain particles that attract moisture. Besides slightly plumping your pout, the added moisture also diminishes the look of fine lines and creases, giving lips a more lush appearance. These are a good alternative for those with sensitive skin [source: Chung]. But, as with irritant plumpers, the results are temporary and the product will need to reapplied for continuous results.

If you're looking for longer-lasting results, get your fill(er) on the next page.


Lip Enhancement Procedures

If you're looking for something longer lasting than the time-limited fix of a topical lip plumper, there are some options -- but be prepared to pay. On average, lip procedures can cost anywhere from about $400 (for collagen injections) to $1,600 or more for an implant [source: Nordenberg].

Collagen -- either derived from cows, deceased human donors, or the patient's own body -- has been used as a lip injectable for some time. Collagen injections generally last for a two and a half to four months [source: ASAPS]. And, if the collagen was extracted from the patient's body, the risk of allergic reaction, typically, is minimal.


A number of other substances are used as fillers for lip augmentation, including fat, hyaluronic acid, calcium hydroxylapatite and various structural components of human skin obtained from human donors. These injectable options do not provide permanent results, and will need to be repeated at some point to maintain the desired full look. The good part about really temporary injectables like collagen and fat is if you find you dislike your fuller lips, you aren't stuck with them forever [source: ASAPS]. Either way, it's best to start out with a small injection and move up to more filler later, if needed. You've probably seen photos of some stars right after they've received too much lip filler -- no one wants to pucker up to that so-called trout pout.

If you have thin lips and are certain that you want a more permanent effect, though, you can try lip implants. Both synthetic and human-donor implants are available, and each has its advantages. Synthetic implants provide a long-lasting effect because they are not absorbed by the body. They are inserted through incisions along the inner lip. Natural implants made from human donor skin might not last as long as synthetic implants do, as it's possible for the body to absorb the material. Typically, these implants are inserted through the inside of the mouth, at both corners [source: ASAPS].

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Lots More Information

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

  • The American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS). "Lip Augmentation." (08/12/2009)
  • Care Fair. "A Brief History of Cosmetics." (08/12/2009)
  • Chung, Sue. "Lip Service: Aging and Lip Plumpers." My Skin Care Connection. (08/12/2009)
  • Goldfaden, Gary M.D. "Ask the Doctor: Topical Alternatives to Cosmetic Surgical Procedures." Life Extension. (08/12/2009)
  • Nordenberg, Tamar. "Plastic Surgery Center: Plastic Surgery Costs." Discovery Health. (8/28/09)
  • Redfern, Julie, L.D., R.D.N., and Michelle McAndrews. "Beat the Heat -- Stay Hydrated!" Brigham and Women's Hospital. (08/12/2009)