Lip Plumpers Overview

Thanks to lip plumping products, you don't have to settle for thin lips anymore. See more make tips pictures.
Thanks to lip plumping products, you don't have to settle for thin lips anymore. See more make tips pictures.
© Gagne

Luscious lips are a big business. If you need proof, take a look at Angelina Jolie -- when the Los Angeles Times examined eight movie posters from Jolie's career, it concluded that Jolie's killer kisser is a focal point in each one. Even in the animated flick "Shark Tale," Jolie's character, Lola, is portrayed as a sultry sea siren with pouty red lips [source: Lysaght].

Teri Hatcher also knows a thing or two about the big business of a pretty pucker. In 2007, the "Desperate Housewives" star was sued by cosmetics company Hydroderm. Hydroderm claimed that Hatcher failed to honor a 2005 agreement to act as an exclusive endorser of its cosmetics, including a lip-enhancing product. The $2.4 million suit alleges that Hatcher also endorsed competitor City Cosmetics [source: MSNBC].


A look at photos of Jolie from a young age through her teens shows unmistakably full lips. For the rest of womankind's mere mortals, cosmetics are a popular way to achieve a plumper pout. Cosmetic lip plumpers claim to enhance the fullness of lips. For a relatively minor investment, these products advertise temporary results for those who don't want, or can't afford, injections and other treatments by dermatologists and plastic surgeons.

Lips naturally thin with age because of changes in collagen and fat; sun and smoking can also play a part. An aging population and unrelenting scrutiny of celebrity faces such as Jolie's have resulted in an explosion of popularity for cosmetic lip plumpers in the past few years.

The desire for a plump kisser isn't new. For centuries, women have been trying to perfect their pouts. And that means plenty of time has been focused on creating products to help do just that.

Read on to discover why "bee-sting" might be an appropriate description of some of today's lip plumpers.

Lip Plumper Ingredients

Some lip plumpers work on the theory that if you irritate the sensitive skin of lips -- like a bee sting does -- they'll swell slightly. Ingredients such as cinnamon, wintergreen, forms of capsacin (the spicy chemical in chili peppers), caffeine, ginger and menthol will do just that. Niacin, either in a powder or liquid form, works by dilating blood vessels. To counter the stinging effects of a lip plumping ingredient, manufacturers add ingredients that will simultaneously soothe the lips.

If you really need to go the inexpensive route, type "lip plumpers" into your favorite search engine and you'll turn up many Web sites that tell you how to make your own plumping products. Soon you can be wearing an inexpensive, easy-to-make lip plumper. You might even have all the ingredients already. However, exercise caution -- lip plumpers that work by irritating the skin should be used with care. Used too often, they may cause lips to peel or even develop ulcers.


Other plumpers are meant to be used long-term to achieve results. They use palmitoyl oligopeptides as a way to trigger collagen and elastin fiber production in lips to make them plumper. Microspheres -- tiny molecules -- get their plumping power from moisture they absorb from the body. One type of microsphere is made of dehydrated marine collagen molecules -- in other words, dried fish.

Advertisers make some strong claims that lip plumpers can make a significant difference in the appearance of your lips. Read on to discover if shelling out for a commercial lip plumper will truly result in a prettier pucker.

Effectiveness of Lip Plumpers

It really doesn't matter what formulation is used: There are as many opinions about how well lip plumpers work as there are varieties. Independent studies haven't established measurable effectiveness of lip plumpers, but many women are pleased with the results.

Some people object to the stinging sensation. One woman told the New York Times, "You might as well get some extra-spicy Buffalo wings and eat them." In the same article, a beauty and fitness editor of a fashion magazine was definitely unimpressed, but a Washington dermatologist said she and her patients used it all the time to complement lip injections [source: Hayt].


Consumer Reports has a definite negative opinion of lip plumpers. The organization enlisted 12 women to try six different formulas from Avon, Clinique, DuWop, LipFusion, Sally Hansen and Wet n Wild. Products ranged from a few dollars to $36, but none resulted in more than a tiny swelling that disappeared within an hour. In addition to the women's subjective opinions, experts looked at before and after photos [source: Consumer Reports].

Even staunch users of lip plumpers recognize that the effects are subtle. Lip plumpers will never rival what a dermatologist or plastic surgeon can accomplish with injections or other procedures. A variety of methods can provide results that last from a few weeks to about a year. One popular injection is Restylane, a hyaluronic acid filler. Bovine-extracted collagen is another choice, but it's more expensive than hyaluronic acid fillers. Of course, any medical method of lip augmentation will cost far more than a cosmetic method -- in terms of money and sometimes pain.

Perhaps by now you're convinced that lip plumpers should become part of your makeup regimen. You might be skeptical, but you're willing to give them a try. You can enhance the fullness of your lips with some savvy application tips -- read on to learn what those are.

Lip Plumper Application Tips

Plumpers may be temporary, but how you put them on can make a world of difference. If you're not sure how to use them, even the highest-rated lip plumper may not give your pucker any more oomph. However, when paired with careful makeup application, a lip plumper can give you a poutier, sexier look. An indispensable tool in this quest is a good lip-lining pencil. A light touch will provide the best results -- outlining the entire lip is not recommended. Instead, on your top lip, just sketch a line right above the bow of your lip. Look for the fullest part on your bottom lip and round that out with pencil as well. Still using the pencil, fill in the small space between the lines you just drew and your lips, and then apply lipstick over all of it.

If your lipstick doesn't contain plumper, follow up with a clear gloss lip plumper. Even if it does, now would be a good time to add gloss if your lipstick doesn't have any shimmer to it. Lips that have some shine from gloss appear bigger.


Whether you make your own lip plumpers or buy them in the store, they're relatively inexpensive and easy to experiment with. To learn more about specific brands, to find recipes or just to learn more about what you can do to change the look of your lips, visit the links on the next page.

Lots More Information

Related Articles


  • American Academy of Dermatology. "Soft Tissue Fillers." 2009. (Accessed 8/16/09)
  • American Society of Plastic Surgeons. "Read My Lips: Not All Fillers are Safe for Lip Augmentation, Rejuvenation." Oct. 9, 2006. (Accessed 8/16/09)
  • Associated Press. "$2M Lip Plumper Lawsuit Against Teri Hatcher Moving Into Arbitration." Fox News. Feb. 5, 2008. (Accessed 8/16/09),2933,328377,00.html
  • Associated Press. "Cosmetics Firm Sues Teri Hatcher for $2.4." MSNBC. December 5, 2007. (Accessed 8/16/09)
  • Consumer Reports. "Do Lip Pumpers Have Pucker Power?" November 2007. (Accessed 8/16/09)
  • Daly, Kimberly A. "Lip Service." WebMD. (Accessed 8/16/09)
  • Haines, Cynthia Dennison, MD. "Cosmetic Procedures: Lip Augmentation." WebMD. (Accessed 8/16/09)
  • Hayt, Elizabeth. "Kiss My Puffy Lips." The New York Times. Aug. 4, 2005. (Accessed 8/16/09)
  • Health News Digest. "Lipstick Trends from One Decade to Another." (Accessed 8/25/09)
  • Leong, Kristie, M.D. "Do Lip Plumpers Work or Should You Waste Your Money?" Associated Content. Jan. 28, 2008. (Accessed 8/16/09)
  • Leong, Kristie, MD. "How to Make Your Own Lip Plumper." Associated Content. January 28, 2008. (Accessed 8/16/09)
  • Lysaght, Stephanie. "Starring Angelina Jolie's Lips." Los Angeles Times. 2009. (Accessed 8/16/09),0,7004524.photogallery?track=rss
  • My Skin Care Connection. "Lip Service: Aging and Lip Plumpers." November 9, 2007. (Accessed 8/16/09)