Straight Talk on Collagen Lip Masks: Do They Really Work?

Lip Mask
  • Collagen lip masks are supposed to plump and moisturize your lips for 5 to 6 hours post-treatment.
  • The masks are made of a jelly-like substance soaked in serum and are worn for 15 to 20 minutes at a time.
  • The treatment is painless and non-permanent, though wearing the lip mask can be awkward.
  • Collagen lip masks seriously moisturize the lips, but don’t actually seem to make them any larger.

Collagen lip masks claim to remake your pout in just 15 to 20 minutes with results that are visible for five to six hours afterwards. The thick, jelly-like lip mask is saturated in a serum filled with active ingredients, most notably collagen but also vitamins, moisturizers, and other compounds. Users stick the masks to their lips and leave them there for the allotted time, then remove and discard.

Not only are the masks supposed to deeply moisturize your lips, apparently they also temporarily plump up your pout, like a less permanent version of lip fillers. Originally a fixture of Korean beauty and skin care routines, collagen lip masks have become popular among Western celebrities, brides-to-be, and others looking to revitalize their lips before a big event.

Collagen lip masks claim to have effects similar to much more permanent (and much more expensive) treatments, except at a fraction of the time and cost. But do lip masks actually do what they’re said to do?

Rise in Popularity

Collagen lip masks first attracted the attention of the Western beauty world in early 2017, when professional makeup artist Rachel Goodman Instagrammed a picture of actress Emma Stone wearing just such a mask.

Stone was prepping for the Golden Globes award ceremony with the KNC Beauty All Natural Collagen Infused Lip Mask, something other celebs such as Kim Kardashian are said to love as well.

KNC stands for Kristen Noel Crawley, the name of the beauty columnist who helped bring lip masks to the West. While collagen-infused lip masks have been popular among Korean beauty devotees for years, they had yet to bridge the overseas gap. Crawley discovered the masks while on a trip to Tokyo and immediately fell in love with the idea of a deep conditioning mask specifically for the lips.

However, there were no natural options on the market at that time, so Crawley decided to create her own. After two years and many trials, she settled on a combination of collagen, bitter cherry extract, hyaluronic acid, rose flower oil, vitamin E, glycerin, and deionized water.

And this is how Emma Stone came to wear a KNC Beauty lip mask before the Golden Globes.

As more competitors hit the market, collagen lip masks continue to grow in popularity, not just among celebrities but also brides-to-be. In fact, according to Pinterest’s 2017 Wedding Report, searches for collagen lip masks increased by 388 percent over the previous year. That’s a lot of lip masks!

This popularity among brides makes sense, as lip masks are touted as a great solution for those seeking to improve their pout before a big event, but aren’t prepared to commit to more a permanent treatment like lip fillers or implants.

How to Use a Lip Mask

First, you’ll want to clean your lips before applying the mask. Even if you haven’t put anything on your lips recently, give them a quick wipe and make sure there are no traces of lipstick or anything else that could impede the serum. If you have lots of dry, flaky skin on your lips, you might want to exfoliate before using a collagen lip mask, but if so do it gently so you don’t risk opening the skin. This will ensure the mask goes to work on fresh skin that won’t flake off.

If your lips are already chapped or cracked, the serum can cause the open skin to sting, so make sure your lips are completely healed before you try a lip mask.

The mask usually comes in a small plastic tray nestled inside the packet. Be careful to open the packet upright instead of sideways, as the liquid serum can spill out if you tip it, and since the serum is full of the active ingredients, you don’t want that to happen. Unlike other popular, paper-thin Korean beauty masks, the collagen lip mask itself is thick, almost like the colorful jelly window clings you might have stuck to glass as a child.

While lip-shaped, the actual mask is much larger than your real lips, but there’s a slit in the middle so you can breathe while wearing it. Be sure to separate the slit enough so you can simultaneously wear the mask and breathe comfortably for 15 to 20 minutes. After separating the slit, position the mask on your lips and gently pat it until it sticks to the surrounding skin.

Because of the thickness of the mask, many people find they need to reposition it a couple times in order to get it to stay put comfortably, so don’t be afraid to move it around until you’re happy with the fit. Some people also dislike the one-size-fits-all nature of the lip masks, reporting they can never find a good fit no matter what they do.

Because the lip mask is so thoroughly saturated in the serum, your lips will be, too. Some describe the experience as being like wearing “wet seaweed” or say their lips felt “dunked in jelly.”

Don’t try to talk while wearing the lip mask, as you could get some excess serum in your mouth or disturb your painstaking positioning of the mask.

You will also likely feel a tingling sensation — similar to that of plumping lip glosses — which is attributed to the collagen at work. Set a timer and wait the recommended 15 to 20 minutes. Once you’re done, peel off the lip mask and discard along with the packaging (they’re not reusable).

Do They Work?

Collagen lip masks aren’t that expensive, relatively easy to use, and don’t require a large time commitment. Of course, none of that matters if they don’t work.

First, let’s consider what each active ingredient is supposed to do. Glycerin is a humectant, so it attracts water, hydrating the skin in the process while vitamin E and the other oils further aid to moisturize it. Hyaluronic acid increases the firmness and plumpness of the skin while collagen is the main structural protein. Collagen production helps to further restore the skin’s elasticity and make the lips appear fuller.

Unfortunately, there haven’t been any official scientific studies conducted on collagen lip masks themselves yet, so there’s no numbers to prove or debunk the plumping effect of the lips masks for good. However, many beauty reporters and editors who tried the mask — from publications including Self, Elle, Racked, Insider, and Seventeen — said that if it did plump up their pout, it wasn’t very noticeable. Some shrugged this off, but others report they were quite disappointed the lip masks didn’t deliver on the hype.

So if you’re looking for a less permanent alternative to lip fillers, lip masks probably aren’t the answer to your prayers.

However, these masks have a different story to tell when it comes to their moisturizing power. The serum that coats the mask is like lip balm on steroids, hydrating the lips and locking in moisture thanks to the glycerin and other active ingredients. Many love to use the lip mask as an intensive treatment before or after wearing matte lipstick, which is known to be very drying. Indeed, by moisturizing dried-out lips, the masks may even help them appear plumper and more “glowy,” even if they don’t actually increase the volume of your pout.

Lip masks are a fun, painless, and quick beauty treatment that can rescue dry, damaged lips or prep them for your favorite matte lipstick. While they’ll certainly moisturize your lips, they won’t actually plump them up that much. If you’re looking to truly plump up or otherwise reshape your pout, there are many more effective alternatives, including lip implants, lip lifts, and lip fillers.

If you think you may need to explore other options beyond lip masks, consult with a board-certified cosmetic professional in your area for more information.

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