- Generally speaking, there are three different types of lip plumping tools: suction, irritant, or rejuvenating and moisturizing.
- Most at-home products are safe but only produce temporary effects.
- Long-term options are available for those who want permanently fuller lips.
What are lip plumpers?
Lip plumpers generally fall into three separate categories. First, there are suction tools, which pull blood to the lips. Second, there are topical lip glosses containing natural irritants that increase blood flow in order to produce redness and swelling. Third, there are topical products that rely on rejuvenating and moisturizing ingredients. (There are also glosses that combine ingredients from the second and third categories.)
All of these over-the-counter options only produce temporary results. Dr. Sejal Shah, a New York dermatologist, notes that “Generally, lip plumpers are painless, non-invasive, and can be used at home. However, they don’t work in everyone and results can be very slight.” Those who are looking for a more permanent fix may look to injections.
But before we talk about permanent solutions, let’s first look at the different kinds of non-invasive treatments available.
One of the simplest ways to get plumper lips is to use a suction tool. They’re non-invasive, fast-acting, and fairly harmless if used correctly.
How do they work? Dr. Benjamin Dunkley, a Utah-based plastic surgeon, explains. “Lip plumping tools work by creating negative pressure to draw fluid into the tissue. The enlargement that occurs is temporary unless a considerable amount of time is devoted to using the device.”
These results usually last between 1–2 hours. The process can be repeated throughout the day to help your lips remain fuller. Dr. Dunkley notes that using suction plumpers may lead to permanent changes if utilized often enough.
However, ‘often enough’ means more time than most people are willing to devote. Dr. Dunkley speculates that “Permanent results are possible, but a significant amount of time is required with the device on (i.e., 12 hours a day for many months).”
There are some small risks associated with these tools. By overusing them, or by using them for too long, you risk bruising your lips. Candylipz, for example, recommends using their product for only two minutes at a time.
Also worth noting is that suction tools that are specific to lips will be safer than popular household objects, like a shot glass. A shot glass can break under enough vacuum pressure, which would clearly not be safe.
Fullips offers three different sizes of their product to match lip sizes and desired styles. The small oval size is best for people with lips that are naturally small or who only want a mild effect. The medium oval is good for targeting specific areas or just one lip at a time. The large round packs the strongest punch, and is best used for overall lip fullness.
Candylipz is one of the longest-standing suction plumpers on the market and has won numerous awards. They claim an average increase in lip size of 36% if the product is used daily. Its versatile design allows users to enhance both lips or just one.
Topical lip plumpers
Lip plumping glosses are increasingly popular and come in many varieties. These will enhance the fullness of your lips and help maintain moisture levels. They generally rely on two types of ingredients: natural irritants or a combination of rejuvenating and moisturizing ingredients.
“Some lip plumpers use ingredients (such as bee venom, cinnamon, menthol, chili peppers, etc.) to irritate the skin on the lips which causes blood to rush to the surface of the skin because the skin is so sensitive and delicate,” explains Dr. Jacob D. Steiger, a Boca Raton, Florida plastic surgeon.
This rush of blood causes the skin on the lips to swell and become more red – the effect that most lip-enhancing aficionados are looking for. Generally, these effects are only temporary, lasting from as little as a few minutes to as much as a few hours. The extent of the effects will depend on both the product itself as well as the user’s natural reaction to them.
Because these ingredients are irritants, they should be used with caution. If you have sensitive skin, try them on a different more inconspicuous part of your body first to see how it reacts.
Rejuvenating and moisturizing ingredients
Because the lips are naturally thin barriers, they’re prone to moisture loss and damage from environmental effects like sun, wind, and hot or cold weather. By improving collagen production and strengthening the epidermal barrier, lips will retain moisture and texture. Consequently, they will look fuller and have a healthier color.
Many of the products on the market rely on similar combinations of ingredients in order to produce the desired effects. A handful of ingredients are most commonly used and can lead to fuller lips long-term if used consistently.
- Hyaluronic acid has very strong water-retention properties. It’s beneficial because young-looking skin has a high moisture content.
- Marine collagen filling spheres penetrate the skin and then rehydrate, increasing in volume. This increase in volume also increases the size of the lips.
- Emollients like jojoba oil naturally moisturize your skin.
- Niacin (vitamin B3) has been shown to have numerous benefits for the skin, including strengthening the epidermal barrier and improving protein synthesis, color, and even wrinkles.
- Essential fatty acids also have significant positive effects on skin, including maintaining structural integrity and protecting the epidermal barrier.
- Human growth factors help the body produce more collagen and contribute to the reduction of wrinkles.
- Tripeptides can also help to boost collagen growth and repair damaged skin.
Some lip plumpers follow a two-step application process.
The first step is a rejuvenating combination of ingredients like hyaluronic acid, marine collagen filling spheres, emollients, tripeptides, and human growth factors. Combined, these ingredients work to make the skin appear younger by increasing collagen and elastin production, enhancing moisture retention, and improving the texture of the lips.
The second step is designed to add the plump, and includes niacin, emollients, and essential fatty acids.
A four-week study involving two-stage lip plumpers showed overwhelmingly positive results. At the conclusion of the study, 81% of patients said their lips appeared fuller, 94% said their lips looked and felt healthier, and 100% said they were satisfied with the overall improvement of the condition of their lips.
There are countless products available, so choosing one can be overwhelming. Dr. Shah has a suggestion: “One of the products I recommend is Fillerina, which is a natural, dermo-cosmetic, no-needle filler that contains 6 different quantities of hyaluronic acids.” He says that “it plumps the lips and creates a fuller-natural looking pout without injections.” Fullerina comes in three different grades and is appropriate for all ages.
For those on a tighter budget, Soap and Glory’s Sexy Mother Pucker has become Britain’s most popular topical plumper and is gaining popularity in the US as well. They offer several plumpers with varying levels of plump. The price ranges between $15–25.
Lip injection options
If you’re looking to take the step towards longer-lasting full lips, there are two options available – temporary injections and fat injections. “Injections are a good option,” Dr. Dunkley advises, “because of the long-lasting nature of the results – usually 6 months to a year for man-made fillers and 5–10 years for fat injections.” An added bonus of injections is that they can be tailor-made to the size you desire and usually produce more noticeable results than plumping tools.
Hyaluronic acid has become a popular choice due to its generally long-lasting effects and has largely eclipsed collagen injections as a treatment. These injections can cost from $600 to $2,000 and may take only 15–45 minutes to complete.
Fat injections are a more permanent solution to fuller lips. In this procedure, unwanted fat from other areas of the body can be transferred to the lips.
“Using a person’s own fat has many benefits,” notes Dr. Cruise. “Using your own fat eliminates the chance of an adverse reaction to a manufactured product such as dermal fillers. It also provides a natural-looking result by restoring volume lost during the aging process or due to significant weight loss.”
These results too are generally long-lasting. Fat that survives the transfer is usually permanent, which means no additional trips to get new injections. There is a recovery period of 2–3 weeks that may involve some swelling, but patients can expect little to no bruising and no scars.
Dr. Cruise indicates these procedures usually cost around $5900 and are performed under local anesthetic in an office/surgical room.
Plentiful options for more bountiful lips
Options abound for those who are looking to enhance their lips. If you want a non-invasive product, there are plenty to choose from, and a dermatologist can help you make a good choice. If you’re looking for something more permanent, a cosmetic surgeon can point you in the right direction.