Definition & Overview

Lip augmentation is a cosmetic procedure performed to improve the appearance of the lips by making them look fuller and plumper. Generally, plump and full lips make a person look healthier and more youthful since the lips tend to thin out as a person ages. The ideal shape or size of the lips is usually considered in proportion to the size of the patient’s nose and surrounding facial features. The procedure has been in use since the early 20th century.

Who Should Undergo and Expected Results

Lip augmentation can be recommended for those whose lips are naturally too thin that they seem to disappear when they smile, as well as those whose lips have become thinner due to ageing.

There are different methods in performing lip augmentation, some of which are temporary while some longer lasting. These include:

  • Injectable dermal fillers
  • Fat transfer injections
  • Lip implants, which are permanent and are difficult to remove once placed
  • Vermillion advancement surgery
  • Lip lift surgery


Generally, temporary options are preferred because they can be modified to meet the patient’s desired appearance.

Among these, injectable dermal fillers are the most common, specifically those that use hyaluronic acid. These fillers, which are marketed under different trade names, are substances that are injected into the lips and in the surface around the mouth. Since hyaluronic acid is naturally present in the body, there is a very low risk of complications or negative reactions to the injections. It is also very effective in increasing the volume of the lips for an extended period, with effects lasting up to around six months, while minimising the risk of bruising. After six months, the patient has to undergo more injections to maintain the effects of the treatment.

Regardless of what method is used, lip augmentation procedures can produce immediate effects, making the lips look fuller. The procedure can also make a person’s lips look more defined and have a better contour. Moreover, aside from improving the appearance of the lips, the procedure can also balance out the entire face.

How is the Procedure Performed?

Injectable dermal fillers are performed as an outpatient procedure in a cosmetic clinic. Prior to the injection, the cosmetic specialist first applies a topical numbing agent on the lips. If necessary, nerve block injections can also be used. The areas around the mouth where the injections will be made are marked and needles are then used to inject hyaluronic acid into the lips.

The procedure necessary to perform fat injections is more challenging, and patients may have to stay in the hospital or cosmetic treatment centre for a longer period for the removal of the fat graft. The fat graft is first taken from the patient’s own body through liposuction before it is injected into the lips.

Following the lip augmentation procedure, ice is gently applied on the area to ease the patient’s discomfort and reduce swelling. After a short recovery period, which lasts for only a day or two, the patient’s lips will noticeably have a fuller and plumper appearance.

While the recovery period after a lip injections takes just a day, the one following surgical lip augmentation options may take up to a week, as some of these procedures, such as the lift and dermal graft, may require some sutures. The sutures used in these procedures are very small, but still need to be removed four to five days after the procedure.

Possible Risks and Complications

Injectable lip augmentation options are generally safer compared to surgical options, but both options carry some degree of risk. Some of the potential complications that may occur following a lip enhancement treatment include:

  • Bleeding
  • Swelling
  • Bruising
  • Redness
  • Tenderness


These are mild and temporary and are expected to resolve without treatment. However, if the swelling, redness, or bruising lasts for more than 10 days, the patient should inform the cosmetic specialist immediately. Prolonged redness and itching may indicate an allergic reaction to the injected substance.

Meanwhile, potential complications relating to the results of the procedure include:

  • Lip asymmetry
  • Lumps in the lips
  • Tissue loss, caused by injecting the substance into the blood vessel
  • Scarring
  • Stiffening of the lips
  • Ulcerations in the lips


Another option, which is the injection of silicone implants into the lips, is no longer recommended as a lip augmentation option, due to a high number of complications arising from it. In one reported case, the patient suffered from abscess formation following a silicone-based lip augmentation procedure.



References:

  • Luthra A. “Shaping lips with fillers.” J. Cutan Aesthet Surg. 2015 Jul-Sep; 8(3): 139-142. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4645142/

  • Schmidt-Westhausen A.M., Frege J., Reichart P.A. “Abscess formation after lip augmentation with silicone: Case report.” International Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial

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