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Call it selfie syndrome.Captured on camera and scrutinized on social media, women are becoming more self-conscious about their smiles. And while a full pout with a well-defined lipline is considered youthful and attractive, unless you're going for straight-up duck face, bigger isn't necessarily better.
"Fullness is a sign of youth, and Angelina Jolie is absolutely beautiful, but that look has encouraged some women to keep going with lip size—and clearly they overshot," says Dr. Grant Stevens, clinical professor of plastic surgery at the University of Southern California. "There are women all over Beverly Hills and Newport Beach who have unnaturally enlarged, ugly lips." According to Stevens, lips get larger during puberty, then thin out and wrinkle with time. But overcompensating with an obviously fake, plumped-up pucker is as aging as a wind-tunnel face-lift or too much Botox. That's why "women now are gravitating toward a smaller, much more realistic, augmented lip," he explains.
To craft the perfect pout, it's all about proportion. An ideal smile has a bottom lip that's a third larger than the top one. "The lower lip is the support structure for the upper, so the natural aesthetic is to have it slightly bigger," explains New York City and Miami dermatologist Dr. Fredric Brandt. According to Brandt, a realistic-looking augmented lower lip shouldn't be uniformly thick throughout, but slightly depressed in the center and more pillowy on the sides, where the fat pads naturally lie (picture Jennifer Lawrence).
Rather than just adding volume, doctors are also focusing on redefining and smoothing, making shrunken lips more shapely, or preventing lipstick bleed. "As you get older, the upper lip gets thinner because it sags and rolls down," says Stevens. "Injecting a little filler in the Cupid's bow gives the upper lip a slight lift that looks more youthful." The trick is to keep the filler on the inside of the lip, rather than the outside (where a mustache would grow).
Fill 'Er Up
Collagen injections and silicone implants may be the most famous plumpers, but many doctors are no longer using them. "Collagen isn't even available anymore in the United States," says Miami plastic surgeon Dr. Jackie Yee. Instead, sugar-derived hyaluronic acid fillers are now the gold standard. First there was Restylane, then Juvéderm; Belotero is the new kid on the block (and what Yee uses on herself).
Less viscous than its predecessors, Belotero feels softer and more flesh-like in the lips, according to Yee, and "spreads easily, so it won't give you a puffy look," adds Brandt. Because of Belotero's fluid texture, doctors are also able to fix feathering (or smoker's wrinkles) without patients leaving the office looking like Daffy Duck.
This Might Sting
A $750 syringe of Belotero lasts three months to a year (depending on how quickly your body breaks down hyaluronic acid). But Yee warns that pricking the lips can be more painful than treating other parts of the face. "If I'm injecting your lipline for feathering, I have to take the needle and thread it along the lip border, which hurts more than volumizing," explains Yee, who mixes lidocaine into the Belotero to minimize discomfort. Restylane Silk, a new, FDA-approved hyaluronic acid and lidocaine hybrid, promises Belotero some stiff lip-plumping competition in the future.
As for downtime, volume patients will look normal after applying ice for an hour, while those who fill in deep creases may see swelling for a few days. If lips look too big after this initial period, go back to the doctor, who can inject the enzyme hyaluronidase to dissolve the extra filler in five minutes. "Lips are not supposed to look like they do on The Real Housewives of Miami," says Yee. And now, they don't have to.
Plump up your pout with these antiaging lip treatments
Sun damage, dry skin, and even straws are enough to make any smile shrivel. But the latest lip products, packed with antioxidants, moisturizers, and hyaluronic acid, are the next best thing to filler.
1. Vichy Neovadiol Gf Eye & Lip Contours, $47; askderm.com
2. Kaplan MD The Lip 20 Mask, $48; dermstore.com
3. Dr. Brandt Xtend Your Youth Lip Filler & Volumizer, $30; drbrandtskincare.com
4. Fresh Sugar Lip Serum Advanced Therapy, $35; sephora.com
5. Dr. Lipp Original Nipple Balm for Lips, $15; birchbox.com
6. Valmont Lip Repair, $135; bloomingway.com