OverviewLips are one of the most sensuous body parts that society and modesty permit us to display. So it’s not surprising that many women wish they had fuller and more alluring lips. Many will spend considerable time and effort in highlighting and garnishing their lips, and are satisfied with the impact made by a kick-ass red lipstick. However, others are willing to go to any lengths to get fuller, buxom lips. Fortunately, there are a number of safe and effective ways to get the pouty lips that many want. Medical procedures designed to enhance the lips and surrounding area are referred to collectively as lip augmentations. Lip augmentation procedures create lips that are plumper and fuller while reducing the visibility of wrinkles around the mouth. There are several types of procedures to choose from, including injections and surgical implants.
In order to undergo lip augmentation, you must be in good overall health with realistic expectations about the outcome of these injections. While you can improve your natural appearance through the use of lip implants or injections, these are not typically designed to radically alter your appearance. If you have oral herpes or other health conditions impacting your mouth, you may not be a good candidate. Smokers, as well as those with diabetes or blood circulation issues may experience a higher rate of complications.
The lip is a delicate structure, and it takes considerable skill to augment or reconstruct it in a satisfactory manner. As such, regardless of the procedure chosen, the result will be operator-dependent, so care in choosing the provider who will perform the procedure is of the upmost importance. There are several procedure options available for lip augmentation: (1)
- Autologous grafts – in the fat grafting version of this procedure, the patient’s own fat cells are extracted from one part of the body (usually the buttocks or abdominal area) and injected into the lips. (2, 3) Alternatively, other body tissues may be used instead of fat, which is known as tissue grafting. Tissues are removed from the body, such as skin (from a scar or the skin removed from another procedure such as a face lift), or a piece of muscle or tendon, and transferred into the lips. As well, tissue called “fibroblasts” can be harvested from the body and transplanted into the lips, where it will produce collagen, providing the lips with volume. (1) Following a fat graft, the body will reabsorb the transplanted fat over time (usually after about five years), so the results are only semi-permanent. In addition, there is the need to remove the body tissue (either by liposuction or using traditional surgical methods) before it can be processed and transplanted back into the body, which adds to the complexity of the procedure
- Lip fillers – these are synthetic injectable gels that are used to give fullness and smoothness to the lips and surrounding tissues. (4) A number of different types of fillers are available, from a number of different brands. Restylane, Juvederm, and Belotero are some of the more popular brands. Some take more than one injection session to get optimal results, and they are all temporary, lasting anywhere from 6 to 12 months, depending on the product and the biological characteristics of the patient.. Many of these not only plump the lips by the volume of the gel, but also stimulate the production of natural collagen, and draw fluid into the area, providing extra fullness
- Bovine collagen – Derived from cows, this injection usually lasts between 1 and 3 months, making it the most temporary option. This is a good method for those who want to try out lip augmentation without making a longer-term commitment. There is, however, a significant risk of allergic reaction to the implanted collagen
- Synthetic implants – made of silicone, expanded polytetrafluoroethylene (SoftFoam), biologics (AlloDerm), or Gore-Tex, these are made of a firmer material, and are implanted in one piece into the lips. These are less commonly used due to the incision needed to insert the material into the lips but provide a more permanent solution.
Lip injections are performed on an outpatient basis in the injector’s office. Local anesthetic is used, and the injections are done with a fine-gauge needle. The entire procedure can take between 15 minutes and an hour, depending on how much injectable is used. Lip implants are performed under sterile conditions in an operating room, usually using a local anesthetic, although a general anesthetic may occasionally be used. It is a day procedure lasting only about half an hour, and patients are able to return home to recover after the procedure.
The risks and complications of filler lip injections include: (4)
- Bleeding from the injection site
- Swelling, bruising, redness, pain in the area of the injection
- Asymmetry of the lips
- Lumps or irregularities in the lips
- Migration of the filler to adjacent tissues
- Allergic reaction to the filler
- Injection into a blood vessel
- Scarring of the lip
- Reactivation of cold sores.
The risks and complications associated with lip implant surgery include: (1)
- Bruising, swelling, redness, bleeding, pain
- Shifting of the implants
- Allergic reaction to the implants
- Lip asymmetry
Your surgeon or injector will review the specific risks associated with the product and procedure that you choose prior to your treatment.
Recovery time from filler injections is minimal, and some individuals find that they are able to return to work the same day. The injector may advise taking a few precautions in the 24 hours following the treatment, such as avoiding:
- Excessive heat or sun exposure
- Strenuous activity
- Rubbing or touching the lips
- Taking anti-inflammatory medications.
Swelling, bruising, and some discomfort may be expected for a few days after the injection. Lip augmentation surgery will require some downtime, usually 1-3 days. Touching the lips or excessive mouth movements should be avoided so as to prevent shifting the implants for the first two weeks, until the implants have healed into place. Ice-packs, and head elevation will help with the swelling, and pain medications may be required.
Dermal Injections: According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), the average fee for dermal injections in 2019 ranged from $652 to $2,169 per session, depending on the specific product chosen and the amount used. (5) Surgical Augmentation: The fee for surgical lip augmentation may include not only the surgeon’s fee, but also a fee for the surgical facility. Depending on the type of procedure chosen, the experience of the surgeon, and the geographic location, the cost of lip injections can vary significantly. According to the ASPS, the average surgeon’s fee for lip augmentation surgery in 2019 was $1,830. (5)
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