How to get pretty lips

Lip augmentation and lip reduction, explained

Lips should never be taken for granted. They display our emotions with a smile or frown. They kiss and caress our loved ones and enunciate our words. They can whistle a happy tune or hail a cab. Lips are a vital part of our face, in both form and function. For these reasons, luscious lips are a hot commodity and keep plastic surgeons quite busy.

The shape and size must be complimentary, but not exaggerated. Lip augmentation is familiar to most, but lip reduction surgery is another facet of lip shaping commonly sought after to achieve better looking lips.

Options vary for lip augmentation, but is best achieved with fillers like Hyaluronic Acid or fat transferred from other parts of your body. The advantage of fillers is ease and availability; it is done in the office in 15 to 30 minutes. The problem with synthetic fillers is they last only 3 to 6 months, but this can be an advantage because if you don't like the look, it will eventually go away. Fat transfer offers much longer results, but a minor procedure is involved because the fat must be harvested, washed and then injected back into your lips. Cost is another factor. Fillers must be repeated several times a year, requiring 1 to 3 syringes each treatment. Some transferred fat lasts permanently, but the initial cost for the procedure is higher. Other options include permanent lip implants or "lip lift surgery." Lip implants can look and feel fake, especially when kissing, and look bizarre if they become displaced. Lip lift surgery really does not increase the size of the lips, and the scars can be an issue.

Excessively large lips create both functional and aesthetic issues. Functional problems involve inadvertent drooling because of inability to completely close and seal the lips and interference with speech patterns. Massive lips can be a source of embarrassment and ridicule. The cause can be congenital or iatrogenic, over treatment by physicians or practitioners. Lips over filled with fillers like Hyaluronic acid can be reduced with another injectable, called Hyaluronidase, which melts the material. If permanent filler, like silicone is used, then surgery is the only option.

Lip reduction surgery involves excision of redundant lip tissue and placement of the scars hidden within the inner lip. It is performed under local anesthesia in the office, and takes about one hour for both lips. Swelling after surgery is considerable, but decreases significantly after one week. It is usually necessary to eat soft foods or cut food into small pieces before eating for the first 1 to 2 days after surgery. The key to this operation is a conservative approach, because over resection of tissue can leave the patient with unattractively thin lips. If necessary, it is easy to go back and trim more tissue.

Achieving magnificent lips, bigger or smaller, is an art form with several options. Consult with a board certified plastic surgeon.


Robert Tornambe, MD is a New York City Plastic Surgeon and Medical Advisor for Trueself. Certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery, Dr. Tornambe has been practicing plastic surgery for more than 25 years. He is a fellow of the American College of Surgeons, was featured in NYMAG's "Best Doctors" issue, and was the Chief of Plastic Surgery at NYC's Cabrini Medical Center for 20 years.