A flawless smile begins with a lip size that complements the natural proportions of the face and shows off just the right amount of teeth.
What is the anatomy of the lip?
The lip is composed of three distinctive areas. The skin cells around the “red” part (a.k.a. vermillion) contain the hair, oil, and sweat glands found on most skin surfaces of the body. The vermillion border (i.e. white roll) separates the skin from the vermillion area, and the innermost region is composed of mucosal membranes. The cupid’s bow refers to the central portion of the upper lip, and the upper and lower lips meet on the sides of the mouth at the oral commissures (1).
The Anatomy of the Lip
Surgical and non-surgical lip augmentation and lip reduction solutions exist to enhance or refine the size of the lip.
What causes variations in lip size?
For better or worse there is no changing your genetics, and the lips are no exception. The double helices of our DNA contain the code that sets the stage for a lifetime of lip appearance, however, with continuing advances in cosmetic dermatology it is possible to enhance and augment the lips you were born with (2).
What are the main concerns related to lip size?
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, however, certain excesses in lip size can cause medical abnormalities. Congenital (from birth) and acquired (due to accident/injury) medical issues causing anomalies in lip size that affect function, like speech, eating, and drinking will typically require the expertise of a medical team.
Concerns related to aesthetics, however, can be appropriately and effectively handled by an experienced provider sometimes in a simple outpatient setting. The main cosmetic concerns related to lip size are:
- Small & Thinning Lips: For those who feel the size of their pout is too small or not proportional to their other facial features.
- Big Lips: On the contrary, some people may feel their lips are too large. This may be due to genetics or the results of a previous lip augmentation procedure.
Whether your concern is a lack of adequate volume or an overabundance of size, multiple procedures exist to create your ideal look.
How can someone change their lip size?
For those looking to change the size of their lips, there are both surgical and non-surgical treatment options available. Below is a brief overview of available procedures. See all Lip Augmentation Solutions and Lip Reduction Solutions.
For Small Lips
For a fuller lip appearance, numerous lip augmentation procedures exist to both temporarily and permanently enhance volume. These options range from surgical procedures to fixes you can perform in the comfort of your own home.
- Lip Implants: With both temporary and permanent options, they take advantage of existing body tissues to increase efficacy and minimize potential adverse reactions. (3) Autologen implants utilize collagen that has been transferred from another area of the body, lasting about six months. Fat transfer is similar to the autologen implants and involves fat tissue removed from other areas of the body via liposuction. An SMAS implant, meanwhile, is composed of the deep layer of facial tissue situated just above the muscles of the face and is only an option if a facelift is being performed in tandem. The results are typically permanent.
- Lip Fillers: Synthetic materials injected into the lip to create more volume and (in some cases) make use of the body’s natural collagen production. Permanent fillers are non-invasive and the injected substances that do not degrade within the body. Semi-permanent fillers are usually effective for one to two years, and stimulate the production of natural collagen for additional benefits. Temporary fillers generally last six to 12 months.
- Lip Surgery: The most invasive of the listed procedures, it creates lasting enhancements to lip size and volume. (5) Vermillion advancement is a permanent procedure to stretch the vermillion (red) area of the lip to create a fuller appearance. V-Y mucosal advancement is a popular choice for thin/drooping lips. A gullwing lip lift is an excellent choice for men, as facial hair can minimize the appearance of scarring.
- At-Home Solutions: Various home makeup options exist to create the illusion of fuller lips. Lip liner can be applied to augment the lip shape and size, and plumping lip products exist to temporarily enhance the pout.
For a deeper dive into the treatments above, check out our complete guide to Lip Augmentation Solutions.
For Big Lips
Lip reduction can be used for both cosmetic and medical concerns to reduce the size of the lips. If a subtler, softer appearance is what you desire, lip reduction surgery is an effective and relatively simple procedure to create the perfect shape. Removal of some of the lip tissue modifies the posture of the lips. The procedure is typically outpatient, and recovery can be as little as one week. It is also possible to reverse the effects of certain augmentation procedures, such as dissolving fillers or removing previously placed implants. Learn more in our guide to Lip Reduction Solutions.
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- Luthra, A. “Shaping Lips with Fillers.” J Cutan Aesthet Surg. v.8(3); Jul-Sep 2015.; 2015-07-01
- Johnston, MC, Millicovsky G. “Normal and Abnormal Development of the Lip and Palate.” Clin Plast Surg. 1985 Oct;12(4):521-32.; 1985-10-01
- Spiegel, J H, and O L Spiegel. “Lip Lifting: Not Just Fullness-Everything You Need to Know about Lifting and Creating Youthful, Beautiful Lips.” Facial Plastic Surg. , 3 Apr. 2019, pp. 129–133.; 2019-04-03
- Tijerina, J D, et al. “Celebrity Influence Affecting Public Interest in Plastic Surgery Procedures: Google Trends Analysis.” Aesthetic Plastic Surg., 7 Aug. 2019.; 2019-08-07
- Tonnard, PL, et al. “Aging of the Upper Lip: Part II. Evidence-Based Rejuvenation of the Upper Lip-A Review of 500 Consecutive Cases.” Plast Reconstr Surg. , 14 May 2019, pp. 1333–1342.; 2019-05-14