Skip to main content

Lip Augmentation

Quick Facts Plastic Surgery Procedures

Lip Augmentation Quick Facts

  • Best Candidates: People who are seeking to improve their appearance with fuller, more shapely lips
  • Procedure Length: 15 minutes to 1 1/2 hours
  • Inpatient/Outpatient: Outpatient
  • Anesthesia: Local anesthesia (lip implants); none required for injectables
  • Results: Permanent (lip implants); temporary (injectables)
  • Procedures in 2020: 34,236 lip implants (source: American Society of Plastic Surgeons)

Full, sensual lips have been regarded as a symbol of youthfulness and beauty throughout history. Lip augmentation is a popular procedure that uses implants or injectable fillers to make the lips more plump and attractive and to smooth fine lines and wrinkles around the mouth caused by aging. The majority of lip augmentation patients successfully achieve an improved appearance and an increase in self-confidence.

The procedure information contained in this article will give you a good introduction to lip augmentation. Schedule a consultation with a Top Plastic Surgeon to receive a medical examination and discuss your options for lip augmentation.

Lip Augmentation Overview

Lip augmentation is a popular procedure chosen by men and women of all ages who have thin, unattractive lips or who want to restore the fullness they had when they were younger. Fat transferred from another area of the body, soft tissue fillers or lip implants are used to enlarge and reshape the lips, making them fuller, plumper and more attractive. While most implants inserted into the lips provide permanent results, tissue fillers are eventually absorbed by the body and repeat treatments are usually necessary to maintain results.

The upper or lower lips can be treated individually, though most lip augmentation procedures involve the enlargement of both lips. Lip augmentation can be performed alone or in combination with other procedures, including a facelift, nose surgery, chin augmentation and cheek augmentation.

Injectable Tissue Fillers

A variety of injectable soft tissue fillers are injected into the lips to increase their size and fullness with immediate results. Fat transfer (from another site on the body), collagen (which gives the skin its strength and elasticity) and hyaluronic acid (which lubricates the joints and moisterizes the skin) are the fillers most widely used for lip augmentation. Since tissue fillers are absorbed by the body, injections may need to be repeated periodically.

Fat Transfer

Fat transfer, also called autologous fat transplantation or micro-liposuction, uses a patient's own fat to plump the lips with soft, natural results. Fat is liposuctioned from an inconspicuous site on the body, usually the abdomen or thighs, and injected into the lips with a small needle. No chance of an allergic reaction exists because the patient's own tissues are used. Some of the fat is absorbed by the body, but a significant amount is permanently retained in the lips. Results generally last from 6 months to a year or longer.

The fat transfer procedure usually takes about 1 to 1 1/2 hours and is performed as an outpatient procedure, allowing patients to spend the night at home. Local anesthesia is administered to numb the treated area and may be combined with sedation.

Collagen

Collagen is a protein naturally found in the human body that provides strength, elasticity and support to the skin, bone, cartilage, tendons and connective tissues. A fine needle is used to inject collagen into the lips to enhance their size and shape. Results are temporary, typically lasting for up to 6 months depending on the individual. Treatments may be repeated as necessary. Collagen injections generally take from 15 to 45 minutes and usually require no anesthesia, though sedation may be used.

The two types of collagen used for lip augmentation are bovine-derived collagen and human-derived collagen. Bovine-derived collagen (Zyderm, Zyplast) is made from purified cow skin. A skin test is required prior to the procedure because this type of collagen causes an allergic reaction in some people. Human-derived collagen (Autologen, Dermalogen, Fascian, Cymetra, CosmoDerm, CosmoPlast) is made from donated skin or the patient's own excess skin removed during a facelift or other procedure.

Hyaluronic Acid

Hyaluronic acid is natural substance that lubricates and cushions the joints and moisturizes the skin. Injectables created from hyaluronic acid include Restylane, Hylaform, Juvederm, Perlane and Captique. When injected into the lips, these products hydrate the skin and add volume to the lips. Hyaluronic acid fillers last longer than collagen, usually from 6 months to a year. Hyaluronic acid injections do not post a significant risk of an allergic reaction.

Lip Implants

Lip implants are a permanent option for people who desire more full and voluptuous lips. Implants are composed of natural or synthetic materials and are available in different sizes. The most popular synthetic lip implants include SoftForm, Avanta, Gore-Tex and soft ePTFE. These implants are surgically placed beneath the skin of the lip through small incisions made in the inside of the mouth. Synthetic implants will not shrink, are not absorbed by the body and are held in place when scar tissue forms.

AlloDerm is a sheet of collagen made from donated skin. The implant is inserted through small incisions inside the corners of the mouth. Unlike synthetic implants, AlloDerm is often absorbed by the body and offers temporary results that last from 6 months to a year.

Lip augmentation using implants usually takes about an hour to complete and is performed using local anesthesia to temporarily numb the lips.

Ideal Candidates

The best candidates for lip augmentation are women and men of all ages who are in good health and want to improve the appearance of their face with plumper, more shapely lips.

In general, the best candidates for lip augmentation:

  • Are in good physical and psychological health.
  • Are well-informed about treatment options and have realistic expectations.
  • Want to improve their appearance by enhancing the size and shape of their lips.
  • Would benefit psychologically and emotionally from fuller lips that are in better proportion with other facial features.

Many people begin with injectable tissue fillers to temporarily plump the lips and experiment with a new look. Lip implants can then be used to provide permanent results and avoid the need for ongoing treatments.

If you believe that you may be a good candidate for lip augmentation, a qualified plastic surgeon can evaluate your circumstances, explain anything about the procedure you don't understand, answer all of your questions and help you decide if the procedure is right for you.

Lip Augmentation Risks

Complications are rare and usually minor when lip augmentation is performed by a qualified plastic surgeon. However, all surgeries carry risks. To minimize your risk, carefully follow all of your surgeon's instructions both before and after the procedure. Contact your surgeon's office immediately if you experience any symptoms you believe may indicate a complication.

The most common risks associated with lip augmentation include:

  • Allergic reaction to bovine-derived collagen
  • Implant shifting
  • Implant extrusion (when the implant is visible through the skin)
  • Pain, swelling or bruising beyond normal levels
  • Numbness (usually temporary)
  • Infection
  • Dissatisfaction with results

The greatest risk with bovine-derived collagen (Zyderm or Zyplast) is the possibility of an allergic reaction with symptoms such as swelling, itching and prolonged redness. A skin test is performed in advance for screening purposes.

Lip Augmentation Costs

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the national average surgeon/physician fee for lip augmentation, excluding injectables, in 2013 was $1,767. This figure does not include other costs, such as anesthesia, operating room facilities or other related expenses. Your plastic surgeon will provide you with complete information on costs and financing options at your consultation.

The total fee for lip augmentation can vary considerably depending on the region of the country, the technique used and the patient's specific needs. As it is considered to be a cosmetic procedure, the cost of cheek augmentation is usually not covered by health insurance.

Lip Augmentation Consultation

If you decide that you might benefit from lip augmentation, the first step is to locate a qualified plastic surgeon and schedule a consultation. At the consultation, the doctor will examine your lips and the condition of your skin. He or she will take a complete medical history, including existing medical conditions, medications (prescription and non-prescription) and vitamins.

The surgeon should carefully listen to the goals you have for your appearance and explain the different options that are available. He or she should fully address all of your questions and give you the full details of the recommended procedure, including the benefits, risks, costs and recovery time. Be sure to ask for before and after photos of the surgeon's recent lip augmentation patients.

As the consultation concludes, you may wish to schedule your procedure, take some time to think or seek a second opinion. If you decide to proceed with the procedure, your plastic surgeon will provide you with specific instructions on how to prepare for your lip augmentation.

Lip Augmentation Recovery

After lip augmentation, be sure to follow all of your plastic surgeon's instructions. Most patients experience some minor discomfort along with temporary swelling, bruising and numbness. Any pain should subside quickly and be easily controlled with medication, if needed. Swelling and bruising may last up to a week after a treatment with injectable tissue fillers and longer for lip implant procedures.

Your lips may be stiff and sore for the first few days after the procedure. Moving the lips may be difficult and you may temporarily find it hard to chew, smile and talk. Apply cold compresses for the first day or two to reduce swelling.

Most patients can resume normal activities and return to work immediately after a treatment with injectable tissue fillers and 1 to 2 weeks for lip implant procedures. Strenuous activity should be avoided for the first few days after injectable & for 2 to 3 weeks after implant.