Light Up the Room with a Grin Lift: Plastic Surgery to Make You Smile
- The grin lift is one of several surgeries that target the lips and mouth.
- Known in South Korea as the Smile Lipt, the procedure recently gained internet notoriety due to exaggerated claims of “Joker-like” results.
- The grin lift can be combined with other procedures to address drooping mouth corners.
A smile lights up a face, signaling warmth, trust, and inviting conversation. It plays an important part in human interaction. For those with less than adequate smiles, there is a solution—and it’s a permanent one.
Also known as the corner lip lift or smile surgery, the grin lift will give you an eternally friendly expression.
Highlights of the grin lift
The grin lift targets jowly or otherwise downturned mouths to do away with what is commonly called “angry resting face.”
Many people attribute the grin lift to the South Korean plastic surgery scene, a country well known for its creative — and sometimes controversial — cosmetic treatments. A variation of the procedure known as the Smile Lipt recently gained internet notoriety when pictures of post-surgery grins began circulating, casting a negative light on the procedure.
In fact, the grin lift has been performed in the United States for longer than many realize. It is attributed to Hawaiian plastic surgeon Dr. Robert Flowers who, along with others, called it the Valentine Anguloplasty, a name still used by plastic surgeons today.
The grin lift’s more recent popularity is largely due to plastic surgeon Dr. Anthony Youn, whose appearance in 2014 on The Doctors highlighted the procedure.
What to expect from a grin lift
As we age, our faces develop jowls—loose, sagging skin around the jawline that pulls down the corners of our mouths. Surgical intervention by way of a grin lift can help an aged face appear more youthful and friendly. For younger people—or anyone dissatisfied with the shape of their mouths—a grin lift can improve the mouth’s appearance, and positively impact the face in general.
The surgeon makes an incision along the upper edge of the lip and removes a wedge-shaped piece of tissue above the lip at each corner. This piece may be triangular or, in the case of the classic Valentine Anguloplasty, more heart-shaped (hence the name).
After the tissue is removed, the skin on either side of the mouth is stitched shut. The effect is immediate. Exactly how upturned the lips are depends on the amount of tissue removed.
The skin heals reasonably quickly, and the stitches can be removed in five days. Scarring at the corners of the mouth is minimal and fades with time.
The grin lift does not restrict mouth movement — those who undergo the procedure should still be able to smile wide and frown. It is intended only to correct the resting mouth position.
The grin lift is considered minimal and has few related complications. Other than the risk of infection that is associated with any surgery, there are two issues to bear in mind:
- Most scars will be minimal, but some may not. The severity of scarring is influenced by numerous factors, including the surgeon’s skill, infection, and your own biological predispositions. See a dermatologist to know the specifics of your skin before the surgery; you may be advised to have laser treatments after the operation for the scars.
- Your surgeon may be overzealous and remove too much tissue during the procedure, resulting in a mouth that is too upturned and may appear unnatural looking, or even off-putting. Make sure you see a skilled plastic surgeon with experience in this procedure.
Alternative or accompanying treatments
There are other techniques on the market that promise similar results to the grin lift, with names that are often used interchangeably. It is important to know that techniques and terminology may vary from doctor to doctor.
South Korea’s AONE Clinic developed the Smile Lipt, which involves both lifting and curling the drooping or downturned corners of the mouth.
Photos attributed to their work went viral, sparking criticism over some bizarre-looking smiles. However, many photos attributed to the Smile Lipt, like those visible on the clinic’s Facebook page, are more toned down.
The AONE Clinic reportedly patented the procedure, suggesting that there may be some key differences between it and the conventional grin lift.
This procedure is more complex than the grin lift. Surgeons cut the depressor anguli oris (DAO) muscle. Because this muscle is responsible for frowning, cutting it has a dramatic effect—similar to the grin lift.
However, cutting muscles is a more complicated procedure, and may present an unnecessary risk when a grin lift could work just as well.
Medialized external corner lip lift
This procedure combines the grin lift and an upper lip lift. It lifts the corners of the mouth while simultaneously expanding the lips, known as the vermillion border, on either side of the upper lip.
The procedure is more complicated and has a longer recovery time (sutures are removed within seven days), but offers significant results as it tackles two issues at once.
Botox or fillers
If surgery isn’t for you, consider Botox or fillers. Botox reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles by relaxing the muscles in the face. Fillers achieve a similar result by filling in soft tissue in the skin, thereby plumping it up.
» Want to find the right combination of procedures for you? Use our virtual consultation tool to discuss your options with multiple plastic surgeons in your area.
Other surgical options for your smile
Let’s take a look at other mouth surgery options. These procedures can be had independently of one another or in combination, to give you a perfectly shaped mouth and a centered smile.
Upper and lower lip lift
The goal of lip lift procedures is to stretch the borders of the lips so they appear fuller. During this process, the area around the lip is also sculpted to enhance the overall effect and achieve a balanced look.
Typically, an incision is made and the skin is stretched to achieve the desired look.
Lip lifts usually heal within seven to ten days and may be accompanied by some swelling, bruising, and temporary numbness.
The biggest complication associated with this procedure is an asymmetrical or otherwise unbalanced look. The lift may have been too aggressive, leaving too little room between the vermillion border and the nose. It may also be lopsided.
Additional complications include permanent loss of sensation and relapse, where lips return to their original state.
For best results, consult a cosmetic doctor about your plans for surgery and discuss whether you are a good candidate. This is important as some patients are prone to developing more prominent scars (keloid scars), which can lead to a poor outcome.
» If you are interested in talking to a cosmetic doctor about your lip lift options, use our directory to find one near you.
Dimpleplasty is a simple procedure to create dimples on the cheeks or chin. Interesting to note, dimples are actually the result of shortened facial muscles, a common genetic defect. Still, many people covet dimples as they are considered desirable or even cute.
This procedure involves passing a small dissolvable suture (or stitch) through the cheeks and catching the underside of the skin. When the suture is tied, it creates a natural-looking dimple that is visible only when the face is animated—not relaxed.
This procedure takes very little time—approximately 30 minutes. It’s become a common request in the last few years among millennial-aged patients due to its simplicity and minimal downtime.
Gummy smile surgery
A “gummy” smile exposes a larger than average amount of gum tissue and an obviously disproportionate gum-to-tooth ratio. The surgeon’s golden rule for a good smile is less pink (gum) and more white (teeth) but to also maintain some pink display when smile designing.
In some cases, dental or skeletal issues may be the cause of a gummy smile. Some people have a hyperactive upper lip that causes the lip to lift too high, exposing too much gum tissue. Others suffer from an overgrowth in the upper jaw that causes gums to bulge out.
Gummy smiles can be corrected in a variety of ways, depending on the issue:
- Gingivectomy – The gums are trimmed, cutting away excess tissue; this will likely be accompanied by a gingivoplasty (surgical reshaping of gum tissue)
- Lip repositioning – Surgically lowers the position of the upper lip to cover more gum
- Botox – Botox injections in the upper lip relax the lip muscles to cover more gum
- Fillers – Fillers can plump the lip to mask the gums
- Maxillofacial surgery – In severe cases, this surgery repositions the jaw bone to raise the gum line above the smile
Nothing you wear is more important than your smile
Connie Stevens said it best. Are you wearing your best smile? A great smile shows confidence and projects a positive image. If you feel yours needs enhancing, there are tried and true solutions available based on your needs—big or small. For the best results, consult with a board-certified plastic surgeon.
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