- People find symmetrically shaped lips the most attractive.
- Full, rounded lips are the most popular among lip augmentation patients, followed by heart-shaped lips.
- Lip augmentation surgery provides a permanent change in lip shape and volume.
- Lip injections can significantly alter the shape and volume as well, but periodic maintenance is required.
When it comes to the perfect shape, most people seem to find symmetrical lips the most attractive. A 2017 study that appeared in the Journal of Cranio-Maxillofacial Surgery found that 60% of respondents preferred lips that were the same thickness on the top and the bottom by a ratio of 1:1.
Patients who desire to change the shape of their natural lips have many options to choose from. From injectables to surgeries, modern plastic surgery has developed procedures that can add volume and dramatically alter the shape of the lips.
Common Lip Shapes
Whether plump, thin, or somewhere in between, there are many different lip shapes. The following are the most common.
Full lips are symmetrically full and plump, with a rounded upper lip and no pronounced cupid’s bow. It’s also called the “Hollywood lip” because many consider it sensual and attractive. Angelina Jolie is naturally blessed with this lip shape. It’s also one of the shapes most requested by patients.
Cupid’s bow lips have perfectly proportioned upper and lower lips and a pronounced “cupid’s bow” shape to the upper lip. Another way to describe these lips is heart-shaped. Songstress Taylor Swift has Cupid’s bow lips, and her pout is among the most coveted lip shapes after Angelina Jolie’s.
With their slight upward tilt at the corners, curved lips make it look like the person is always smiling, even when they are not. Actress Charlize Theron has curved, plump lips.
Thin lips, on the other hand, are slim on the top and bottom. People with thin lips — think Kristen Stewart — can accentuate them with bold lip colors and give them the appearance of fullness through the judicious use of lip liner.
Wide Lips and Mouth
Although wide lips can cause someone’s face to appear unbalanced, they can also be attractive. For example, Julia Roberts’ generous pout suits her face and is one of her best features.
Lip augmentation surgery has become much more prevalent since 2000, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS). In its annual report, the ASPS indicates that the numbers of patients undergoing this procedure has increased by 60% over the last 17 years.
For patients desiring a permanent change, the surgical approach offers the most options. However, there are the usual risks of bleeding and scarring to consider, and the patient must be in good general health to undergo anesthesia.
Patients should also consider the downtime required to recover from surgery, as well as the swelling and bruising that necessarily accompany all surgeries. Recovery time for most procedures is approximately one week, although some patients can resume normal activities after three days.
Lip implants are made of soft, silicone rubber or a similar substance and are inserted through small incisions at the corners of the lips. The implants come in a variety of sizes, so the patient can choose which suits them best.
In addition to the other risks of surgery, there is a chance of an allergic reaction. Patients should tell their doctor about any and all allergies of which they are aware. Additionally, any reaction post-op should be reported immediately.
With this procedure, through an incision inside the mouth, the plastic surgeon pushes the lips forward and inserts a fat graft taken from elsewhere under the mucosa (lip lining) to add volume. Patients considering a dermal graft should be aware that it requires a separate incision to gather the tissue for the graft.
Vermillion is the term for the pigmented area of the lips. In vermillion advancement, the surgeon cuts around the pigmented area of the lips. Then, he or she removes a strip of skin above it for the upper lip and below it for the lower lip. He or she then stitches together the remaining tissue to create fuller lips.
A lip lift is indicated for people with loose skin around the mouth and those who wish to raise downward turning lips. A lip lift is carried out through an incision under the nose. The skin in between the nose and the lips is then shortened to pull the lips up.
For those wishing to correct downward-turned lips, small incisions are made on the sides of the mouth, and the extra skin is cut away. The corners of the lips are then sutured in an upward position. These sutures are removed four days later.
Another option with a lip lift is shortening the upper lip to expose more teeth.
Lip enhancement via injection of fillers that increase the volume of the lips is another option for patients who do not wish to undergo surgery. It is important to realize that dermal fillers are not permanent. Patients must undergo periodic re-injection to maintain their new look.
Notably, Kylie Jenner’s augmented pucker was created with hyaluronic acid injections.
Dermal fillers can enhance the size, shape, and contour of the lips without surgery. Although some redness, bumpiness, and bruising can occur, there is very little risk of an allergic reaction.
Hyaluronic acid is a natural component produced by the body which volumizes the lips. As people age their bodies produce less of this acid, which causes the lips to become thinner and lose definition.
Hyaluronic injections can add shape, volume, structure, and smooth away vertical lip lines (perioral rhytids). Their effects last between six and 12 months, after which patients must return for more injections. Since it’s a non-invasive treatment, there is little to no downtime following this procedure.
Collagen used to be the main injectable for lip enhancement. Although it’s still in use, these days many plastic surgeons prefer to use hyaluronic acid as it has fewer side effects and lasts longer between injections. Like hyaluronic acid, collagen is a natural substance produced by the body that also declines with age.
Collagen injections are usually well-tolerated and require no incisions or downtime.
Autologous Fat Transfer
Autologous fat transfer via injection is another option for lip enhancement, except with a surgical component because liposuction is required to harvest the fat. No facial incisions are required, however. It results in natural lips that last for years.
Many patients only need one treatment, and there is almost no risk for an allergic reaction. However, not all of the fat survives the transfer and in some cases patients need additional treatments to make sure the injections take.
Which Lip Enhancement Procedure Is Best?
Which procedure is best depends on the individual patient, their overall health, and their preferences. Here are some considerations:
- Willingness to undergo surgery
- Being in good health for general anesthesia
- Accepting a recovery period of at least one week
- An understanding that all surgery carries the risks of bleeding and scarring
- Willingness to have periodic repeat injections for maintenance
- Recognizing that lip injections carry the risk of lip asymmetry
In all cases, patients should choose a plastic surgeon who has been certified by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) for the best, safest outcomes.
- American Board of Cosmetic Surgery: Lip Enhancement (n.d.) americanboardcosmeticsurgery.org/procedure-learning-center/facial-procedures/lip-enhancement
- American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery: Lip Enhancement (n.d.) smartbeautyguide.com/procedures/head-face/lip-enhancement
- American Society of Plastic Surgeons: 2017 Plastic Surgery Statistics Report (2018) plasticsurgery.org/documents/News/Statistics/2017/plastic-surgery-statistics-report-2017.pdf
- The Current Preferred Female Lip Ratio (2017) researchgate.net/publication/313685971_The_Current_Preferred_Female_Lip_Ratio