One of the most stupendous perks of being a beauty editor is having the opportunity to work with the best and brightest brands, products, and experts in the business. Sometimes, amidst the slew of emails we send back and forth to each other, we have the chance to meet an expert for an IRL treatment.
Such was the case when I found myself turning onto Robertson Boulevard in West Hollywood and making my way into the chic ambiance of Facile's lobby. But here's the catch: I wasn't entirely sure what was going to happen during the appointment or what I was walking into, as Facile offers everything from introductory consultations and vitamin shots to a wide variety of injectables. It was almost like a blind date of sorts... a beauty blind date that is. Fast forward roughly one and a half hours later, and I was walking back to my car (practically on cloud nine) with an ice pack pressed to my lips and an ever-so-slightly puffier pout, thanks to a dose of subtle lip fillers.
We asked board-certified dermatologists Michael Lin, MD, and Nina Naidu, MD, as well as board-certified nurse practitioner Breana Wheeler (who performed my injections) to give us the low down on all things lip injections. Whether you're wondering how long lip fillers last, you're curious to see a lip injection before and after, or simply want to know what to expect if you ever have an intended date with lip injections, we've got you covered.
Keep scrolling to find out everything you need to know about lip fillers.
Meet the Expert
- Michael Lin, MD, is a Los Angeles-based board-certified dermatologist who specialized in cosmetic and medical dermatology.
- Nina Naidu, MD, is a New York-based board-certified plastic surgeon specializing in aesthetic plastic surgery of the breast and body.
- Breana Wheeler, MSN, NP-BC, is a board-certified nurse practitioner at Facile in West Hollywood specializing in cosmetic dermatology.
What Are Lip Injections?
"Lip injection is the process of filling the lips with material, and although we often think of them in relation to patients who desire increased volume, they can also be used to correct uneven lips, lift the corners of the mouth, and smooth out lip wrinkles, which become more prominent with age," says Naidu.
That material includes fillers like hyaluronic acid, fat, or implants. Hyaluronic acid—a naturally occurring substance in the body—is the most common type of filler used to get a plumper pout. The type of filler chosen depends entirely on what your goal is for the treatment, whether it be to balance out the shape of your lips or add fullness or structure.
"I make sure to choose the brand and product based on my clients' goals and what I think will look the best," says Wheeler. "For a patient getting lip filler for the first time, I love Volbella and Restylane Refyne because of how refined the results are. If a patient wants more volume, Juvederm Ultra is a great choice. Injection methods will also vary depending on the patients' natural shape and end-goal. To avoid lumps and bumps, I prefer small threads or drops of filler as I inject."
Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring polysaccharide found in the human body. It acts as a cushioning and lubrication agent for our joints, nerves, hair, skin, and eyes. When used in skincare, it acts as a moisture binder, which means that it will attach itself to the water in the cells (while also attracting and holding water from the air) making them plump.
Benefits of Lip Injections
While lip fillers have become synonymous with pumping up the volume (à la Kylie Jenner), they have a number of other benefits.
- Evens out asymmetrical lip shapes
- Adds natural fullness to desired areas
- Reduces the appearance of fine lines on the lips and surrounding mouth area
- Is customizable based on needs and desires
- Offers temporary results
How to Prepare for Lip Injections
First things first: the consultation. “When a patient comes in asking for fuller lips, I like to start by discussing how they would like their lips to look,” Lin says. “This step is extremely important because I want to make sure that what they are looking for is achievable and will match the overall shape and structure of their face.” For example, if someone has smaller facial features, they may look strange with lips that are too full. “Different facial structures will dictate what lip shape and volume will be appropriate,” he says. “The lip shape is actually more important than the volume.”
I actually love my lips, so my interest in filler wasn't due to dissatisfaction so to speak, but more to an interest in enhancing a feature I already really loved. My bottom lip is naturally fuller than my upper lip (which has a pretty defined shape), and I always thought it would be nice to add some volume to the top to even things out. So while I had the opportunity, I decided to ask Wheeler her opinion, and slowly, we began to talk strategy.
Wheeler explained that since my lips are on the thinner side of the spectrum, it would look unnatural to inject a large amount of filler in them—especially in one visit. (I had made it clear right away that I was only interested in a super-subtle aesthetic.) Therefore, once I decided to take the plunge, Wheeler chose to go with Volbella, a hyaluronic acid filler she said would yield the soft and subtle look I was after. The game plan: baby steps.
Wheeler's golden rule of getting lip injections in a nutshell? "Make sure your injector knows exactly what you want and follow up if it's not what you had in mind. Personally, I would much rather see the client back for a little more than to have the client say it was too much," she says.
What to Expect During Lip Injections
"Following the consultation during which we determine the patient's goals, the lips are anesthetized and cleansed with alcohol," says Naidu. "Filler is injected with a tiny needle into the areas that need volume, and the material is massaged gently to prevent the formation of lumps. The amount of filler depends upon the patient's anatomy as well as their goals. We never inject more than one milliliter of filler during a given session. The whole process takes about 30 minutes."
The ouch factor will vary from person to person, but to put it bluntly, the lips are sensitive and without an anesthetic, the lip injections will feel like a very sharp pinch. According to Lin, there are options that contain lidocaine, a common local anesthetic, to make the process as painless as possible. Or, you can ask for a numbing cream 15 minutes before the treatment. “Sometimes, we do nerve blocks to numb up the entire lip area,” he says, adding that most patients can come in for a consultation and leave the same day with a plumper pout. If you're concerned about the pain, ask for ice to be placed topically between injections.
Personally, I'm not much of a needle person, and even though I have a relatively high pain tolerance (something Wheeler commented on and I'm oddly quite proud of), it's the mental visual of the needle entering my skin that can send me into a state of catatonia. However, to my surprise, the injection process was a lot less painful than I anticipated. I definitely felt it (I wholeheartedly agree with the "pinching" comparison), but the wincing was minimal. But again, this is coming from someone who flips bacon with her fingers mid-fry.
"Once I'm finished injecting, I apply lip ointment and send the client home with ice and aftercare instructions," says Wheeler.
Potential Side Effects
Let's get the obvious side effect out of the way: swelling and bruising. "I always warn patients of this risk beforehand, and advise them not to have their lips done just prior to an important occasion," says Naidu. The majority of the swelling will go down two days later and will have completely resolved in two weeks."
"Bruising is also very normal and expected, but significant pain or irregular bruising outside the lip area is not normal and the patient should call their injector immediately," emphasizes Wheeler.
Though I had experienced minimal swelling the day and night of (bearing in mind that I had a late-afternoon appointment), the next morning was a different story entirely. While the bruising wasn't too bad, my lips—especially the upper—were cartoonishly swollen and one side even a tad bit lumpy. Obviously, I panicked and immediately second-guessed my decision. But then I remembered: This was all part of the process, and I'd just have to ice, wait it out, and wear my favorite baseball cap for the weekend.
Sure enough, though, even once I had hit the 24-hour mark, my swelling had significantly decreased and my lips were settling into their new, natural selves. The verdict: I absolutely loved them, but after a week or so, I began to notice a slight difference in symmetry in both the upper lip and the lower lip (which both Wheeler and I suspected, as she noticed that each side of my upper lip was taking the filler differently during my initial appointment). Thus, the ever-important next step: the follow-up.
"I think it's very important for the client to follow up two weeks after their initial appointment so they can take a look at their lips with the injector and determine if any touch-ups, adjustments, or additional filler is needed," recommends Wheeler. "Each person has unique lips and they also react differently to each filler."
According to Wheeler, many patients, myself included, naturally have asymmetrical lips and one side of the top or bottom might be larger or longer. Interestingly, filler can be used to address these asymmetries, but it can also make them more noticeable. "Occasionally a tiny dose of Botox is needed to soften the muscles that pull up the upper lip. This is often called a 'lip flip' and pairs beautifully with lip injections." Which, by the way, is exactly what Wheeler did.
She explains: "Basically your lips were/are slightly asymmetric especially with movement. Sometimes even when we try to correct it with filler your lips will still show the asymmetry. Also, it was less noticeable when your upper lip was thinner but slightly more noticeable when we plumped it with filler. This isn’t that uncommon to adjust— everyone responds differently! Since your lips were asymmetric with movement, we used a little Botox to decrease the movement of your upper lip (or relax it) which also results in a slightly fuller upper lip when you smile." Mission accomplished, and post-follow-up, I'm 100 percent satisfied with the end result.
Anyone who's wondered about lip injections likely thought to themselves, "How much are lip fillers?" Valid question. Price varies significantly depending on the city and injector, but lip injections generally cost $500 to $1000 (however, in more expensive areas like New York City, you can expect a range closer to $900 to $1500). The average cost for lip injections at Lin’s office falls around $550 to $650 for a 1-cc syringe. However, some people might want a fuller look—which requires an additional syringe (and again, more expensive areas like NYC and LA will jack these prices up a bit higher).
As with anything needle-related, there are a few essential aftercare instructions.
- No makeup or lip products for at least 12 hours. (Although Wheeler says you can use a brand-new tube of an ointment like Aquaphor Lip Repair, $4)
- Regular icing with a clean ice pack on and off throughout the rest of the evening.
- Sleeping with your head elevated on two pillows to help decrease swelling.
- Avoid alcohol and blood thinners for the next 24 hours if you have bruising.
- No massage or firm pressure on the lips for at least a week.
The Final Takeaway
All in all, I am 100% happy with my decision in getting lip injections, and really, the change is so subtle that not many would even notice. The important thing is that I notice, and I've felt all the more confident for it.
Will I continue to get lip fillers? I'm not sure, though anyone looking to maintain their plumper pout does have to re-up.“On average, they last up to six months, but results may vary depending on your lifestyle factors,” says Lin. (For example, very active patients who exercise frequently tend to metabolize filler more quickly.)
But now that I've found someone I can trust and learned the process isn't scary (again, find someone who you can trust!), I wouldn't bat an eyelash at a future touch-up.
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