Botox is not a filler. This we know. The fact has been pounded into our heads through many insightful beauty articles, podcast episodes, and flustered dermatologists tired of the masses seeking filler-like results from the popular injectable. So you may be surprised to learn that the muscle relaxer actually can add volume to your lips. Enter: the Botox Lip Flip Treatment—a subtle and highly personalized approach that delivers the kind of finished product that looks less "I've had something done" and more "I woke up like this."
To learn more about the treatment, I sought out the experts at Le Jolie, a boutique spa that sits on the edge of West Hollywood and champions a deft, light-handed approach to layering treatments. Read on for my honest experience with Le Jolie Spa and the Botox lip flip.
What Is the Botox Lip Flip Treatment?
The Botox lip flip involves the precise placement of just a few units of botox along the upper lip muscle, near the border, to relax and "flip" the lip to make more of the upper lip visible. This creates a fuller, plumper, but natural-appearing upper lip.
Rather than overloading patients on lip filler, Rafaeloff is a big fan of the "lip flip," a Botox treatment that helps relax the top lip and "flip" it out, revealing a less gummy smile. For me, it's also a decidedly less invasive approach to creating the illusion of fuller lips, since it kind of just zhuzh-es up my natural shape without adding a ton of extra volume. But let's get a little more technical about it, shall we?
"In general, Botox prevents the release of the neurotransmitter called acetylcholine, which nerves release in order to make muscles contract," says Liotta. "When [injecting] Botox into a specific muscle, the effect is that the targeted muscle relaxes. Using Botox to perform a Botox lip flip can help relax a very small area of the orbicularis oris muscle (the muscle that surrounds the lips). Relaxing tension in this muscle can allow the lip to flip upwards, creating a poutier look."
"You can do the same with the muscle responsible for the gummy smile," Rafaeloff adds. In other words, if you're working with lip volume that in my case, I didn’t even know I had—you’re just flipping the lip up to make it more visible. Botox is injected in extremely small quantities around the corners of the mouth and near the cupid’s bow, creating the illusion of fuller, poutier lips, without fillers or other treatments.
Benefits of Botox Lip Flip Treatment
- Cost-effective alternative to lip fillers
- Won't cause a drastic change to the look of your lips
- A fuller-looking upper lip
- Little downtime/recovery
- Results in a few days
"The botox lip flip keeps the upper lip from thinning, or 'disappearing' when you smile, and can also prevent excess teeth [showing], or the 'gummy smile,'" Cheung shares. There is a con, though—and it is why you'll want to visit a certified injector before jumping in. "Too much Botox can weaken your upper lip too much so that your smile looks flat. You can't use a straw or kiss, and [it] may even affect how you speak," Cheung reminds us. As someone who chats a lot, I live in fear of losing my ability to speak.
Meet the Expert
- Parvaneh Rafaeloff, MD, is the cofounder of Le Jolie.
- Dara Liotta, MD, is a dual board-certified facial plastic surgeon with offices on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and Dubai.
- Jessie Cheung, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and the founder of Cheung Aesthetic and Wellness.
The Best Candidates for Botox Lip Flip Treatment
The best candidates for a Botox lip flip are those who have a thinner upper lip and desire additional volume in that area. Patients who feel their upper lip recedes, curls, or completely disappears when smiling or speaking, even exposing excess teeth or gums when smiling, can benefit from the lip flip and achieve a poutier aesthetic.
Potential Side Effects
As with any medical procedure, there are a few risks. Botox can lead to bruising or temporary swelling and, as we've explained before, headache and flu-like symptoms. In more severe and less common cases, it's even led to temporary drooping of the skin and there is a slight risk of creating an asymmetrical smile. These risks are rare and generally reversible, so be sure you go to a licensed practitioner.
Cost of Botox Lip Flip Treatment
The cost of Botox can vary widely, though a single unit of Botox usually ranges around $20. As a lip flip usually requires roughly six units of Botox, you can expect to spend between $120-$300 total.
How to Find a Qualified Provider
The best way to find a qualified Botox injector is to do your research and ensure that wherever you go is an established medical and cosmetic clinic. Look for practitioners who focus on Botox and other injectables, and have lots of before and afters (and solid ratings) on the cosmetic service. For the record, some practitioners might note that this particular use of Botox is technically off-label—that is, it hasn’t been specifically approved by the FDA. But that also just means finding a board-certified practitioner is a must, to ensure that you’re getting a safe (and quality) application.
Like Ross Geller, I bruise like a peach and tend to feel sore for a couple of days post-treatment. And it's not a permanent fix, either. The fullness subsides over time and must be maintained with regular top ups every three months or so.
The Botox Lip Flip Treatment vs. Traditional Lip Fillers
The cool thing is that both the Botox Lip Flip treatment and traditional lip fillers can be applied at once. The piece de resistance might actually be adding a smidge of filler for a highly personalized approach—perhaps along your vermillion line (the edge of your lip), or in your cupid’s bow, or for a little additional volume in your upper or lower lip. "Filler is used to create volume in a lip and to help enhance or change the shape of your lips to your liking,” adds Rafaeloff. “Botox just [targets] muscles that need relaxing.”
Filler tends to be far pricier than Botox: While a Botox lip flip can run anywhere from roughly $50 to $500 (depending on how much you need), a lip filler treatment can start at anywhere from $500 to $1000. That makes this a cost-effective approach to lip enhancement, and with minimal downtime, too. (Typically, the results from the lip flip tend to kick in five to seven days after your treatment, just like regular Botox).
Before and After
Here are some stunning before and after shots of the Botox Lip Flip Treatment from Instagram:
And of course, we can't forget my results:
The Final Takeaway
It’s all worth it to me when it means getting a little touch-up that feels very me—and not even in a Facetuned, airbrushed kind of way. I prefer a je ne sais quoi; the kind of subtlety that can’t even be traced to my mouth. “Wow—you look so glowy,” said a coworker the day after my last appointment. "Fresh-faced." Mission accomplished.