I Got a Lip Flip Instead of Filler and I'm Never Going Back

The off-label Botox treatment is more subtle.

victoria hoff

Victoria Hoff

It would be easy to say the greatest thing about the growing crop of boutique medi-spas in L.A. is the sheer convenience of aesthetics-on-demand; the ability to dash in for a quick skin touch-up during your lunch hour. And while that's certainly true, I'd still like to give the edge to the fact that a highly personalized treatment—the kind that used to be reserved for some of the best dermatology practices in the city—has never been quite so accessible.

Consider Le Jolie, a boutique spa that sits on the edge of West Hollywood with all the trappings of a millennial hotspot: a neon sign, palm printed wallpaper, a sunny front deck. (Curious about their clientele? Just take a scroll through some of the bigger names on your IG feed). But beyond its sheer Instagrammability, the reason why I’ve become a regular at Le Jolie is that it champions a deft, light-handed approach to layering treatments, from injectables to ultherapy to lasers. The results are subtle and highly personalized—the kind of finished product that looks less "I've had something done" and more "I woke up like this." ("Freshed-faced" is a phrase they use a lot here—a mantra that’s also an end goal). Read on for my honest experience with Le Jolie Spa and the Botox Lip Flip Treatment.

What is a Botox Lip Flip?

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. 

What Is The Botox Lip Flip Treatment?

Rather than overloading patients on lip filler, Le Jolie Spa co-founder Parvaneh Rafaeloff, MD, 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 Dara Liotta, MD.
"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.

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 5-7 days after your treatment, just like regular Botox).

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 show, or the 'gummy smile'," Jessie Cheung, MD shares. There is a con, though—and 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 may even affect how you speak," Dr. Cheung reminds us. As someone who chats a lot, I live in fear of losing my ability to speak.

The Botox Lip Flip Treatment vs. Traditional Lip Fillers

That said, 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. The cool thing is that both the Botox Lip Flip treatment and traditional lip fillers can be applied at once. "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.”

Side Effects

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: "You will need to keep going back about every three months to maintain results so any issues would subside over time," Howard Sobel, MD, explains. Oh, and is there is a slight risk of creating an asymmetrical smile, although this is very minimal, according to Sobel.

For the record, some practitioners might note that this particular use of Botox is technically off-label—that is, it hasn’t been studied or 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.

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:

lip flip botox
 @victoriadawsonhoff

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.

Editor's note: While Dr. Rafaeloff is certainly qualified and licensed to perform injections, she isn't board-certified. For the safest experience and the best results, see a board-certified injector.

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