Dermatologists Share How to Reverse the Thinning of Lips

thinning lips 2

STOCKSY / Liliya Rodnikova

As we age, our faces change. There’s no doubt about it. But while we know to look out for fine lines and wrinkles and loss of volume in the cheeks and under-eye area, what many people might not know is that your lips are prone to aging too—and we’re not just talking about the skin surrounding them. Rather, as we age, our lips slowly become thinner. Not the best news, we know. 

But don’t panic! By understanding what causes loss of volume in the lips, as well as the best ways to prevent and treat lip volume loss, you can hold onto a full pout for years to come. 

Keep reading for everything you need to know about preventing and treating thinning lips, with help from the experts.

Meet the Expert

  • Susan Van Dyke, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Van Dyke Aesthetics.
  • Purvisha Patel, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist, MOHS, and cosmetic surgeon, and the founder/owner of Visha Skincare.

What Causes Thinning Lips

Just like the loss of volume in other areas of your face, thinning lips is caused by the breakdown of fat pads underneath the skin. “There are fat pads under the skin, cushioning the muscles and bones on the face,” says Van Dyke. “These give our faces a soft and rounded appearance associated with youthfulness.  Lips are no exception. There are little fat pads in your lips and depending on your genetics can be thin or quite full naturally.” 

Regardless of whether you have ample fat pads or not, thinning is part of aging. “As we age all these fat pads slowly shrink and thin,” Van Dyke explains, noting that, no matter how full your lips are at 20, they will lose volume with time. “The result is a thinning lip (as well as volume depletion on the entire face).”  While everyone is prone to lip thinning, if you are born with naturally thin lips, Van Dyke says that the aging effects can be more obvious. 

Can you prevent volume loss in the lips?

Technically, yes, but it might require not talking, smoking, drinking, or expressing yourself. Since avoiding all of those things simultaneously is unlikely, Van Dyke says that preventing volume loss isn’t easy—especially because genetics play a major role. As such, she says that your best bet is to learn ways to cut down on lip-thinning activities, as well as ways to treat thinning lips once they arise. 

01 of 07

Keep Your Lips Hydrated

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All the lip balm, all of the time. “Lips need conditioners and moisturizers just like facial skin,” Van Dyke says. For a moisture kick, we love the Lanolips 101 Ointment Multipurpose Superbalm ($17). It's a 100 percent natural option that promises to leave lips soft and hydrated for hours.

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Cut Back On Repetitive Mouth Movements

According to Patel, certain motions that require a pucker—like smoking, drinking through straws, and taking smoochy selfies—can accelerate the collagen loss of the lips over time. Because of this, she says to stop doing these things, if possible.

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Tailor Your Routine to Naturally Boost Collagen Production

woman drinking water

GETTY IMAGES / jacoblund

Drinking water and getting enough sleep really can make a big impact on not only how you feel, but how you look. “Staying hydrated and promoting the production of collagen by drinking [plenty of] of water, getting eight hours of sleep, taking a probiotic, taking a multivitamin, and using an SPF in your lip products when outside will help [keep your lips looking full],” Patel says.

04 of 07

Steer Clear of Lip Plumping Devices

You might think these will work, but in reality, Patel says that hyaluronic acid pens and suction devices actually can accelerate collagen breakdown. Yikes. (Also, while we hope this isn’t necessary to say, putting your lips into a water bottle and sucking should also be avoided at all costs—even if social media suggests otherwise).

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Fake It 'Til You Make It

Addison Rae Lips

@addisonrae

You might not be able to keep your lips from thinning, but you can keep them from looking like it. Such is the beauty of over-lining your lips. Everyone from Kim Kardashian to Addison Rae is doing it, so know that you can, too. “Overline your lips with lip liner, pushing a little beyond the vermilion border, and fill in with gloss or lipstick to make the lips appear bigger,” Patel suggests.

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Consider Getting Filler

If you find that your lips look particularly thin and nothing seems to be working, you may want to consider a filler appointment. “The best procedure for thinning lips is filler,” Van Dyke says. “You want to be careful about selecting a great injector, though. Too much filler looks unnatural.” As such, she recommends talking with your dermatologist or esthetician to find out what’s right for you.

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Or the Botox Flip

lip flip

GETTY IMAGES / Robert Daly

This trendy procedure uses Botox along the lip line to create slightly flipped lips at all times. “It gives a fuller-looking lip by relaxing the muscles that cause puckering and allowing other lip muscles to subtly ‘flip’ the lip outward for a fuller look,” Van Dyke says. “The effect lasts for three to four months and can be done with tiny amounts of Botox (or other brands of neuromodulators like Dysport, Xeomin, or Jeuveau).” Just know that, if done incorrectly, some say a Botox lip flip can make drinking through a straw difficult, so it’s best to go somewhere reputable (as is the case with any cosmetic treatment).

FAQ
  • At what age do your lips start thinning?

    Lips reach maximum thickness at around age 16. After that, lips begin to slowly break down fat pads.

  • How long do lip fillers last?

    Lip fillers are not a permanent fix for thinning lips. You can expect your fillers to last for six months to a year.

  • Are there any natural ingredients that will help fight thinning lips?

    There are some ways to naturally circulate the blood in your lips for a temporarily plumper appearance. Patel recommends applying capsicum (found in chili peppers) or cinnamon to your lips. Of course, it’s important to first make sure you don’t have an allergy to either of these ingredients and, if not, to use sparingly for effects.

Article Sources
Byrdie takes every opportunity to use high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we keep our content accurate, reliable and trustworthy.
  1. Sharma P, Arora A, Valiathan A. Age Changes of Jaws and Soft Tissue ProfileScientificWorldJournal. 2014;2014:301501. doi:10.1155/2014/301501

  2. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. FDA-approved Dermal Fillers. Updated November 9, 2020.

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