What are lip fillers?
Lip fillers are injections that add volume to your lips. They’re a type of dermal filler.
Lip fillers consist of synthetic hyaluronic acid (HA) — HA is a natural substance in your body. There are many different brands of lip fillers, including Juvederm®, Restylane® and Perlane®.
Who gets lip fillers?
Getting lip fillers is a personal decision. Pursuing your wants and desires for your body can be empowering.
To be considered for lip fillers, you should:
- Be in good physical health.
- Have realistic expectations.
- Not have an active oral infection, including canker sores or cold sores.
Many people who get lip fillers want to increase the size of their lips. You might want to enlarge the size of your lips for many reasons, including:
- Restoring a previous lip size. As you age, your lips may get smaller or thinner, your philtrum (the groove between your upper lip and septum) may get longer and flatter and the distance between the corners of your mouth (intercommissural distance) may increase.
- Correcting the shape of your lips. It’s common for your lips to be different sizes or shapes (asymmetrical).
- Smoothing wrinkles. When you smile or laugh, wrinkles sometimes develop on the sides of your mouth.
- Boosting confidence. Lip fillers can help improve your self-esteem and body image.
Why are lip fillers used?
Lip fillers restore or add volume to your lips. They don’t stop the aging process, but they might help delay the need for a more invasive surgical lip augmentation, like lip implants or a lip lift. They can also help you achieve a desired look, which boosts your self-esteem.
Over time, you may lose volume in your lips, which may be a result of:
- Sun damage.
How common are lip filler procedures?
Lip filler procedures are common. In 2018, healthcare providers performed over 2.1 million lip filler procedures.
How long do lip fillers last?
Lip fillers typically last 12 to 18 months. However, it depends on your age and how fast your body breaks down calories into energy (metabolism). Younger people tend to burn calories faster, so lip fillers don’t last as long.
What happens before a lip filler procedure?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn’t approved the use of lip fillers in anyone under the age of 21. As a result, you must be at least 21 years old to get FDA-approved lip fillers.
Before your lip filler procedure, you’ll meet with your healthcare provider. They’ll assess many factors, including your mental health and any social conditions. Your healthcare provider may ask the following questions:
- Why do you want lip fillers?
- What’re your expectations?
- Do you think a lot about imagined or very small defects with your body?
- Is a spouse, partner or friend encouraging you to get lip fillers?
Your physical health and the shape of your face are also important. Your healthcare provider will evaluate your general health, including any preexisting health conditions or risk factors. Talk to your healthcare provider about any allergies you have, too. And tell them about any prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medications that you’re taking, including herbal supplements.
Your healthcare provider will examine and measure your face. They’ll also take photographs of your face and lips for your medical record.
When considering the size of your lips, it’s important to imagine how you’ll look. Think about getting a new haircut. You may show your hairstylist a photograph to give them an idea of how you’d like your hair to look. However, your hairstylist might tell you that your hair won’t look like the photograph because of your hair texture, hairline, volume or length. You may want your lips to look like a celebrity’s lips, but it might not be achievable because your face shape and features are unique. Ask your healthcare provider if bringing in a picture is helpful. But be prepared to thoroughly describe what you want your lips to look like if your healthcare provider doesn’t want to reference a photograph.
What happens during a lip filler procedure?
During a lip filler procedure, your healthcare provider will apply a topical anesthetic to your lips. The topical anesthetic will numb your lips so you won’t feel any pain and the process is as comfortable as possible. The numbing creams often consist of benzocaine, lidocaine and tetracaine (BLT). About 15 to 30 minutes later, your lips should be numb.
If you have a BLT allergy, your healthcare provider may give you a nerve block injection to numb your lips. About 15 to 30 minutes after the injection, your lips should be numb.
Your healthcare provider will then use a thin needle to inject lip filler into any or all parts of your lips, including the edges of your lips (vermillion border), the curve in the center of your upper lip (Cupid’s bow) and your oral commissures (corners of your mouth). You won’t feel any pain, but you may feel a pinching sensation, and your eyes may water. On average, your healthcare provider will insert 1 milliliter (mL) of lip filler into your lips, which is about one-fifth of a teaspoon. The needle won’t go deeper than 2.5 millimeters (mm) into your skin.
Your healthcare provider may apply an ice pack to your lips throughout the procedure to minimize swelling and bruising.
The entire procedure may take as little as 30 minutes or as long as two hours.
What happens after a lip filler procedure?
After the procedure is complete, your healthcare provider may gently massage your lips so that they absorb the filler. They may continue to ice your lips as well.
Your healthcare provider will monitor you for up to 15 minutes to ensure you don’t experience any side effects, including dizziness, nausea or substantial bleeding. Once they determine that you no longer require monitoring, they’ll let you go home (discharge you). A local anesthetic won’t make you tired or groggy, so you can drive yourself home. However, you may want to have a family member or friend drive you home just in case.
Your lips may be swollen, sensitive and bruised. Swelling usually goes away after 24 to 48 hours, but it may take up to a week.
Your healthcare provider will also schedule a follow-up appointment about two weeks after the procedure to monitor your lips. They may take another picture for your medical record so you can see what your lips looked like before the procedure and after they’ve healed.
The following tips will help your lips as they heal:
- Apply an ice pack for up to 10 minutes to reduce inflammation, pain and swelling.
- Avoid wearing lipstick, lip balm or any other product on your lips for at least 24 hours.
- Refrain from touching or puckering your lips, including kissing and sipping from a straw.
- Be careful brushing your teeth.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Avoid exercising for at least 24 hours.
Risks / Benefits
What are the advantages of lip fillers?
There are many advantages to lip fillers, including:
- They’re safe, and the lip filler procedure is also safe — there’s a low risk of complications or side effects.
- They can boost your self-esteem.
- They’re reversible. If you’re not happy with how you look, your healthcare provider can inject an enzyme (hyaluronidase) to dissolve your lip filler.
What are the risks of lip fillers?
Getting lip fillers poses some risks, including:
- Bleeding and pain at the injection sites.
- Cold sore reactivation.
- Discoloration or tenderness.
- Tissue death (vascular compromise), which can occur if lip filler is injected into or around an artery.
- Your lips may be of different sizes (asymmetry).
- The lip filler may bleed into other areas of your face, usually toward the nose (migration).
Are lip fillers bad for you?
Lip fillers are a medical treatment. Lip fillers are very safe when performed by an experienced healthcare provider, including a plastic surgeon, dermatologist or cosmetic surgeon.
You shouldn’t get lip fillers from a beauty salon or spa.
Will lip fillers ruin your lips?
If you don’t get lip fillers from an experienced healthcare provider, you risk ruining your lips. Your lips may permanently stretch, the tissue surrounding your lips may die, the lip filler may harden or the injection sites may get infected.
Do lip fillers hurt?
You may experience mild pain at your injection sites. The pain should go away after 12 to 24 hours.
Are lip fillers permanent?
Lip fillers aren’t permanent. They slowly wear away over time, usually 12 to 18 months after you get them, depending on your metabolism. You may need routine touch-up treatments to maintain your desired volume.
Can you get lip fillers while pregnant?
There haven’t been any studies on whether it’s safe to get lip fillers during pregnancy. As a result, the FDA hasn’t approved the use of lip fillers while pregnant.
Recovery and Outlook
What is the recovery time?
After 12 to 24 hours, your pain should go away. Your swelling should go away after 24 to 48 hours, but it may take up to a week.
If you want your lips filled before a big event, like a wedding, you should schedule the procedure at least two weeks ahead of time to make sure you’ve completely recovered.
When can I eat or drink after having my lips filled?
It’s best to wait to eat until after the topical anesthetic or nerve block injection has worn off so you don’t accidentally bite your lips and disturb the filler. You should also avoid eating any messy foods that may cause you to wipe your face or lips for at least 24 hours.
Avoid using drinking straws or smoking for at least 24 hours, as well. Puckering or contracting your lips may disturb the lip filler, too.
You should also avoid drinking alcohol for at least 24 hours, as alcohol thins your blood, which can make bruising on your lips worse.
When to Call the Doctor
When should I see my healthcare provider?
Schedule a follow-up appointment with your healthcare provider two weeks after your lip filler procedure. They’ll examine your lips, and together, you’ll discuss the final results, including whether you’d like more volume, which requires more filler.
What questions should I ask my healthcare provider?
- How many times have you performed a lip filler procedure?
- What brands of lip fillers do you offer?
- What brand of lip filler do you recommend?
- Is a lip flip a better option for me?
- How long will it take for my lips to recover?
- What painkillers can I take while I recover?
- What’s the complete list of risks and complications?
- How often should I schedule follow-up appointments to maintain volume?
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Getting lip fillers is a personal decision. If you wish to increase the size of your lips, see a healthcare provider that specializes in lip fillers to discuss your options. Lip fillers can boost your self-confidence, but you should be aware that they’re temporary. On average, you need to get new lip fillers every 12 to 18 months. Talk to your healthcare provider about your questions and concerns.
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