woman's lips over a flower

Luscious Lips in Time for Valentine’s Day: All Your Options

Plump, luscious lips are a hot trend, with celebrities like Kylie Jenner and Bella Thorne pouting for the paparazzi with enhanced puckers. But it’s not just movie stars and media personalities who are boosting their allure with lip fillers and surgical lip enhancements. They’re also the rage among women who don’t appear in the Hollywood reports.

Join the trend with a gift to yourself this Valentine’s day, and surprise your special someone with more enticing and kissable lips. Fillers provide a quick and easy boost, with no downtime and results that last for many months. Surgical augmentations are more permanent, but also require more time to settle into a new and beautiful look.


Women have long known that attractive lips are a lure. That’s why they’ve painted their lips for centuries. And science has confirmed that intuition. Eye-tracking studies show that a man, when meeting a woman for the first time, spends more time looking at her lips than at any other part of her face. If she has full lips or is wearing red or pink lipstick, that balance is skewed even further. In the first ten seconds, he’ll spend seven looking at her lips and less than one looking at her eyes or her hair.

Full, pouting lips increase the attraction more than lipstick can. They’re an indication of youth and vitality, which is an unconscious allure. Women’s faces tend to retain more of the features of childhood than do men’s as they enter adolescence and early adulthood, including large eyes and full lips, and the more accentuated these are, the greater their appeal. There are different theories about why these features are so attractive. One is that they trigger caretaking responses in others and an instinctively warm reaction. Whatever the reason, it’s clear that plump lips are noticed, and in a positive way.

Social fashions are also at play. Ideals in body shapes and facial forms change over time, and plump, prominent lips are definitely in vogue today. Unfortunately, not all of us are born with dramatic and noticeable lips and even those of us who are tend to lose lip volume as we age. That’s why many of us need help, and the numbers show the trend. Kylie Jenner built a cosmetics company on her lip accentuation products, and it is now worth over $1 billion. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons reports a 60 percent increase in lip augmentations in the last two decades. More than 34 million Instagram posts are tagged #lips and 1.2 million are tagged #lipfillers.


Fuller, redder lips have been shown to be more attractive than thin, pale ones, but there’s more to lip aesthetics than that. Studies have also shown that symmetry and shape are important, as is the balance between the upper and lower lips.

A 1:1 ratio between the upper and lower lips is one standard, and research has found that this equal ratio is the most attractive to the majority of people in many different countries. Scarlett Johansson is an example of this beauty ideal. A mouth with a fuller lower lip is also striking. This is the look perfected by Kylie Jenner (with a little medical help). A fuller upper lip (known as a “trout pout”) can also be considered attractive for many women.

Shape, too, can make lips stand out. Taylor Swift and Rihanna both have clearly defined cupid’s bows — upper lips with curved peaks on either side of a central dip. Julia Roberts, on the other hand, has a level upper lip with no defined cupid’s bow. The “keyhole pout” is another beauty standard — a tiny, cute gap in the center of the mouth when the lips are closed.

Of course, the features of your face will determine the most attractive form for your lips, and ethnic and racial characteristics play a role. The good news is that simple lip enhancement treatments can tip the scales in your favor. And you can bet that the most alluring celebrity lips have had this kind of help.


The fastest and easiest way to get fuller lips is with injectable fillers. As we age, our skin, including the tissue in our lips, produces less collagen, a substance that keeps skin moist, full, and flexible. With less collagen, facial skin tends to wrinkle and sag and our lips gradually lose volume. If your lips have thinned, if they are asymmetrical, or if they have always been on the narrow side, injectable fillers like Juvéderm and Restylane can give them a youthful, plump, kissable look. These fillers are made with hyaluronic acid, a substance that occurs naturally in the body. When injected into the tissue below the skin, the fillers bind collagen and elastin, another critical substance in the skin. This works to help the skin retain moisture and add volume.

Filler injections can do more than simply plump your lips. They can be applied to adjust the balance between the upper and lower lips and correct any side-to-side asymmetry. They can also create a keyhole pout by leaving a natural-looking gap in the center of the lips.

The injections take just a few minutes. They are done in the doctor’s office with an extremely fine needle for precise application and to minimize discomfort. A numbing cream may be applied to the area before the injection. Some fillers, including Restylane, are made with an anesthetic to further reduce discomfort. You’ll have no downtime after a filler injection, though you may experience some minor swelling and tenderness for two or three days. Results last for six months to a year, and sometimes a bit longer. When your lips need another boost, you just schedule a refresher treatment. Each treatment stimulates fresh production of collagen, so subsequent injections typically require less filler.

Treatment with lip fillers is a low-risk proposition. Your doctor may recommend getting the injection in two stages to ensure your satisfaction with the results. If you don’t care for the new look, an injection of hyaluronidase can be used to safely and quickly dissolve the filler. Your lips will immediately return to their original form.

Each brand of filler comes in different formulations for treating different aspects of facial aging. Some are designed for softening facial lines and wrinkles while others are made to produce soft, rounded lips. When you plan your lip-filler treatment, you might talk to the doctor about additional injections to erase the tiny vertical lines in the skin above your lips (“smoker’s lines”) or to soften other age lines on your face, such as the “marionette lines” that form between the nose and the mouth and “smile lines” that form to the sides of the mouth.

  • Juvéderm is made in a wide range of formulations. Juvéderm Ultra XC and Juvéderm Volbella XC are designed to add shape and volume to the lips. Other formulations, including Juvederm Voluma and Juvéderm Vollure are suited to filling and softening facial lines.
  • Restylane is another hyaluronic-acid-based facial and lip filler with proven effectiveness. It, too, comes in an array of formulations. Restylane Silk is ideal for plumping lips for a natural-looking effect and can be used to eliminate the thin vertical lines that can form in the skin above the lips. It’s made of smaller, smoother particles than the other Restylane products. Restylane Refyne is used to fill deeper facial lines and is flexible enough to adapt to facial movements and expressions.
  • Belotero, also made with hyaluronic acid, is used for eliminating fine lines and wrinkles. It is injected just below the surface of the skin and is effective in removing vertical lines above the upper lip and in softening other facial creases, including frown lines between the eyebrows, marionette lines, and smile lines.


While fillers are a quick and easy way to get more luscious lips, the treatments only last for six months to a year, then must be repeated if you want to maintain the results. Three surgical treatments offer more permanent improvements.


In a lip lift, the plastic surgeon removes a strip of skin from just under the nose or from the flesh-colored area just above the red edge of the lip. When the gap is pulled closed, the red lip tissue is stretched to give a wider look to the upper lip and subtly change its shape. If you have a thin upper lip, this procedure may be an ideal solution for you. It can also be used to correct one of the changes that come with aging: the gradual increase in distance between the nose and the upper lip.
A variation on the procedure, the corner lip lift, raises the outside corners of the mouth to create a happier, more pleasant look when the lips are at rest.


Lip advancement is another surgical method to create fuller, plumper lips without the use of fillers. Technically called V-Y mucosal advancement of the lip, the procedure is performed by making incisions on the inside of the mouth and pulling the tissue together to push out the lips. It gets its name from the effect of “advancing” the red tissue on the inside of your mouth to the outside of your lips. The results are similar to those achieved with fillers, and they are permanent. Because the incisions are made inside the mouth, there is no visible scarring. This safe outpatient procedure can be a good choice for those with thin or drooping lips.


This procedure involves grafting tissue from another place on your face to the inside of your lips to give them more volume. SMAS is short for superficial musculoaponeurotic system — a layer of collagen-rich tissue that covers the muscles beneath the facial skin. This type of lip augmentation is most often done in conjunction with a facelift, using tissue removed in that procedure as the grafts. But it can be done as a stand-alone procedure by making an incision behind the ears to harvest the SMAS tissue. The grafted tissue is usually inserted through small incisions made at the corners of the mouth and the middle of each lip, where they are almost invisible when healed. SMAS tissue is durable and looks and feels natural when implanted into your lips.


While surgical lip enhancement is a more permanent option than injectable fillers, it also takes a bit longer for optimal results to be visible. In the first days after surgery, your lips will be swollen, and this swelling may take a few weeks to completely disappear. The fine scars from lip lift or lip augmentation are hidden by careful placement but will be darker and more visible in the first weeks after surgery. These scars can be concealed with makeup once the incisions have fully healed, and will gradually lighten to become virtually invisible in about a year.


Make this the Valentine’s Day you treat yourself to luscious lips that you and your special someone will love. Dr. Parker Velargo and Dr. Russell Hendrick, Jr., at the New Orleans Center for Aesthetics and Plastic Surgery, are board-certified plastic surgeons skilled in applying injectable fillers for beautiful, natural-looking results. Dr. Velargo is also a specialist in facial cosmetic surgery. Call us at (504) 533-8848 or contact us today to schedule a consultation.