The lips tend to be ample in youth, and slowly shrink with age, so full lips are a recognized sign of youth and fertility. Many options exist for plumping thin lips, so it is important to choose the option that is best for you.
The most common cosmetic procedure for Lip Enhancement is by way of an injectable filler. Since the 1970's, Collagen® has been available off-the-shelf for wrinkle correction and lip enlargement. It provided a very precise means to augment the lip and fill in pucker lines. While Collagen® still provides better definition than some of the new fillers, there are several downsides.
Collagen® has a shorter duration of correction, so there is an increased need for repeating treatments. Collagen® is suspended in solution, so initial overcorrection is needed. Collagen® is white making is visible if the injections are too superficial. Last, and certainly not least, Collagen® use is associated with a 1-3% incidence of allergic reaction. To help avoid the reaction in patients who are allergic, a skin test and a waiting period of four weeks before use is required for the initial treatment and if you have not had Collagen® recently.
Other Collage-based products were designed to avoid the last problem, Cosmoplast® and Dermaplast® are two. These products do not have a Bovine source, so the collagen fibers in them are unlikely to cause an allergic reaction. Collagen®, Cosmoplast® and Dermaplast®; however, are largely of historic interest in the United States. Since the introduction of the Hyaluronic Acid or HA based fillers in 2004, Collagen® has "left the building."
Restylane® was the first HA filler introduced to the US and received FDA approval on 2004. Hyaluronic acid (HA), like collagen, is normally found in our skin and joints. Brand name products include:
Each dermal filler has subtle variations in firmness and longevity. It is important to choose a professional who can explain the differences and who choose the product the best suits your needs. How the filler is used is more impotant than which filler is used. In general these products are similar. They last two to four times as long as Collagen® and yet remain softer to the touch. There is no need for a skin test, and since the gel is clear, it tends to be less visible than its predecessor.
Many other fillers and implants exist, but the above are all FDA. All are indicated for the Correction of Facial Wrinkles and some have specific indications for Lip Enlargement.
Some fillers claim to be permanent, but as anyone who has come across a picture of themselves from five or ten years ago knows, the face continues to age. Regardless of the permanence of the filler, further correction will be necessary if the effects are to be maintained.
Plastic Surgery has been used to enhance the lips for many years. Plastic surgeons transplant fat and dermis into the lips to provide fullness using the patients' own tissues. Dermal-fat grafts are still the gold standard to which all other fillers are compared. While fat alone can sometimes give a lumps, the Dermal-Fat Grafts tend to give a smooth and soft result. I frequently use this trick to enhance the lips, and to fill deeper facial wrinkles to enhance the results of a Facelift.
Local "flaps" can also be used to enhance the lips. Rearranging the lip itself can help to: enhance a normal lip; restructure a misshapen lip; or completely reconstruct a lip lost to cancer, trauma or birth defect. These procedures are more specialized and require a careful consultation with a Board Certified Plastic Surgeon.
When considering Lip Augmentation, you will want to explore the various procedures and find the one that is best for you. It is important to consult with someone who is familiar with all the options so that you can make an informed decision. When choosing an off-the-shelf filler, stick to FDA Approved Wrinkle Fillers. Ask to see the box and syringe. Manufactures use holographic safety seals to assure you that it is the genuine product and that it has not been tampered with. Products licensed for the US should include the words "FDA Approved" on the label. It's going into your body. You deserve the best.
By: Joseph Mele MD, FACS
Certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery
San Francisco Bay Area - City of Walnut Creek, California