Fat, bee-stung lips are more popular than ever. How do you get there if you weren’t born with them? Here are your options, from least to most drastic…
Hydrating Lip Care
Your lips dry out faster than the rest of your face because the skin there is very thin, and there aren’t any oil glands to produce natural sebum to moisturise them. Just like skin, lips are less wrinkly when they’re well-hydrated and moisturised!
Use lip balm (with SPF during the day)
One dermatologist (Joshua Zeichner) made the media rounds for saying that occlusive lip balms makes your lips lazy, but this seems to be just his opinion rather than a widespread one in dermatology, and isn’t supported by the current evidence as far as I can tell. The only reliable way for your lips to get oils on them is by using lip balm.
It’s also important to protect your lips from the sun – in the short term sun exposure can lead to dehydration, but long term it can reduce collagen, which is the protein that keeps your skin and lips plump. Collagen goes down with age, but it goes down a lot more with sun exposure!
My favourite lip balm brand is Hurraw which have balms based on plant oils, but I’m also quite partial to Chapstick limited edition Cake Batter balm and their Dual Action Hydration Lock. Revo has some cute round balms that I found much more effective than eos. Nivea has some great lip products too, especially the Repair and Protect balm which I think has been reformulated recently. Chapstick, Nivea and Hurraw all have SPF versions. Sun Bum has some nice SPF lip balms, but no plain ones.
Be conscious of your water-drinking habits
There’s a tiny bit of evidence that drinking water can affect your skin hydration if you don’t drink enough, but did you know that drinking water can actually dry out your lips? Wet skin loses water faster than dry skin, so flooding your lips with water too often can make them dry out faster. It can also wash away the oils, so make sure you reapply lip balm afterwards.
Don’t lick your lips
This will make them wet and dry them out like regular water.
Exfoliate your lips
Like with skin, gentle exfoliation can help your lip stay soft and avoid cracking. Lush lip scrubs smell and taste delicious, but if they’re outside your budget or if you’re lazy you can also get it in stick form from elf, or even just use sugar from the kitchen. You can also use a soft toothbrush.
Avoid matte lipstick and lip irritants
Matte lipstick can suck all the moisture out of your lips, which is how it stays so matte. Lip irritants can make your lip barrier function worse, so it’s less effective at trapping water. More about lip irritants later…
Just like contouring for the face, you can fake a plump pout by using some makeup artist tricks (“Illusions, Michael!”).
- Add lip gloss to the centre of your lips to reflect light (my favourites at the moment are NYX Butter Glosses)
- Use a darker colour at the edges and a lighter colour in the middle
- Overdraw your lips (go outside their natural border very slightly)
Some fancier lip products contain dehydrated humectant spheres that go into fine lines before swelling up with water, like Nudestix Blur Pencil, Urban Decay Naked Lip Gloss and FusionBeauty LipFusion XL.
Irritating Lip Plumpers
Here we’re going into the more active end of things! Irritating lip plumpers use ingredients like cinnamon, ginger, capsaicin (from chilli), peppermint or menthol to give you the effect of bee-stung lips by stinging them, causing them to swell up and flush.
These can work quite well for up to a few hours, but like I mentioned earlier, irritants can eventually dry out your lips, and I think this is why they’re getting less popular (they usually also feel tingly or even burn, if your lips are sensitive). I’d recommend saving these for a special occasion, rather than use them as an everyday solution. Popular ones include Smashbox O Plump, DuWop Lip Venom and Too Faced Lip Injection.
Lip Plumping Active Ingredients (Cosmeceuticals)
Some products claim to plump up lips in the long term by stimulating the production of collagen or hyaluronic acid inside your lips. These products usually use the same anti-aging peptides as used in skincare cosmeceuticals. Examples are VoluLip (containing palmitoyl tripeptide-38 aka Matrixyl Synthe’6) and Maxi-Lip (containing palmitoyl tripeptide-1, also known as Pal-GHK and is one of the two peptides in Matrixyl 3000).
The evidence for these peptides has always been a bit scanty, since peptides are frequently patented, so there isn’t much benefit for anyone doing studies on them except the patent holder, and their studies are always going to seem biased, even if the ingredient actually works. My advice is to only spend money on these products if you think they’re worth buying without the long term effect.
- VoluLip: Elizabeth Arden lipsticks, Innoxa Hydrating Volume Lip Crayon, Apex Lip Plumper, VENeffect Anti-Aging Lip Treatment.
- Maxi-Lip: Jouer Lip Enhancer, W3ll People Bio-Extreme Lipgloss, Vivant Maxi Lip.
There are a lot of products out there that combine lip plumping cosmeceuticals with humectant spheres and/or irritants, in case you want to cover all your bases. A few I found while researching were:
- Josie Maran Argan Lip Sting Plumping Butter (all three)
- Dior Addict Lip Maximizer Plumping Gloss (spheres and cosmeceuticals)
- Physicians Formula Plump Potion (spheres and cosmeceuticals)
- Too Faced Lip Injection Extreme (irritant and cosmeceuticals)
Lip Plumping Suction Devices
I honestly find these kind of comical, and they remind me too much of those penis pumps that you get in your Spam folder for me to really take them seriously, but… they do seem to work! It’s a bit risky – if you followed the news about the Kylie Jenner Lip Challenge you’ll have seen that they can cause bruising and tearing of skin – but if you buy a soft device and proceed with caution, it’ll cut down the chances. Reviews on Fullips say it works for up to a few hours, and you can go to the bathroom to give yourself a booster in the middle of the day.
This is the most expensive, but long-lasting and low-effort (after the first initial large effort) option. Lip injections generally last for about a year, and while you can go full-on sofa lips if you want, you can get very natural results as well.
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