How Can You Plump Up Your Lips?

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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 LockRevo 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.

How can you plump up your lips?

Other balms I’ve heard a lot about but haven’t tried personally: Nuxe Reve De Miel lip balm (though I can’t seem to find it stocked in many places anymore), Dr Bronner, Paula’s Choice.

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.

How can you plump up your lips?

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…

Lip Makeup

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.

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:

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.

Lip Injections

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.

How can you plump up your lips?

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25 thoughts on “How Can You Plump Up Your Lips?”

  1. Hi Michelle, thanks for a wonderful article, as usual! It is very informative for me, especially on irritating lip plumpers. I am currently using a lip balm from a ‘natural’ Indonesian brand which basically consists of coconut oil, beeswax, tangerine oil, and cinnamon bark. I have not experienced visible lip plumping though 🙁 (at least not that I aware of)

    So I guess…using lip balm with these types of ingredients might not be a good idea in a long run?

    Looking forward to your article on lip irritants!

    Reply
    • Whoops sorry, I just realized when you say “more about lip irritants later” it means the section on irritating lip plumpers. I thought you were going to write a specific article on lip irritants XD (I won’t complain if you really write one, though)

      Reply
  2. My lips are quite thin, so I have tried many ways to make them look plumper over the years. But all the irritants were just too annoying to keep up with, I don’t really want injections and am not good at overdrawing, so I just stick to taking care of my lips and embracing the thinness.

    Reply
  3. I find the suction devices quite dangerous, to be honest. It just can’t be healthy to vacuum parts of your body, and I wonder if that can lead to collagen breakage (aka sagging lippies in the future!) I’d rather go with a more gentle approach, like the basic tips you describe. Also, a gentle massage with a toothbrush is a great exfoliating trick and has a plumping effect! 😉

    Reply
    • I agree – it’s very easy to stuff up! I’m not sure if it’s likely to break collagen per se, but it could lead to scarring…but people are going to try it, so I thought I’d mention the safest option for it I could find.

      Reply
  4. Hi Michelle!
    I thought about using retinol or AHA on my lips to make sure that the collagen doesn’t decrease that much over the years. What works on the face should also work on the lips – at least that’s what I’m guessing? Do you have found anything about that during your research on plumping the lips?
    Thank you!
    Stefanie

    Reply
    • Essentially all I’ve found is that yes, what works on skin should work on lips! I haven’t seen anything specific for lips.

      Reply
  5. Can you comment on dermarolling for lips, and for skin, for that matter, I’m seeing a lot of commentary but not a huge amount of science on that. Do you include product before or after, etc. Thanks!

    Reply
  6. Im still laughing thinking about the lip plumping device. I mean, what if you were doing a mid day touch up in the work bathroom and a co-worker saw all that business. Hahaha.

    You know, you mentioned hyaluronic acid and I wanted to say I have been studying collagen a lot lately. Do you know that studies show drinking collagen increases production of hyaluronic acid in the skin by 3.8 fold, just two hours after drinking it?

    I wonder if drinking collagen might help my lips too. Hmmm

    Thank you for the post. I enjoyed your blog and subscribed.

    Katie Lyn | Beauty and the Beaker | http://www.gotchaguys.com

    Reply
    • Do you know that studies show drinking collagen increases production of hyaluronic acid in the skin by 3.8 fold, just two hours after drinking it?

      I don’t think that’s what the studies show, unless of course there’s a study I haven’t seen on it! I believe so far what’s been established is that drinking collagen leads to an increase in some characteristic peptides in the blood, and separately those peptides increase hyaluronic acid synthesis in vitro. So what’s missing is whether those peptides are delivered at an effective concentration to skin to cause increased hyaluronic acid synthesis, which isn’t really established yet. I don’t know if it will be answered either – if a company managed to show that, collagen would have to be classified as a drug, which means lots more administrative hurdles for them…

      Reply
  7. I love the Arrested Development reference ?❤️. “illusions,Michael!” Great post! Lip suction tools ohmygosh that sounds like an exercise in masochism!

    Reply
  8. I have super thin lips and am really pale completed. Within just a minute of putting the Somaluxe Lip Rescue on my lips were more naturally pink and actually plumped! And it was NOT from the “gloss” look because I wiped it off after a minute or two and still had the effects 🙂 just a warning it burns pretty intense for that first minute

    Reply
  9. Thanks for this article!

    I have some extra tips:
    -Use your finger to exfoliate by rubbing. Works best on damp, but not wet lips. Also works on dry lips. The good thing is fingers are totally free and you got them with you at all times.
    -Microneedling to increase collagen production (I use the Derminator, it’s the best).

    By the way, some users+this trial report that Candylipz can increase lip size permanently and that it’s not bruising, but erythema.
    https://www.candylipz.com/pages/clinical-trials

    About lip balm with SPF: the ones with zinc oxide always leave a white tint and nobody has thought of making tinted ones (would be awesome).

    However, I don’t trust ingesting synthetic UV filters and other synthetic ingredients. I know synthetic doesn’t equal harmful automatically, but what do you think? I like Harrow lip balms too by the way! Also because they’re natural hehe, can’t help it.

    Reply

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