August 11th 2021
Time to upgrade your lipcare? New serums, balms and creams for fuller lips without a needle
July 28th 2021 / 0 comment
Keep your lips in great condition with a new wave of lip buys, designed to keep your pout soft and youthful
Lipcare is the latest everyday beauty buy that's had an upgrade, with ingredients normally seen in facial skincare working hard to hold back the ageing process and keep lips looking plump.
“Applying an average lip balm can feel satisfying in the moment, but it’s important to improve the health of your lips in the long term with a lip treatment," confirms dermatologist and cult brand founder Dr Gary Goldfaden.
The latest raft of high-performing lip balms, serums and scrubs harness the power of anti-ageing peptides, hydrating hyaluronic acid and smoothing squalane for youthful lips without an aesthetician appointment.
There's demand for a skincare solution for fuller lips too, says Dr Tijon Esho, an aesthetic doctor specialising in lips and a regular on TV shows such as This Morning and Netflix’s Bodyfixers. “I’ve seen a huge trend of women moving away from injectables to topical products due to affordability and accessibility,” he says. “It’s not always necessary to go to a practitioner when wanting to enhance the lips."
How much can you realistically do for your lips without resorting to a needle? A good deal, according to Dr Esho. "It’s all about taking the time and educating yourself on the importance of topical application. If you look for products which include plant-derived peptides as well as low molecular weight hyaluronic acid especially, you can make a huge difference."
Suncream is vital too; look for a lip balm with SPF to protect the delicate skin from UV damage which can degrade collagen. “Sun damage can make lips appear dehydrated and wrinkly, which has a significant ageing effect on our general complexion,” Dr Ana says.
Why do our lips need targeted care?
Ageing is visible around our lips earlier than other places on the face because the skin is much thinner. "As we age, thinning lips are totally normal, as well as the philtrum [the space between the nose and top lip] appearing longer, " says Dr Esho. You may notice that gradually you start to see your top teeth more as the philtrum lengthens with only the bottom teeth visible. "It's a combination loss of collagen, the breakdown of fat pads underneath the skin and lips as well as increased skin laxity."
Lying beneath our lips are fat pads that are either full or thinner depending on genetics, but as we age they thin for everyone. "Lines on the lips or ‘lip wrinkles’ also occur as we age, as collagen production slows. The skin around our lips is thinner and more delicate than the rest of your face, so ageing is most visible in this area," he says. As we age too our body reabsorbs bone and we lose the scaffolding that can contribute to a cushioned look. "Bone reabsorption, particularly within our jaw, further exacerbates this whole process," he says
“The tissues of the lips are much more delicate than the rest of the skin on your face and therefore need particular care and attention to stay healthy,” reinforces Dr Ana. “A plump appearance is the hallmark of youth.”
Especially if you have been a smoker, or drink through a straw, you may have barcode lines, those little vertical lines on your top lip that are stretched out when you smile, but make themselves known when you pucker up. Hydrating the area is your first step in keeping your top lip in top condition.
Because the skin on our lips is particularly thin, it's also sensitive to irritants and cold or hot weather, Dr Ana explains. Plus there’s a lack of oil glands in our lips which means they can’t maintain their own moisture levels and are prone to dehydration.
Dry lips aren’t just uncomfortable, they can look dull and less full. “If your lips are dry and flakey they reflect less light which makes them look smaller,” Dr Esho says. "If you want to exfoliate them with items you already have at home, I recommend a soft toothbrush."
Once you've exfoliated your lips to make them look healthy and reflect the light, it’s all about keeping them hydrated, according to Dr Esho. As he says, hydrated lips are naturally plumper and look younger. "Applying a good lip balm daily is vital - you need to be hydrating them not just superficially, but deep within all the layers of the mucosa (the mucous membrane lining the inside of the mouth). Hydrate your body with plenty of water which will keep you glowing from the outside in."
What about plumping lip glosses and balms that sting?
"You may have previously fallen victim to TikTok ‘hacks’ or at home recipes like chilli oil or cinnamon which supposedly gives a plumping effect, but really all those are doing is causing irritation to the lips which causes them to temporarily flare up and plump," says Dr Esho, who formulated his own plumping serum, Sculpt, not to irritate or cause that swelling, but with peptides that increase lip volume in both the short and long term with continued use.
Dr Ana agrees on steering clear of products that promise bee-stung lips. “Lip plumping products that contain ingredients such as peppermint or cinnamon work by causing an intentional inflammatory response which leads to an increased blood flow and subsequently the appearance of more plump lips,” she explains. She warns that products that cause irritation to the lips aren't beneficial to the health of the tissues in the long term and can compromise the skin barrier, leading to other issues such as contact dermatitis or persistent dehydration or sensitivity.
What shouldn't you put on your lips?
Apart from the above, dermatologist Dr Sam Bunting advises avoiding putting retinol anywhere near your lips (easily done when you're applying your retinol face serum liberally). 'Retinol lip' is a thing, she says. Any retinol that comes into contact with them is likely to cause dryness as well as itching and redness.
These are the lip care buys we rely on to keep our lips plump and hydrated
The firming one: Goldfaden MD Lip Therapy Restoring Lip Treatment, £30
This subtly minty-tasting balm feels smooth on the lips and is infused with a peptide complex to moisturise and increase the firmness of your lips. Other firming and smoothing ingredients include vitamin E, borage oil and sea buckthorn oil, which also promotes elasticity and skin regeneration. We’ve been thoroughly enjoying applying this because it’s not at all sticky and sinks in like a dream, plus a survey by the brand said that 94 per cent of people who tested it said their lips looked instantly hydrated and 89 per cent said their lips looked smoother.
The exfoliating one: Lisa Franklin Lip FX, £32
This lip treatment claims to increase volume, hydration and softness as a safe alternative to lip fillers. Plumping ingredients include portulaca pilosa extract (also known as kiss me quick) which improves the texture of lips and caffeine to stimulate blood flow to contour and define lips, plus giving the balm a cooling sensation on application. GTG’s Melanie’s lips were lovely and smooth after a week of using this and she is particularly fond of the applicator - one edge is covered in little bumps to exfoliate the lips. “It's non-sticky, unscented and a pleasure to use - plus it makes my lips nice and glossy which is never a bad thing,” she said.
The plumping one: Esho Sculpt Lip Treatment, £19
Dr Esho's lipcare range is QVC’s fastest-selling lip collection; a testament to this is the fact that moisturising cream Drench, volume loss cream Pause and lip healer mask Coat are all constantly flying out of stock. Lip serum Sculpt is still available and adds volume to the lips, plumping and defining. "Sculpt doesn't irritate or cause swelling and is full of plant-derived biopeptides that increase lip volume in both the short and long term with continued use," says Dr Esho. The whole range is designed for those who don’t want to go under the needle, with skincare ingredients such as squalane and jojoba oil to condition the lips for a different route to a plumped pout.
The best lip balm for dry lips: Dr Dennis Gross Skincare Hyaluronic Marine Collagen Lip Cushion, £32
We love Dr Dennis Gross’ Marine Collagen range for refreshing, hydrating skincare buys and this is no exception. It gives a plump, healthy-looking pout with hyaluronic acid and marine collagen to both nourish and protect the lips. It feels velvety and helps to define the lip border, which is a sure-fire way to make lips look youthful with zero filler.
For lightweight moisture: Medik8 Mutiny Squalene-Based Alternative Lip Balm, £19
Medik8 created this watery feeling balm to take a stand against occlusive lip balms that block moisture loss in the short term but do nothing to prepare the natural lip barrier. It melts into the lips instantly for long term moisture with natural squalene, sea buckthorn oil and hyaluronic acid. It gives a subtle, natural shine and has zero stickiness. It has lemongrass in the mix, which gives it a pleasingly zingy flavour and there’s mandarin peel oil too, for a citrus vibe.
For flake-free lips: Charlotte Tilbury Lip Scrub, £20
A lip scrub doesn’t just make your lipstick last longer, but it helps your lips to absorb moisture from oils and balms more readily and as Dr Esho points out, can make lips appear bigger because flakes make them look smaller. This scrub uses jojoba oil, beeswax, cocoa seed butter, squall and vitamin E to nourish, protect and hydrate, while natural sugar crystals banish dryness.
Best budget buy: Morphe 2 Prep Polish Lip Scrub in Sweet Lips, £8
For on-the-go exfoliating, you can't go wrong with this purse-friendly lip scrub. It has a sugar grain texture (courtesy of artificial sweetener sucralose) that lightly scrubs the lips then leaves them feeling silky smooth (we can’t help rubbing them together after we’ve applied this). The grains melt into the lips for an ultra-nourished feel leaving a subtle vanilla taste and a gentle pink wash of colour. Shea butter soothes lips while coconut and jojoba oils condition.
Best for bedtime: Dr Pawpaw Overnight Lip Mask, £8.95
This has the same ultra-nourishing, bouncy feel as the original Dr Paw Paw balm (thanks to papaya fruit to nourish, castor oil to condition, olive oil to hydrate and aloe vera to soothe) but has the added benefit of peptides to plump and smooth. “My lips feel smoother and softer and this makes bedtime even more appealing than it was before,” says digital writer Melanie, who keeps this on her bedside table.
Best for a sweet tooth: Summer Fridays Lip Butter Balm Vanilla Beige, £19.50
Summer Fridays just launched its 100 per cent vegan lip balm in sheer nude shade Vanilla Beige, complete with a subtle hint of vanilla that tastes like vanilla cake frosting. It’s made with shea and murumuru seed butters to moisturise, soothe, heal and condition parched skin, plus a blend of vegan waxes to soften and boost shine. It comes in a recycled bio-resin tube with an applicator tip for easy use.
Best lip balm with SPF: Hello Sunday The One For Your Lips Clear Lip Balm SPF 50, £3.95
This is the best lip balm with SPF that we’ve tried. It doesn’t leave you with an ashy white cast and it has a completely transparent shine that’s almost gloss-like. It’s the slightest bit sticky, just incredibly nourishing and it smells irresistible thanks to shea butter and hyaluronic acid which help keep your pout protected and soft.
The celeb-approved one: Biossance Squalane and Rose Vegan Lip Balm, £12
Reese Witherspoon took to Instagram Stories to share her love of this fragrance-free lip balm. Ingredients include sugarcane-derived squalane, which Biossance says ‘mimics body's natural hydrating oils to deliver active ingredients deep into the skin and prevent overdrying’, as well as ceramides to prevent moisture loss, wakame algae, which it says plumps up lips within two weeks; and hyaluronic acid to plump and support hydration. If it’s good enough for Reese…
The luxe one: La Mer The Lip Volumizer, £65
When we spoke with motivational speaker Malin Andersson about her must-have beauty products, she name-checked this high end buy, saying: “This is just unreal. It leaves your lips hydrated and in such good condition. I will never go back to any other lip products.” It’s a serum-strength lip product made from marine ingredients such as sea kelp to help with cell renewal along with popular moisturising ingredients such as castor oil, coconut oil, glycerin, sweet almond oil and avocado oil.
The one for barcode lines: Filorga Global-Repair Eyes & Lips Multi-Revitalising Eye & Lip Contour Cream, £52.50
Created specifically for eye and lip creases, this lightweight cream plumps up lax areas with aesthetic-inspired techniques for a noticeable improvement in lip lines. It has a soft, velvety texture and a barely-there feel on the lips. Sesame seed extract is responsible for the smoothing and blurring effect around the lips.