Injectable lip filler can give you a fuller-looking pout, enhance your lip shape and balance out any unevenness. In the right hands, it can look natural and results are instant. But it's not for everyone. “Unnatural results are what most people are nervous about,” says Dr Wassim Taktouk , an aesthetic physician and medical director at the Taktouk Clinic in Knightsbridge. “They also fear ending up with a lip filler 'moustache' [where the top lip protrudes so much it creates a shadow] or a trout pout, and looking like they've had work done when that’s never been the intention.” Finding a trusted practitioner whose work you have seen is crucial.
Even if you have no objection to injectables, you may not be able to accommodate the downtime. There can be bruising and swelling for up to a week, which needs regular cooling with ice cubes wrapped in muslin to take the swelling down. Plus, you are advised to avoid drinking alcohol because it can lead to further inflammation and swelling of the lips. What's more, anything that involves pursing your lips such as whistling, drinking through a straw, eating from a small spoon - and, of course, pouting - can be difficult in the first few days.
If you’re looking to enhance lips without filler there are now many innovative, non-invasive options to choose from. Whether it’s amping up your skincare, getting savvy with a lip liner, using lipstick for full lips (or even a semi-permanent tattoo) or opting for one of the newer aesthetic procedures, you can enhance your lips in your bathroom, or via the hands of a professional.
More gloss: Considering lip filler? These are the questions you need to ask
We asked top doctors, aestheticians and makeup artists to share their tried and tested methods for getting fuller lips.
At-home beauty tools and DIY tricks for fuller lips
Massage or gua sha your lips
Massaging your lips can increase the circulation to the lips and cause a very slight and transient increase in lip volume. It's a slightly more gentle version of the old trick of biting your lips to make them appear redder and plumper (not for nothing did Victoria Beckham name her lip tint ' Bitten Lip ').
One way to do this is, and boost collagen long-term, is with a gua sha tool such as the Hayo’u Jade Precision £39 which is specially designed for lips and eyes. The benefits of gua sha include relieving tension and puffiness. The gentle and repeated stroking also acts like a circulation-boosting massage. The Hayo'u tool is made from jade (traditionally prized for its healing energy) and is shaped like a fine nib. That makes it ideal for applying firm strokes on your barcode lines (the vertical lines around your lips) and on the lips themselves for instant results. It also results in collagen stimulation over time.
Suck it up with a (safe!) suction device
For a more visible result, suction can help to temporarily give the illusion of fuller lips. Creating a vacuum around the lips boosts blood flow making them look more bee-stung. There are hundreds of videos and supposed at-home methods for achieving this - but the Kylie Jenner lip challenge should serve as a warning. A few years ago, the reality star claimed that she created a vacuum for her lips by sticking them into a shot glass. Naturally, her many fans were eager to see if it worked and while there was a noticeable lip enhancing effect there were also reports of serious bruising and even incidences of the shot glass smashing. Not worth it.
A safer option is the Kiss Lip Plumping System £129 PMD Beauty, a handheld suction device, like a mini Hoover, available at Selfridges and Cult Beauty. It really does work - we've tried it. You glide it across the lips where the gentle sucking motion works to temporarily make lips appear fuller. If you're on the fence about lip tweakments, this is a safe alternative to try first. Results last for around two hours so if you fancy rocking a plumper pout for a photo or night out then this is a fun option.
For the illusion of plumper lips: The Lip Flip
Lip ‘Botox’ can give a more natural-looking boost than traditional filler. Lip flipping involves injecting a botulinum toxin wrinkle relaxer into the upper lip muscle to force it to relax. “Adding tiny droplets of muscle relaxer along the lip line prevents it from contracting, so when smiling lips maintain their volume," says Dr Wassim. This encourages the top of the lip to literally ‘flip’ which makes the upper lip look fuller without actually adding anything. Think of it more like an optical illusion.
Who is it for? Dr Wassim recommends a lip flip for patients who have thin lips or whose lips become thinner when they smile.
The results aren’t dramatic and the toxin injected wears off much quicker than having Botox injected elsewhere because the lip area is mobile and only a small dose is injected. The results usually last around three to four months.
One thing to note is that lip flippers have reported finding that they temporarily find their top lip hard to control; drinking out of a straw can result in some dribbling; eating off a spoon is a little messier, and whistling is a no go!
Prices range from £80 to £200. It goes without saying that you should only ever get a Lip Flip from a qualified practitioner. Botulinum toxin must be prescribed by a doctor. Find a licensed practitioner near you at Save Face.
For lip definition and a colour boost: Lip Blushing
This demurely-named procedure is in fact the next generation of semi-permanent makeup. A cosmetic tattooing machine is used to inject water-based ink to add pigmentation to the skin in order to create more definition and thus the illusion of fullness.
Makeup artist Nathalie Eleni is a fan of the Gloss and Go Lip Blushing at Tracie Giles : “I like the fact that Lip Blushing enhances my lip shape and adds a really nice flush of colour. It makes my lips look bigger and when I wake up I have more definition straight away. From a confidence point of view, it’s really helped me.”
The main difference between Lip Blushing and old-fashioned lip liner tattoos is in the inks used, as practitioner Tracie Giles explains “Tattoo inks penetrate deeper into the skin so will last longer and may change colour over time,” she says, “whereas injectable makeup pigments are designed to fade gradually over time without colour change.” The machine used for Lip Blushing is much gentler than old school tattoo guns, which means that the artist can be much more delicate with their application so the results are more natural-looking.
Lip Blushing is suitable for all ages and skin types, however, Giles recommends that clients with darker skin tones, hyper-pigmentation or melanin-rich lips undergo a Melanin-Rich Lips Correction treatment. This is a separate semi-permanent tattoo procedure given two to four weeks before a Lip Blush treatment. It helps to neutralise the lips, and create a great base for the Gloss & Go Lip Blush. The correction treatment does cost an additional £395 but you'll be able to get 20 per cent off your Lip Blush treatment.
Lip Blushing takes around two hours, it’s a fairly gentle procedure and numbing cream is applied. Eleni reported that her treatment didn’t hurt and that there was minimal downtime. Any swelling or redness you do experience should subside after 24 hours and you let it dry heal, much like a regular tattoo, this means there’s some slight scabbing that you leave to fall off naturally.
Clients return for a top-up session two to 12 weeks later. Results can last for up to two years, although most makeup artists recommend a colour refresh every six months. Prices start at £595 at Tracie Giles Clinics.
For subtle lip rejuvenation: The Laser Lip Lift
Collagen is the stuff of life, well the stuff that makes us look plump and radiant at least. You've probably heard about it in your skincare but promoting more collagen is the theory behind the Laser Lip Lift , an in-clinic alternative to lip filler. Created by Dr Tijion Esho, a cosmetic doctor who is often referred to as ‘The Lip Doctor’ thanks to his non-surgical lip procedures at the Esho clinic in Harley Street and Wimbledon the Laser Lip Lift is a collagen-stimulating procedure that rejuvenates lips. The initial result is very subtle - we're stimulating collagen here, which takes six weeks to three months to remodel - but over a course of six treatments (£950) lips are slowly given a boost. It's painless, takes ten minutes and there's no downtime.
The Lip Laser can also be used to treat sun damage by resurfacing the lip's surface and making them look smoother. Plus, the laser creates micro-channels in the lips which allow for deeper penetration of any other products that you use on your lips.
Barcode lines, lip wrinkles and a damaged skin barrier that makes your lips dry and less plump can all be improved with Lip Laser. “For these reasons, I particularly recommend it to women who are slightly older and looking to anti-age,” says Dr Esho.
For two-in-one teeth and lip treatment: Composite Bonding
It's not just aestheticans who hold plumping power in their hands. Dentists too are able to subtly enhance the size of your lips as a happy side effect of composite bonding. The procedure, which is used to make teeth more uniform, creates a kind of scaffolding that pushes lips out slightly thus giving you the appearance of fuller lips, no filler necessary.
“Composite bonding is a non-invasive way to enhance teeth shape, volume, length and texture,” says Dr Krystna Wilczynski a cosmetic dentist at White and Co Dental. The treatment works by adding a composite resin layer to the front surface of the teeth. Because you're adding something to the teeth it can enhance lip projection, although this is by no means a guarantee warns Dr Krystna. If bigger lips are your primary goal, composite bonding isn't the procedure for you, but if you're getting your teeth done and wouldn't complain about slightly enhanced lips too then join the queue.
On average, a bonding session takes two to three hours, although a hygienist appointment plus teeth whitening is usually advised prior to the bonding treatment to get optimum results. It's totally painless so no anaesthetic is involved and there’s no downtime. However, the bonds need to settle so you’re advised to steer clear of food and drink that can stain (so that’s coffee out of the window). Bonds typically last for five to seven years depending on your lifestyle, for example, they can chip and stain if you bite your nails or drink black coffee.
Prices for composite bonding at White and Co Dental start at £375.
Get serious about skincare for your lips
Keeping lips smooth and hydrated is one way to make them look fuller. And, it's something you can do from the comfort of your own home. You should treat your lips with as much care as your face, which means looking after them with the correct skincare. These are the three skincare steps to take for healthier, fuller-looking lips.
Hydrate with hyaluronic acid
This is an immediate fix, rather like soaking a sponge. Try Dr Dennis Gross Hyaluronic Lip Cushion £32 is a hydrating lip treatment with hyaluronic acid and marine algae, it also makes a great base for lipstick.
Boost collagen with peptides
“Peptides work to boost collagen over time,” notes Esho. “Combining hyaluronic acid and peptides allows you to treat the lips both superficially and deeply,” he continues.
Paula’s Choice Hyaluronic Acid + Peptide Lip Booster £24 is a dewy lip treatment that helps to hydrate lips and plump out fine lines with repeated use.
For lip care that’s going to do more than just hydrate, look for something with collagen-stimulating bioactives. Volulip, is a synthetic active ingredient that mimics the skin's own hyaluronic acid synthesis and can be found in Esho’s Sculpt £21.99 . The lip serum's ingredients work together to provide a mild tingling sensation that plumps, defines and hydrates lips.
Exfoliate with gentle acids of scrubs.
Regular exfoliating removes dead skin cells, leaving a smoother surface that refracts the light better, giving the illusion of fuller lips. Be careful though. The skin on our lips is thin and sensitive so use PHAs - gentle exfoliating acids such as gluconolactone. This acid has the added benefit of hydrating too. Try Balance Me PHA Clarifying Mist, £14.34 with gluconolactone. It's an effective but gentle all-over toner for sensitive skin.
Physical exfoliation works wonders too. My lips and I are incredibly loyal to Dior's Lip Sugar Scrub £29.50, (currently out of stock!) which uses sugar grains to naturally buff lips into a smooth state.
For a do-it-all kit, makeup artist Nathalie Eleni recommends the Tinker Taylor Lip Kit £36 as a three-step lip routine. The scrub, oil and lip balm were created by makeup artist Zoe Taylor to thoroughly nourish and rehydrate lips.
How to create fuller lips with makeup
The makeup artist's lip liner trick
Using a lip liner to overline the lips to create the illusion of fullness is one of the oldest tricks in the book. But it’s also one of the easiest to get wrong. There is another way, however, as New York makeup artist and global head of artistry at Kevyn Aucoin Nick Lujan, explains: “If you want your lips to appear bigger, start your liner at the corner of your mouth and work towards the centre. If you do this, you don’t need to draw outside of your lip line.” Lujan is a fan of Kevyn Aucoin's Unforgettable Lip Definer £18 as it works on most skin tones to line and fill in lips.
Fake it with lipstick
Fake it fuller lips can also be done with some clever shade pairing. In terms of choosing a lip liner shade to make lips look fuller, Eleni recommends going for a colour that’s one or two shades darker than your lips to enhance them and then if you’re using lipstick on top choose something a bit pinker and blend it in. The two shades will help to create a 3D effect. Her top liner pick? Vesta Beauty. “They are a new, totally inclusive brand, with stunning lip glosses and lip liners for all skin tones.”
Add some 3D gloss
It's the simplest, quickest way to create the illusion of 3D lips. Eleni is a big fan of using a gloss with an iridescent shimmer to reflect the light and give the illusion of plumper lips. My personal favourite when it comes to lip gloss is Fenty's Gloss bomb £18, which in the words of one friend, "makes everyone want to snog you". Enough said.