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Lip Implant vs. Facial Fillers for Lip Enhancement

Blog post - before after lip enhancment facial filler injection

Before and after photograph of lip enhancement with facial filler injection. Juvederm was placed in the lip line and main portion of the red lip to augment volume and increase definition.

Lips with appropriate volume and definition are a universal sign of youth and beauty across nations and cultures. As a result, cosmetic enhancement of the lips and area around the mouth is very popular. Hyaluronic acid gels are available to plump the lips in every plastic surgeon’s office, which include Juvederm®, Restylane®, and Belotero®. Gradually dissolving over time, these fillers offer results that last several months. Some, however, are looking for more permanent lip augmentation and consider a lip implant over filler.

Lip implant

A lip implant procedure is performed via local anesthesia. The lip implant can be made of a variety of materials, but silicone is the most popular. A solid piece of silicone for lip enhancement comes in various sizes (ex. small, medium, large). Small incisions are typically made in the corners of the mouth for placement of the silicone implant. After a lip implant, you normally won’t have to get lip injections, as the implant doesn’t dissolve like fillers.

Downtime and recovery after lip implant is usually worse, as compared to lip injections with fillers. Think weeks instead of hours or days. Patients should anticipate much more swelling, bruising, stiffness, and chapped lips. The lips will also appear overdone at first from swelling before shrinking back down.

One benefit of lip implant surgery is that it’s very long-lasting and considered “permanent”. Cost is another benefit, if looking at a long time frame. While lip implant surgery cost ranges from approximately $4000, lip implants are generally considered less expensive in the long-term when factoring the number of lip injections saved over time.

Lip volume

Both fillers and lip implants add volume to the lip. The amount of volume added is largely dependent on the amount of fillers injected or the size of the implant, respectively.

Lip shape

Plastic surgeons customize lip injections with facial fillers to enhance and restore a desired shape. Filler can be injected in the white or red part of the lips, lip line, sides, center, etc. Fillers can be used somewhat similarly to a lip liner to add definition. Lip implants, however, don’t modify the shape of the lips as compared to fillers.

Fine wrinkles of the lip

Lip implant do not really treat fine wrinkles of the lips and perioral area. Facial fillers are a better option than a lip implant to address these wrinkles. These fine skin wrinkles can also be treated by other non-surgical treatments, such as Botox® and skin resurfacing with a chemical peel or laser.

Lip feel and sensation

Feel and sensation are very personal, so it’s difficult to compare. However, facial fillers may have an advantage with regard to the way the lip feels and sensation. Being gels, facial fillers are inherently softer than implants.

Lip movement

Facial fillers have another advantage with regards to lip movement, such as smiling and kissing. Gels conform to the lips better that an implant, which might be noticeable on movement.

What if you don’t like it

Advantage here is for fillers. Being temporary, results will gradually go away with time. Hyaluronidase may be injected to dissolve facial fillers faster, if desired. Another surgery is required to remove a lip implant. In addition, the lips may appear deflated after implant removal.

Permanent lip enhancement

Plastic surgery is required for “permanent” enhancement. Keep in mind, however, that the face continues to change and age with time, so even plastic surgery is not “permanent” per se.

In this respect, lip implants are “permanent”. Facial fillers are not permanent. Permanent materials, such as silicone, should never be injected. Only solid implants should be considered for cosmetic enhancement. Other than a lip implant, other “permanent” lip enhancement procedures include

  • fat transfer
  • lip lift

Fat transfer takes liposuctioned fat from your abdomen and thighs to reinject in desired areas, such as the lips. Fat is living tissue and has some unpredictably in survival in its new location, so some patients may need more lip volume after the initial fat transfer. Fillers may be given after previous fat transfer.

A lip lift is the only method to reduce the excess skin that develops with age. Not only does the lip become thinner, but the upper lip also becomes longer and flatter with age. An upper lip lift is a minor cosmetic procedure to reduce this excess skin and create fuller lips. This cosmetic lip surgery can be performed on its own or combined with a facelift, eyelid surgery, or other cosmetic procedures.

What is best for the lips?

As with any cosmetic procedure, there isn’t a “best” option for the lips. For most patients, facial fillers will be the top choice, especially for those who want  natural looking and feeling lips with minimal downtime. We’ve previously reviewed facial fillers as “lipstick in a syringe“. Have an upcoming event you want to look your best for? Then a facial filler is the best option.

For those patient who have tried fillers in the past and seeking a “permanent” solution for thin lips, then a lip implant is an option to consider to add volume. These patients should also consider fat transfer and lip lift procedures as well.

Have your considered lip augmentation? Speak with a trusted surgeon who specializes in facial procedures. Facial plastic surgeons who perform a variety of cosmetic procedures can help provide the “best” option for each patient.

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    Houtan Chaboki, M.D.