Do lip fillers work?
Lip fillers can work a treat – but oh boy, can they go wrong! I’m all for a touch of lip-filler but wince when I spot overblown ones which are clearly out of proportion with the face around them.
Seeing what happened to actress Leslie Ash’s lovely lips when they were over-inflated in 2002 put many women off lip fillers for good. The really unfortunate thing for her was that her lips were injected with silicone, which settles permanently in the lip tissues and can’t be removed. These days, practitioners use temporary fillers rather than permanent fillers to avoid such problems.
So really the question is, will lip fillers work for you – will they give you the results you want?
This really depends on your lips. Are they a good size but just a bit flatter with age? Then a bit of volumising might be in order. Do they need defining rather than enlarging? In that case, a bit of filler in the border of the lip could do the trick.
If your mouth is small, or your lips are thin, be cautious. There is only so much filler that your lips can take before they will look distorted. As I’ve said above, your lips need to stay in proportion to the rest of your face, otherwise they will look bizarre. What you need is a great practitioner with a good aesthetic eye to help you work this out.
How do lip fillers work?
First, your practitioner assesses your lips and discusses your concerns: What is it about your lips that bothers you? Are you looking for bigger lips? Or better-defined lips? Or both? Or simply more hydration in your lips? You and your practitioner then decide on a treatment plan. You should be realistic in your goals: If you don’t already have a strong jaw and a wide mouth like Angelina Jolie, you can’t expect your lips to ever look like hers, and adding more filler won’t make it happen.
Your practitioner will then inject their preferred type of filler, which I hope will be made from hyaluronic acid gel rather than anything more exotic, into the appropriate part of your lips. This could be into the body of the lip, to add volume and plumpness, or along the border of the lip to re-define the edge of the lip, or it could simply be the lightest formula of hydrating gel, simply to stop lips looking dry.
The injections may be done with a needle, or you practitioner may prefer to use a cannula (a long, blunt variation of a needle) to ease its way along under the skin of your lips, distributing the product as they move it along.
Once the lip filler gel is in position in the lips, the practitioner may massage it lightly so that it settles smoothly into place. The gel will provide volume just where it is placed, and shouldn’t move.
Should I get lip fillers?
This is a very personal decision and one that you should consider carefully. Please don’t rush off to get lip fillers because one of your friends has tried it, or because someone famous you follow on Instagram always has an impressive pout. Consider getting lip fillers if your lips are losing volume and becoming thinner and drier as you age, or if your lips are asymmetric and you want to make their shape more even.
If you are under 30, you are very unlikely to NEED lip fillers, even if young celebrities – and maybe your friends – are getting them done as if they were just the latest fashion rather than a minor medical procedure.
To find out your options for lip fillers, consult an experienced practitioner. Most responsible practitioners are reluctant to treat anyone under 25. And if that practitioner tells you you don’t need lip filler, you should listen to their reasons why – and not just give them a bad review for not doing what you want.
Remember, you can always download my full lip fillers factsheet for more information to keep on your device.
Should I get lip filler just in my upper lip?
Please, beware the urge to have just your top lip injected. Lots of people seem to think this is exactly what they need, but once your top lip becomes the same size as your lower lip, it will make your mouth look unbalanced. What looks better is to stick with the ‘golden ratio’ of proportion, also known by the Greek letter Phi, so that the proportions of the upper lip to the lower lip are 1 to 1.6. As ever, find a good practitioner and discuss what is realistic for you. And in case it needs saying again, you only want a temporary filler, one based on hyaluronic acid, in your lips.
How much filler should I have in my lips?
I see a lot of posts on social media talking about quantities of filler – ‘my 1ml lip filler look’ or ‘my 2ml lip boost’. This sort of thing might make you think that maybe, you also need 2ml of lip filler. But it all depends — on the size and shape of your lips, the look that you are hoping to achieve, and the type of product that is being used. It is far better to discuss what you want with your practitioner, then let them use their professional expertise to judge how much product to use in your lips. Just because there is 1ml in the syringe doesn’t mean you have to have the whole lot put in. Even on my (older, deflated) lips, I find 1ml makes plenty of difference. If I were to have 2ml, well, you and everyone else would notice, and not in a good way.
What are the different types of lip fillers?
Most lip fillers are made from hyaluronic acid, a naturally occurring substance which holds onto many times its own weight of water. In a filler, these molecules are ‘cross-linked’ into a kind of lattice that holds them together in a gel. That way, they last for longer before they are broken down by the body.
Hyaluronic acid fillers come in different densities. The hyaluronic acid fillers used to plump up your lips are thin, runny gels, whereas the ones used to build up volume in your mid-face or strengthen your jawline are much thicker.
There are many brands of hyaluronic acid fillers that work well in the lips. Some of the best-known, best-tested and safest of these are Juvederm, Restylane, Teoxane and Belotero.
I strongly advise you not to have any kind of permanent filler, such as silicone in your lips. Most UK practitioners won’t touch them. These substances stay in place where they are injected, but they can cause such severe problems that you should avoid them at all costs. The first problem is that your body may decide that it doesn’t like a filler and ‘encapsulate’ it, growing collagen around it in a hard lump to shut it off from the rest of your skin tissue. If that happens, the only way to remove the growth, and the original filler, it to have it surgically removed. The second problem is that, as your face changes over the years, the permanent filler may no longer be exactly where you want it to be.
Where can I get lip fillers?
You can get lip fillers from a wide range of practitioners, but it’s vital that you choose a safe practitioner with plenty of experience.
In the UK, there is no law to stop anyone – anyone – buy hyaluronic acid fillers and needles on the internet and beginning to experiment by injecting them into people’s lips. There is no legal requirement to take a training course of any sort. As you can imagine, things can go horribly wrong.
You can use the Find a Practitioner tool on this website to find a practitioner near you who is great at doing lip fillers.
Otherwise, make sure to choose someone who is medically qualified (a doctor, nurse, dentist or surgeon), who has trained properly in aesthetic procedures and has lots of experience at injecting lips. Your practitioner also needs to be able to manage complications, and know what to do if, by accident, they inject filler into an artery (which can block the artery, and cause the surrounding tissue to die, see ‘necrosis’, below).
How much do lip fillers cost?
Lip fillers typically cost from £300 upward, but the cost can vary considerably depending on what kind of lip treatment you’re having. Fillers usually come in 1ml syringes, and practitioners charge according to how much filler they are using on you, as well as for the time that the procedure takes. Cheaper treatment usually means that the practitioner is using inferior products, and/or has little expertise at doing the treatment. Please don’t choose a treatment based on price; look for someone who gives consistently good results. The practitioners listed on this site all spend a distressing amount of time trying to correct the botched results of inexperienced and rogue practitioners, and this is hard to do, particularly in the lips. As they all tell me, ‘cheap’ treatment often doesn’t end up being so cheap, either emotionally or financially.
How long do lip fillers take?
Lip fillers typically take from 15 to 60 minutes, depending on how much work the practitioner is doing on you.
To minimise discomfort, you may need to have a numbing cream applied to your lips before the treatment; this takes effect in 15–20 minutes. Alternatively, you may need to have a dental block, which is quicker but still takes several minutes to kick in. For either a numbing cream or an injection, you should allow yourself time immediately after the procedure for the anaesthetic to wear off.
How long do lip fillers last?
Hyaluronic acid lip fillers typically last for between six months or a bit longer before they are broken down by the body. Exactly how long fillers last depends on how much was injected in the first place and also on your metabolism – some people’s bodies appear to break fillers down much faster than others.
What can I do after getting lip fillers? Lip filler aftercare explained…
As you know, the lips contain delicate tissues, and these tissues swell in protest at having needles stuck in them. That swelling will go down in due course, but it may take a few days.
If you have a dental block before your lip fillers, the block will also cause swelling. This swelling will disappear in an hour or so, but it does mean that you will inevitably leave the clinic with lips larger than you had expected, wondering if you have made a terrible mistake.
First, don’t panic, because the swelling will subside in due course. Second, use an ice pack on your lips every hour to help bring down the swelling.
Other ways you can help reduce the swelling include the following:
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water
- Avoid alcohol, which may cause blood vessels to dilate and so increase bruising
- Avoid strenuous exercise and extreme heat
Are there any side effects to lip fillers?
Lip fillers can have several side effects, and you will typically need 1–3 days of recovery time after having them injected.
First, swelling is a given – but what you can’t tell until you try lip injections is whether you are a person in whom the swelling will last for hours or one in whom it will last for days.
You may also get bruising after having lip fillers injected.
Lumpiness and asymmetry can also occur. Both lumpiness and asymmetry are less likely to be a problem if your practitioner has lots of experience.
If you are unlucky, you might get an infection at the injection site.
It is always possible that your practitioner, particularly if they are inexperienced, may inject filler into a blood vessel around the mouth. If this happens, and the filler blocks the artery, the tissue around the blockage will soon start to die as the blood supply is cut off. This may first show up as blanching of the area, then it will go dark, and swell and look like a bruise, but it’s not a bruise, it is a serious complication and needs immediate treatment by an experienced practitioner before necrosis, or tissue death, sets in. The practitioner will need to inject the blockage with hyaluronidase, an enzyme that dissolves hyaluronic acid, and this should restore the blood supply. If you suspect this may have happened to you, send photos to your practitioner immediately, and get to see them as soon as you can.
Do lip fillers go lumpy?
Lip fillers can sometimes go lumpy. If this happens, you will need to have the lumps dissolved with Hyalase, an enzyme (hyaluronidase) that dissolves the injected hyaluronic acid.
Remember to download the full lip fillers factsheet for more handy insights like this.
Is bruising normal after lip fillers?
Bruising is always possible after you get lip fillers, because your lips are highly sensitive to trauma, and the needle may nick one of the tiny blood vessels in the area.
Whether you get bruising is fairly random. It’s not true that only bad injectors give you bruises – but some people just do bruise more than others, in the same way that some people’s lips just swell more than others after treatment.
What is it like to have lip fillers?
What it’s like depends on the type of lip fillers you’re having and how the practitioner is injecting them. For example, a full lip enhancement treatment is much more extensive than a minimal treatment to improve lip symmetry.
Generally, though, having lip fillers goes something like this:
- After finding a suitable practitioner, you consult the practitioner and determine exactly what work the practitioner will perform on your lips.
- Before the procedure, you will usually have numbing cream applied to your lips or a dental block injected (just like at the dentist’s). There’ll be a bit of a wait for the anaesthetic to take effect. If you have numbing cream, your practitioner may also use another pain-management tool during the procedure, such as a Nuevibe, a small, pen-shaped device with a metallic T-bar on the end that vibrates against your lips and distracts you from feeling the needle.
- The practitioner will inject the fillers, using either a fine needle to do normal-style injections or using a cannula, a thicker needle that’s inserted and then moved around under your skin. Having a cannula stealthily burrowing just below the surface of your lips feels peculiar, but it’s not painful.
- After the procedure, your lips are likely to swell either immediately or overnight. This swelling will take from 1–3 days to go down.