Back when no respectable woman wore makeup, all Scarlett O'Hara could do was bite her lips and hope for the best. But today, anyone who wants plumper, prettier lips has options that Scarlett couldn't dream of -- no biting required. From makeup and skin care to medical treatments, you can avoid that thin-lipped aging thing by targeting three major problems: dry, chapped skin; distress lines and wrinkles; and loss of plumpness. Here, your guide to quick fixes and long-term solutions for great-looking lips.
Step 1: Deal with Dryness
The DIY fix: Lips that are dry or flaky automatically look thinner and more wrinkled than they are, so get on the balm bandwagon. "Skin makes less oil as we age, and lips are at a unique disadvantage because they don't have an epidermal layer, which is where oil is produced to begin with," says Paul M. Friedman, M.D., a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston. Bringing back moisture is the key to keeping lips looking smooth, even, and full. Try a rich balm like Aveeno Active Naturals Essential Moisture Lip Conditioner ($3, shown), a treatment like Neutrogena Advanced Solutions Lip Rejuvenating Treatment ($17), or a healing gloss with color like Clinique Superbalm Tinted Lip Treatment ($11.50).
The doctor fix: Age-related dryness is usually easy to remedy, but if yours is extreme and accompanied by flaking or blistering, consult a dermatologist. "Severe dry patches can be a sign of a precancerous condition caused by UV exposure," says New Orleans dermatologist Patricia K. Farris, M.D. "That's why sunscreen on your lips is a year-round must."
Step 2: Erase Fine Lines
The DIY fix: Those annoying vertical wrinkles around the mouth are mechanically etched into our faces every day, whenever we talk, laugh, eat, or smoke. So fighting back is like fighting soil erosion -- a pretty thankless job. While you can't stop the etching, you can slow it down by applying sunscreen regularly and using a collagen booster or a wrinkle-fighting treatment around your mouth daily, says Dr. Farris. Try: Olay Regenerist Anti-Aging Lip Treatment ($19) or La Roche-Posay Redermic Daily Fill-in Anti-Wrinkle Firming Care ($42), a topical cream that contains hyaluronic acid (to plump up fine lines) and madecassoside (an ingredient that sinks in to repair cell damage).
The doctor fix: Injectable fillers like Restylane can help lessen the appearance of wrinkles (though new lines are always being created, so this problem can never be permanently solved, says Dr. Farris). Laser resurfacing and dermabrasion can also reduce the appearance of these types of wrinkles. "A laser goes deep into the dermal layers to reactivate collagen production, smoothing out the lines over time," says Dr. Friedman. You'd need a series of laser treatments (about $500 per session) to see major results, but they last longer than fillers.