Lip Augmentation

Medically Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on September 14, 2023
7 min read

Lip augmentation is a cosmetic procedure that can give you fuller, plumper lips.

These days, an injectable dermal filler is the most often used method of lip augmentation. The most common fillers contain substances similar to hyaluronic acid. Hyaluronic acid is a natural substance found in the body. It helps increase volume in your lips.

These types of dermal fillers are sometimes called "hyaluronic acid fillers."

The many types of lip augmentations all achieve a different lip look. But some options last a limited time, while others are permanent. They include:

Lip fillers. When you first come in, a doctor will take a look at your lips, take pictures, and assess your facial structure. Then, they'll decide which areas of your lips need more fullness or plumpness. Before the injections, you'll get a topical or local medicine to make the area numb. Holding ice to the lips before injections also helps to numb the area and can help with bruising and swelling.

After carefully marking the areas to be injected, very fine needles are used to inject the substance into your lips.

Afterward, ice may be given to ease discomfort and control swelling. All this is done in-office and usually takes about 15 to 30 minutes. You'll go home the same day.

Usually, one syringe of lip filler costs $600 to $800. They last for about 6 to 8 months, so you'll need to go back for another procedure to keep up with your new look.

Fat grafting. With this option, also called autologous lip augmentation, your doctor uses your own tissue to change your lips. Your doctor will take fat from your abdomen, near your bellybutton. They'll purify the fat and transfer it to your lips. 

You'll have local anesthesia for this process, meaning the area around your mouth will be numbed. It's done in-office like lip fillers. This procedure takes about 60 to 90 minutes, and you can go home the same day. The cost of this option ranges from $3,000 to $4,000. It lasts for at least 5 years.

Tissue grafting. This is similar to fat grafting, except instead of fat, your doctor will use a piece of your own skin to change your lips. They'll get this skin from your lower stomach area. In some cases, tissue from a cesarean section scar can be used. In other situations, the doctor might use skin removed in a face-lift.

After they remove the skin, your doctor will take off the first layer (called the epidermis). The leftover part is rolled up and put into your lips. You'll have this done in-office and under local anesthesia. It usually takes about 60 to 90 minutes. Like the other options, you can go home the same day. Your lips will stay full for at least 5 years.

This type of lip augmentation costs anywhere from $3,000 to $6,000.

Lip implants. If you want a more permanent option, you can get lip implants. Your doctor will talk with you and figure out which size implant is best. You'll have your procedure in-office.

First, they'll sterilize the area to get rid of any germs. Then, your doctor will numb your lips. After that, they'll made a small cut in each corner of your mouth. They'll make a tunnel in your lip using a tool called a clamp. The implant enters your lips through this tunnel. They'll place it under your lip fat and above your lip muscles. Then, your doctor will close your cuts with stitches that will dissolve on their own.

This process takes about 30 minutes. You're able to go home on the same day as the procedure. Usually, it costs $2,000 to $4,000.

Lip-lifts. This option is slightly different. Instead of a full lip augmentation, these just change certain parts of your lips. There are a few types to consider:

  • A direct lip-lift takes skin from your upper lip, just above where your lip is red. It increases your lip height and makes the space from your lip to nose smaller. This allows more of your front teeth to show. This procedure is permanent, and a full recovery takes a few months.
  • An indirect lip-lift is similar to a direct lip-lift, but instead hides the scars at the base of your nose. This option will give your lip more "pout." It'll also allow your front teeth to show more. An indirect lip-lift is best for people with a thinner upper lip, a larger space between the upper lip and nose, and defined lip line. It's also permanent and takes a few months to properly heal.
  • A lip corner lift can help if your lips droop in the corners. It involves removing small bits of skin from the corner of the upper lip to make the corners of the lip pull up. This is usually permanent and involves visible scars after recovery.

The most common types of fillers, hyaluronic acid fillers, can change the appearance of your lips by adding:

  • Shape
  • Structure
  • Volume

The effects typically last around 6 months. After that, more injections are needed to keep the volume of your lips.

There are several hyaluronic acid fillers on the market. Among them are these products:

  • Restylane, Restylane-L, Restylane Silk
  • Juvederm Ultra, Juvederm Ultra Plus, Juvederm Volbella XC
  • Belotero Balance
  • HylaForm
  • Elevess
  • Prevelle Silk

All of these products are injected the same way and give you similar results. And some contain lidocaine, a local anesthetic.

Once injected, the gel in the filler supports and shapes the tissues of the lips.

The benefits of using hyaluronic acid fillers include:

Control over lip volume. The amount of substance injected can be controlled, so the doctor has better control over how much lip volume is created.

Gradual pace of treatment. The injections can be given gradually during different appointments until the desired results are achieved.

Bumps dissolve easily. Any lumps and bumps created by movement of the lips can be dissolved easily.

Less bruising. There may be less bruising and swelling, compared to other dermal fillers.

Reasonably lasting results. The results are reasonably long-lasting but not permanent.

Allergic reaction unlikely. Because hyaluronic acid fillers are made from substances similar to those found in the body, they are unlikely to cause an allergic reaction. But if you are allergic to lidocaine, tell your doctor before being treated.

Side effects of hyaluronic acid fillers are temporary and should only last a few days. They may include:

  • Bleeding from the injection sites
  • Swelling and bruising
  • Redness and tenderness at the site of the injection
  • Reactivation of cold sores or fever blisters (herpes simplex) of the lips or area surrounding the lips

More serious side effects or risks may include:

  • Severe and prolonged swelling or bruising lasting a week to 10 days
  • Lip asymmetry (parts of lips are different sizes)
  • Lumps and uneven shapes in the lips
  • Infection
  • Injection into a blood vessel, causing tissue loss
  • Ulceration, scarring, or stiffening of the lip
  • Allergic reaction causing redness, swelling, or itching around the lips

Call your doctor right away if you have extreme swelling or a fever.

Lip implants also have a few possible side effects. They include:

  • The implant was not put in your lips properly
  • The implant coming out, which is very rare
  • Infection, which is also rare
  • A need for adjustments, like a resize
  • Water buildup, which is rare
  • Discoloration, which is rare

The costs of lip augmentation – as outlined above – varies depending on the:

  • Type of procedure performed
  • Doctor's experience
  • Where you live

Most health insurance plans won't cover cosmetic surgery or complications linked to cosmetic surgery. Before having your procedure, make sure you understand all the charges and ask whether your doctor offers a payment plan.

To answer this question, you must first ask yourself why you want to change your lips. You should not have this procedure unless you truly want to modify your appearance.

If you are considering lip augmentation to make someone else happy or to try to fit an ideal image, you may want to think twice.

Also, it's important to have realistic expectations about the outcome. Augmentation may make your lips plumper and fuller, but you will still be you when you walk out of the doctor's office.

Your doctor can discuss with you the pros and cons of your lip augmentation options and help you decide which technique or product is best for you.

Before having lip augmentation, you should be in good health and be a nonsmoker. You may not be a candidate for lip augmentation if you have:

  • An active infection such as oral herpes
  • Diabetes
  • Lupus
  • Blood clotting problems

If you have ever had a cold sore (oral herpes) any time in the past, you should tell your doctor before you have the procedure. If you have any known allergies or are allergic to lidocaine, tell your doctor before the procedure. Also, tell your doctor about any medications you are taking, including prescription and over-the-counter drugs and herbal supplements.

Several specialists can perform lip augmentation, including:

  • Plastic surgeons
  • Dermatologists
  • Cosmetic facial surgeons

The most important thing is to find a doctor who is qualified and experienced in giving injections and one you trust.

Don't go to just anyone. Lip augmentation poses real risks, especially if the person giving the injection is inexperienced.

Do your homework. When making a decision about which doctor to use, ask about the doctor's training and education. How many injections have they given? Are they board-certified or a member of their specialty's medical association?

Also, ask to see before-and-after photographs of patients the doctor has treated. Are you happy with the results? If you aren't, consider getting a second opinion.