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Problem/Solution: Thin Lips

It’s true what they say: Lips don’t lie. Fine lines around your kisser and loss of fullness are some of the earliest signs of aging — not to mention age-related discoloration and dryness. 

The Problem

Loss of volume, lines around the mouth, and dryness are common as we get older. The reason? As time passes, lips lose collagen, elastin fibers, and naturally occurring hyaluronic acid, says Dr. Laurence Glickman, a board-certified plastic surgeon at the Long Island Plastic Surgical Group. Other bad habits, like smoking (the biggie), sun exposure, and overuse of straws can make matters worse. Fortunately, advances in lip enhancers are many — and getting better all the time. So whether you’re ready to go full-on Angelina Jolie or just want something to give your pucker a powerful moisture boost and your lipstick something to hang onto, we got you.

Solution #1: Topicals

Looking for a subtle, low-maintenance fix? Experts suggest starting with a good retinoid cream, antioxidant serum, and, of course, daily SPF. Here are a few we like and that come recommended by the dermatologists we spoke with.

PCA Skin’s R-OH Intensive Age Refining Treatment: Some retinol products can be harsh and drying, but this topical’s gentler 0.5 percent stabilized retinol plus niacinamide helps minimize fine lines and age-related skin yellowing and redness. The company claims that its patented delivery systems helps the treatment penetrate more deeply into skin.

Replenix Restorative Nighttime Bio-Therapy: A favorite of Dr. Todd Perkins, a board-certified dermatologist in Washington, D.C., this rich night cream with peptides, ceramides, stem cells, and antioxidants helps to soften fine lines, restore moisture, and eliminate discoloration around the mouth caused by sun damage.

Dermelect Smooth Upper Lip & Perioral Anti-Aging Treatment: Be diligent about applying twice a day to see a lessening of fine lines and discoloration.

Replenix Plumping Lip Treatment: San Francisco board-certified dermatologist Dr. Caren Campbell recommends this lip-plumping treatment. It has vitamin B3, which gives lips “a pretty hue and draws blood to the area, helping to give a fuller appearance,” she says. The product’s hyaluronic acid also helps moisturize and give the lips a smoother, fuller appearance.

Solution #2: Botox

It’s not just for your forehead anymore. Botox is being used all over the place, including in the vertical lines around the mouth (known as smoker’s lines). It can minimize creases in the upper and lower lip area, lift the corners of the mouth, and enhance the upper lip (aka the Botox lip flip). Like any kind of lip injections, these hurt and come with a few possible side effects. Dr. Perkins says, “Botox should be used around the mouth only with great care and by very experienced physicians to reduce the risk of easily produced side effects, such as drooling, slurred speech, and changes to the appearance of the smile.” Cost ranges from $200 to $450, depending on your provider and the amount of Botox used.

Solution #3: Lasers

Is there anything that lasers can’t do? According to Dr. Perkins, these miracle workers can be helpful in reducing the lines around the mouth. He uses nonablative, fractionated lasers that can induce collagen remodeling. Side effects can include mild redness and swelling for three to five days, and you’ll want to book three to five sessions (one per month) for best results. Cost ranges from $400 to $1,000 per treatment.

Solution #4: Lip Injections 

Today’s hyaluronic acid injectables are safe and long lasting. Sold under leading brands Juvaderm and Restylane, they fluff your pucker for six months or more. Injections do hurt and involve a day or two of downtime, but many women find them worth it. Restylane runs $350 to $800 per syringe; Juvaderm costs $450 to $800 per syringe. Treatment takes one or two syringes typically.

In addition to using Juvaderm and Restylane, some plastic surgeons, including Dr. Glickman, use “autologous fat” (aka the patient’s own fat) to create fuller, more youthful lips. Unlike other fillers, this treatment is pretty much permanent. Fat injection involves harvesting and processing fat from the patient’s body and “there is likely more bruising and swelling because it requires a larger needle for injections,” he says. Some of the fat will be absorbed by the body, but the fat that remains lasts much longer than any of the off-the-shelf products. Cost ranges from $1,500 to $2,000.

Sacha Cohen is founder and president of Grassfed Media. To see more of her work, go to grassfedmediadc.com.

Photo: Miquel Llonch

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