The Risks and Benefits of Surgical vs. Non-Surgical Lip Lifts

Lip enhancement procedures can dramatically improve the appearance of the lips and mouth area. There are various medical and cosmetic reasons why people of all ages want to modify and enhance their lips.


This article will discuss the different surgical and non-surgical lip procedures, including the risks and benefits.

1. Surgical lip lift:

  • Upper lip
  • Lower lip
  • The benefits and risks

2. Non-surgical lip augmentation techniques:

  • Fat Injection
  • Dermal Fillers
  • The benefits and risks

Understanding the pros and cons of various lip augmentation procedures enables you to decide what’s right for you.


Lip aesthetic concepts

Before proposing a treatment plan, your surgeon will make a careful assessment of your lips and consider the following points:

  • Definition – the outline of the lips
  • Shape of the dry vermilion or lipstick show
  • Proportion – maintaining the balance of the lips
  • The youthful lip – aims to enhance the lip aesthetics with additional volume and improved shape
  • The ageing lip – restoration procedures to repair the various levels of bone and soft tissue loss

Surgical lip lifts

As we age, the lips can start to lose definition and volume. The skin under the nose can start to droop and cause the upper lip to thin, roll in and sometimes lengthen, preventing upper teeth from showing. For some, the upper lip can almost disappear, and the pink colour can start to fade.

Lip Lifts can result in a more youthful and proportional appearance by adjusting the size, improving the contour and shape. The changes are noticeable both at rest or with movement, when smiling for instance.


Central Lip Lift:
The space between the nose and the top of the lip is shortened by removing a small strip of skin and under the nose. This raises the top lip and treats the flattened lip by recreating the lip curve (lip eversion). As a result it increases the visible lipstick show, making the lips look younger, fuller and more pronounced.

Surgery may leave a scar (bullhorn’s scar) under the nose which can take a few months to heal and fade and will require scar management for best results.


Corner Lip Lift
Aims to restore the dry vermilion shape (lipstick show) near the corner of the mouth. The corner lip lift technique is chosen according to the degree of ageing and result desired. In more severe cases it can lift a droopy corner.

It leaves a small scar just above the lip vermillion on the corner of the mouth and will also require scar management for optimal results.


Lower Lip Lift
There is no such a thing as lower lip lift, even though many doctors may use different surgical techniques to reshape the lower lip and call it a lift. The most common techniques used on lower lips aim to reduce the amount of red lip show or improve the contour and volume in some parts.


Benefits of lip lifting:

  • Expose more of the upper or lower teeth, helping to create a more youthful appearance.
  • Assist in reducing the appearance of “frowning” by adjusting the corners of the mouth.
  • Reduce the length of the upper lip improving the upper and lower lip balance
  • A good option for people wanting to have more curve instead of too much volume to their lips.

Many people make the mistake of correcting a long philtrum (the distance between the nose and lips) by augmenting the vermillion with lip fillers. Fillers add volume and do not shorten an extended philtrum. The result is an even longer lip. In addition, excessive filler can make the lips quite prominent and cause the unaesthetic duck lips.


Potential risks and complications of lip lifts may include:

  • Wound healing problems such as dehiscence.
  • Problems with scars that can appear depressed, stretched or raised. Altered pigmentation and minor irregularities can also occur.
  • Reaction to sutures and/or formation of cysts.
  • Altered skin / lip sensation and/or reduced movement
  • Asymmetry and small lumps and bumps.

Non-surgical lip augmentation techniques:


Fat Grafting
Perioral Fat Injection can be done at different layers and areas of the lips.
Microfat injection is best applied into wrinkles with the intent of achieving a permanent correction. It is also used for lip definition and lip reshaping.
Perioral Nanofat treatment main goal is perioral rejuvenation by enhancing the quality of the lip skin and vermillion (tissue regeneration).


Dermal lip fillers
A gel-based filler is injected into the lips and around the mouth. The gel in the filler temporarily supports and shapes the tissue of the lips.

Although several types of dermal fillers are on the market today, the most common ones contain hyaluronic acid (HA). Hyaluronic acid is a naturally occurring substance found in the body. It is used to fill in areas that have lost volume and smoothness. There are different types of hyaluronic acid fillers with different characteristics and results. The right choice of filler combined with accurate technique are very important for safety and achieving good results.


Permanent fillers have become out of fashion due to the high risk of complications with lumps and recurrent infection. Depending on the individual, the product used, and the desired outcome, the effects typically last about four to six months. Ongoing follow-up sessions are needed to retain the volume of the lips and can be costly.

There is confusion between dermal fillers and anti-wrinkling injections into the lips. Anti-wrinkling medication is a muscle relaxant, best used to correct expression lines caused by puckering or contracting certain parts of the face, including the lips. Anti-wrinkling injections and dermal fillers serve different purposes and can be used in conjunction to achieve a patient’s objective.


Benefits of dermal fillers:

  • Although fillers cannot shorten the lip, they can help improve the appearance by adding plumpness and enhancing the shape and contour.
  • To some degree, fillers can also help define the lip line.
  • Lip fillers are increasingly affordable and require short downtime.
  • Good product selection and meticulous injection technique can produce good results with low risk.


Risks and complications of hyaluronic acid fillers:

  • Bleeding, redness and/or tenderness from the injection sites.
  • Prolonged swelling and bruising lasting up to ten days.
  • Reactivation of cold sores or fever blisters (herpes simplex).
  • Lumps, irregularities and lip asymmetry (parts of lips are different sizes).
  • Infection, ulceration and unexpected scarring.
  • An allergic reaction causing swelling and itching.
  • Skin ischaemia that can cause tissue necrosis.


Considering a lip enhancement procedure?

If you want to enhance and modify your lips, it’s important to consult an experienced and reputable medical professional. One that can minimise the risks and safely help you achieve your aesthetic goals and desired results.


Based in Ivanhoe East, Victoria, Australia, Dr Rodrigo Teixeira is a specialist plastic surgeon experienced in Facial Surgery, Rhinoplasty and Breast Augmentation. He is also performs reconstructive surgery for cleft lip and palate at the Royal Children’s Hospital of Melbourne.


To discuss your aesthetic goals including any reservations or concerns regarding lip lifts, or any other cosmetic procedure, you should first have a consultation with your general practitioner. You will need a valid referral.  For further information you can contact Unveil Plastic Surgery on 03 9000 3800.

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