Like the rest of our skin, aging affects the volume found in our lips, leaving our once-plump pout looking thinner and drier over time. However, there are also additional factors—excessive sun exposure, genetics and lifestyle choices—that can greatly accelerate the process and create less-than-full lips, lip lines and lack of definition even faster. The silver lining: there’s a way to prevent some of it. Ahead, eight ways to reverse and curb lip aging.
Invest in Anti-Aging Lip Care
Line-ironing hyaluronic acid and future-proofing SPF go a long way in keeping lips naturally plump, smooth and youthful. Our current favorites: iS Clinical Youth Lip Elixir ($58) which calls on enzymes and vitamins C and E to keep your pout in tip-top shape, and invisible SkinBetter SunBetter Sheer Sunscreen Stick ($55) which boasts hard-hitting SPF 56.
Treat Chapped Lips
Nanuet, NY dermatologist Heidi Waldorf, MD notes that because most of her patients have chapped lips at baseline, she’s not a fan of most lip-plumping products as they tend to worsen the problem. After addressing chapped lips—Dr. Waldorf calls FixMySkin Healing Lip Balm ($11), which contains 1% hydrocortisone cream, a favorite—apply a petrolatum- or glycerin-based ointment regularly (morning, night and after drinking liquids).
If you’re after a temporary plumping effect, Dr. Waldorf recommends Skyn Iceland Plumping Lip Gels ($28). “Instead of irritating the lips or causing vasodilation to make the lips look bigger, it’s a 10-minute transdermal boost of hydration.”
Smooth the Surface
Exfoliation isn’t just for every other part of your body. Lip-softening ingredients such as shea butter and natural oils leave lips looking smooth, and when paired with safe-for-lips exfoliators—sugar is a popular one—get to work even faster.
For a down-and-dirty exfoliator, look no further than Sara Happ’s Lip Scrub ($24) that’s safe enough to lick off; Clarins The Lip Oil ($26) intensely hydrates suffering lips and leaves behind a barely-there sheen.
When you’re in a pinch, nothing plumps a pout quicker than overlining lips or adding a touch of gloss in the right place. To start, try a nude liner similar to the color of your natural lips—Charlotte Tilbury Lip Cheat in Pillow Talk ($22) is a makeup-artist favorite—and shade the corners of your lips before slightly overdrawing the rest. Then, blend out the edges either with your finger or a lip brush before topping with your favorite nude lipstick.
To contour your lips, line them as you normally would—or use the above method—and find your two favorite lipsticks (make sure they complement each other!). Apply the darker shade all over the lips, then use the paler shade on the center of the lips and blend outward.
Just like being dehydrated can wreak havoc on our skin, the same goes for our lips. If dry lips never seem to leave you, simply drinking more water may prove more helpful than you think. Foods naturally high in collagen—think fish, dark green veggies and berries—help keep lips looking full and ageless, as well.
“Don’t smoke and stop using straws 24/7,” adds Dr. Waldorf. “Puckering makes the lips look worse over time and the wear and tear causes the breakdown of the youthful structure.”
If you’re after a longer-lasting (and more invasive) solution to thinning lips, lip injections with a hyaluronic acid filler may be right for you. If you don’t think you’re quite ready for filler, Dr. Waldorf says not to think of lip filler as being about bigger lips. The proper injector, along with the right balance of filler, can deliver a much more natural look to your lips than you might think.
“I commonly blend a ‘lighter’ hyaluronic acid gel filler—like Restylane Kysse, Belotero Balance, or RHA 2—with some anesthetic or sterile saline and inject sparingly in a more superficial plane to provide increased hydration and natural softness and shape both in appearance and feel,” Dr. Waldorf explains. The result: a softer, fuller looking pout.
Lift the Lip
A traditional lip lift is a minor surgical procedure that shortens the distance between the nose and the upper lip to help “roll out” the upper lip to increase the pout and make more of the youthful pink pigment of the lip show. Now, physicians are reaching for neurotoxins to recreate a similar look, albeit temporarily.
“A little tox (botulinum toxin A) placed carefully along the vermillion can help the appearance of the lips,” says Dr. Waldorf. “But beware: In older patients or if placed too medially, it can actually flatten the lip and make the distance between the nose and the lip appear longer, not shorter.”
While treating her patients with skin-tightening Thermage for the last two decades, Dr. Waldorf says her protocol has also included asking patients to “kiss the Thermage, or in other words pucker up so we can apply several passes of the radiofrequency right over the pink part of the lip to stimulate collagen for maintenance and rejuvenation.”
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